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Should the NBA Bring an Expansion Team Back to Vancouver?

Credit: Justin McElroy/Getty Images


NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has recently been floating around the idea of having an NBA franchise return to Vancouver, which would not only grow the game of basketball but also re-pay the debt. The NBA owes to British Columbia as a whole after the relocation of the Vancouver Grizzlies over to Memphis, Tennessee in 2001. 


Silver knows without a doubt that when he puts “Vancouver” and “NBA” in the same sentence, he’s going to get a massive reaction out of not only the city of Vancouver but Canada as a whole. Canada already has the Toronto Raptors, who have proved teams outside of America can win championships after they secured an NBA title back in 2019. So, what’s holding the NBA back from re-expanding into Vancouver? 


Back in 1995, the NBA was looking to expand outside of America into their North American counterparts, Canada. The two cities voted on were Toronto and Vancouver, two cities with the highest population and the ability to create big market franchises. The former got the Raptors, with the latter receiving the Grizzlies.


While both franchises started off losing multiple games, the Raptors were always a step ahead of the Grizzlies regarding basketball influence in the area, fan attendance, and general quality of play from the team. 


In their first season in the league, the Raptors were third in the league for attendance, while the Grizzlies were ranked 14th. As the years went by, the Raptors continued to grow thanks to some solid All-NBA level draft picks like Vince Carter, who quickly gained the nickname “Air Canada” due to his high-flying, flashy style of play. He helped the team lead the NBA in attendance for three straight seasons in the early 2000s and grew the game of basketball in Toronto exponentially. 


Unfortunately, that was not the case for the Vancouver Grizzlies. The Grizzlies failed to ever gain any momentum in terms of team success in the NBA and could not draft or trade for superstars, mainly because no one wanted to play in Vancouver. After just six seasons in Vancouver, low attendance and the weak Canadian dollar forced the Grizzlies to relocate to Memphis.


Byron Scott

Credit: Rocky Widner/Getty Images


The current state of the Memphis Grizzlies is far from what Vancouver ever was in their six-year stint in the NBA. Memphis currently has one of the best young cores in the NBA, consisting of talents like Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Ziaire Williams. However, the franchise’s past consists of a vexing period of play over in Vancouver.


The  Vancouver Grizzlies started as easily the worst team in the entire NBA, which is expected for a newly instated expansion team. However, the Grizzlies were worse than what the NBA could have ever envisioned. They were so bad, that their record from 1995-2001 was 101-359, the worst record in the NBA during those six years. They went 15-67 in their first season, including a streak of 23 straight losses at one point from February to April. 


Their demise as a franchise came down to multiple factors, ranging from bad draft picks, to no NBA lottery at the time, to a lack of desire from players and prospects to play outside the United States. Their biggest draft blunder was drafting Shareef Abdur-Rahim with the third pick in the 1996 draft, where they could have taken Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, or Steve Nash, instead, all of whom were selected after Abdur-Rahim. To be fair though, hindsight is always 20/20.


However, despite Vancouver’s previous struggles to maintain a franchise, now could be the perfect time for the NBA to expand back into one of the world’s most popular cities. Commissioner Adam Silver himself said that he believes Vancouver and Canada in general have developed into a great basketball market, largely in part due to the success of the Toronto Raptors. 


The NBA has held numerous pre-season games in Vancouver, which have all been sell-out crowds with an electric atmosphere. Vancouver is also now widely considered a favourite destination for NBA players to visit when they’re in Canada, a massive difference from 20 years ago when players dreaded coming to play in Vancouver.


Vancouver Skyline

Credit: HelloBC/Getty Images


The case for bringing an NBA team back to Vancouver is not just rooted in nostalgia or sentimentality but in practicality and opportunity. Vancouver boasts a vibrant and passionate fan base, a thriving sports culture, and a diverse community ready to embrace the excitement of professional basketball once again. 


Economics and logistics are always there to be considered. Ownership interest, infrastructure support, and market demand are the things that the NBA would have to consider before making the lead and expanding back into Vancouver. However, based on the sold-out pre-season games the NBA brings to Vancouver, there are no questions about the market demand.


Aside from everything, the NBA is in debt to Vancouverites and basketball fans all over British Columbia. If they did end up expanding back into Vancouver, Adam Silver would be questioning why he did not make the move sooner.



Edited By: Ayantika Ghosh



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