BY SPNW Staff 06:05PM 05/01/2013

Poll: How Long Before Seattle Gets An NBA Team?

Several cities had to wait a long time before the NBA gave them franchises to replace ones lost. Several, notably St. Louis, never received another team after losing one.

St. Louis lost the Hawks to Atlanta in 1968 and has been waiting 45 years for the return of he NBA. Probably will never happen. / Wiki Commons

If NBA owners, as expected, rubber stamp the relocation committee’s vote to keep the Kings in Sacramento, the next question is: How long will Seattle have to wait for an NBA franchise? Philadelphia waited just two years before replacing the Warriors (bolted to San Francisco) with the 76ers, and Charlotte went without a team for three years following the evacuation of the Hornets (to New Orleans) before getting the Bobcats.

But St. Louis, a two-time loser as an NBA/BAA (Basketball Association of America, forerunner on the NBA) franchise, still hasn’t received a replacement for the Hawks, who departed for Atlanta in 1968, when Haight-Ashbury made headlines 45 years ago. Cincinnati, which supported the NBA from 1958-72, has been awaiting a return by the NBA since the Watergate hearings 41 years ago (1972).

Buffalo, which adequately supports the Bills (NFL) and Sabres (NHL), hosted the NBA from 1971-78 (anybody remember Bob McAdoo?), and has been awaiting the return of pro basketball for 35 years. That’s how much time has elapsed since the Braves moved west to become the lame San Diego (now non-lame Los Angeles) Clippers.

And look at Kansas City. That city (plus Omaha), the original home of the NCAA Tournament, supported the NBA from 1973 through 1985 after the Cincinnati Royals, born in Rochester, NY., moved there following the 1972 season. Kansas City, which lost the Kings to Sacramento (1985), hasn’t had a sniff from the NBA in 28 years.

It’s not impossible for a city to lose an NBA/BAA franchise and acquire a new one. Chicago lost both the Stags (1947-50) and Packers/Zephyrs (1962-63) before scoring permanently with the Bulls, who launched play in the Windy City four years after the Packers/Zephyrs (anybody remember Billy “The Hill” McGill?) moved to Baltimore (and eventually Washington D.C.) in 1964.

San Diego had the Rockets until 1971, lost them to Houston, and waited eight years before the Braves/Clippers arrived (1979). When San Diego lost the Clippers to Los Angeles (1985), it joined St. Louis and Chicago as a two-time NBA/BAA loser.

Seattle is the largest metro market in the U.S. without an NBA team, ranking ahead of San Diego and St. Louis. The following are the cities that went the longest before re-acquiring a franchise:

First Team Last Year Next Club First Year Wait
Minneapolis Lakers 1961 Minnesota T-Wolves 1990 29 years
New Orleans Jazz 1979 New Orleans Hornets 2003 24
Indianapolis Olympians 1953 Indiana Pacers 1968 15
Milwaukee Hawks 1955 Milwaukee Bucks 1969 14
San Diego Rockets 1971 San Diego Clippers 1979 8
St. Louis Bombers 1950 St. Louis Hawks 1956 6
Chicago Zephyrs 1963 Chicago Bulls 1967 4
Charlotte Hornets 2002 Charlotte Bobcats 2005 3
Philadelphia Warriors 1962 Philadelphia 76ers 1964 2

If Sacramento doesn’t screw up its arena plan, and it might, the Kings will stay there and Seattle will have to wait for another team to fail, or for expansion, whichever comes first. Neither option is guaranteed. So we have the following question, and comments are encouraged:


  • morganducks

    I believe the first NCAA basketball tournament was in Evanston, Ill. At least, that’s where the Ducks won it.

  • jafabian

    It’s amazing that the NBA isn’t in St. Louis, Vancouver, San Diego or Kansas City. Could easily throw in Buffalo, San Jose and Cincinnati. How can the NBA say they’re on the cusp of going international when they can’t make it in the major media markets in the US? They’re easily the #3 pro sport and in some markets could be as low as #6. Seems to me they should be focusing on getting their product higher on that ladder before trying to expand internationally.

  • inplaylose

    so long as the league is paying the former owners of the Spirits an equal share of the TV revenue, St. Louis is NEVER getting a franchise. the league got played on that one and has not forgotten. there have been multiple inquiries from St. Louis into bad franchises – the Nets and then the Grizzlies – but were quickly discouraged. as if there was ever a doubt that the league carries grudges …

  • john

    There’s no way Hansen sees this team. Everyone knows he wants it in Seattle. Owners know that holding a franchise hostage by hanging a move over its head for a year will only cause problems in Sacramento.

  • notaboomer

    yes inplaylose, that deal the owners of the st. louis spirits (aba team at time of merger in 76) is amazing. check it out: