The Wages of Wins Network just did some fascinating posts based upon the Business Journal’s series of economic evaluations of existing and potential markets for professional teams in the various sports leagues.
No surprise, Milwaukee was amongst the markets that the study found (Arturo’s recent post shows just how weak the Milwaukee market is) insufficient to adequately support an NBA team. WoW did a separate post then that suggested six markets that would best be able to support an NBA transplant/expansion team.
Surprisingly (to me, I guess), the NBA has 22 options when it comes to sufficient markets. Riverside, California (a place I frankly never heard of) is the most sustainable market, however if I were an owner who just bought the Bucks and I was looking to move them out of the creaky Bradley Center and on to greener pastures, I would not only consider the disposable income levels, I would couple with the historic display of an appetite for basketball (after all, a separate study on potential MLB markets lists Montreal as number two— and Montreal has already demonstrated it is not a baseball hotbed).
If you couple the two criteria, and you mix in geographical alignment considerations, the most obvious potential future home for the Bucks on the Business Journal list is Louisville, Kentucky. Not only is Louisville right in the heart of basketball country — Kentucky — it was once the fairly successful home to the ABA franchise, the Kentucky Colonels. (If you look at the history of the merger between the ABA and NBA, the Colonels kind of got screwed over by what I would consider regional chauvinism). Besides, if the Bucks relocated to Kentucky, the NBA would not have to engage in any realignment, and the heated Kentucky-Indiana basketball rivalry from the ABA days (and from college basketball) could resume in the NBA.
Now I know the NBA has become something of an acquired sports taste over the years (if I hear one more adult ask me why I like the NBA, and that it is just a black league, I will vomit — and I’m cleaning up the description they always give it because the uncensored version is disgusting), but basketball is basketball and my guess is that Kentuckians would cherish an NBA team.
I’m not trying to be a pessimist. I’m just being a realist. I just don’t see how the Bucks can stay in Milwaukee long term. The city has never really supported them at adequate levels (even in their salad days attendance was only middling). If the team thinks they will get a publicly funded arena, they are delusional. And besides, these days I get most of my Bucks action on Cable television, and with the NBA package that wouldn’t stop no matter if and where the team moved.