PHOENIX. Will the Suns take on opponents in Las Vegas and Seattle soon?
League expansion rumors are gaining momentum, although commissioner Adam Silver denied them ahead of the NBA Finals.
“Las Vegas is a world class city and our residents have an appetite for major league sports,” Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman said in an email to Cronkite News. “The success of the Las Vegas Raiders, Vegas Golden Knights and Las Vegas Aces shows what kind of sports city this is. It’s only a matter of time before we add an NBA franchise.”
Last week, boxing legend and Las Vegas resident Floyd Mayweather told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he had “talked to certain people” about owning an NBA team. And during a recent episode of LeBron James’ The Shop: Uninterrupted, he said, “I want to own a team, I want to buy a team, that’s for sure. … Yes, I need a team in Vegas.”
Nothing is expected to happen until the NBA negotiates a new television deal. The current deal expires after the 2024/25 season.
Chances are, no city wants a franchise more than Seattle, which lost the Sonics on April 18, 2008, when NBA owners overwhelmingly approved the team’s move to Oklahoma City.
The move left the city with a feeling of bitterness. A lot has changed in 14 years.
“I think enough time has passed. You now have a different commissioner in the NBA,” said Bob Condotta, a longtime sportswriter for the Seattle Times.
Silver denied expansion rumors, stating, “This league is bound to expand at some point, but we’re not discussing it right now.”
However, expansion seems inevitable, with Seattle and Las Vegas remaining the most likely candidates.
Seattle has shown strong support for its NHL expansion team Kraken. In its first season, the team averaged 17,151 fans and was one of only seven teams in the league with an average capacity of 100%.
“They had a huge waiting list for season tickets and sold out every season ticket that was available,” Condotta said. “People were very happy to have a hockey team.”
Seattle already has the Climate Pledge Arena, which opened in October 2021 and is home to the Kraken and the Seattle Storm WNBA.
“It’s been 14 years and there are a lot of new people in Seattle,” Condotta said. “The city has grown a lot, so I don’t think it will be a problem in terms of supporting the team in terms of fans.”
The situation is different with Vegas, which has never supported an NBA team. But signs indicate that it is possible.
As the home of the NBA Summer League, it has shown that it can attract basketball fans. And T-Mobile Arena hosted the NBA All-Star Game, the Pac-12 Tournament, and other college basketball games.
And his professional teams – the NHL’s Golden Knights and the NFL’s Raiders – received strong fan support.
“There was a lot of concern about how the hockey team would perform here, and the city hosted the Golden Knights,” said Mark Anderson, sportswriter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It shows that the city can support a professional team.”
Mecca of entertainment and gambling is a popular destination for both tourists and sports enthusiasts.
Silver acknowledged that Seattle and Las Vegas would be strong markets for expansion.
“These are great markets,” Silver said. “Again, like I said, we were in Seattle. I’m sorry we are no more. We have a WNBA team in Seattle, in an almost brand new building, and it’s doing great. And Las Vegas, where we will compete in our Summer League in July, has also proven to be a great sports market.”
Nothing is certain in professional sports, but when it comes to Seattle and Las Vegas as expansion targets, everything points not to if, but to when.