ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins said what everyone already knows on Thursday’s episode of “NBA Today.” The New Orleans Pelicans have had a tough time gaining a fan base in “The Crescent City.” Big Perk said it’s time for the franchise to relocate, and he has a point.
“It’s time for the Pelicans to relocate,” Perkins said. “I think a city like Seattle, a city like Las Vegas is more deserving of a basketball team. I played in New Orleans and they always gonna come second to the New Orleans Saints.”
"It will never be a basketball city and that's okay"
— @KendrickPerkins on the Pelicans being in New Orleans
— 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙞𝙣’ 𝙉𝘽𝘼 🗣️ (@_Talkin_NBA) February 24, 2022
Perk is actually being generous. The Pelicans fall behind the NFL’s Saints and LSU Football. In the right year, they might even be less popular than LSU baseball.
New Orleans is the 50th-ranked media market in the country, with a population of about 384,000. That’s not a large enough pool to draw from in the football-loving South for a basketball team with no significant local history.
The Saints have been a part of New Orleans since 1967; they won the Super Bowl in 2010. They matter in the Big Easy in a way the Pelicans never will. Regardless of any success they might have.
The NBA has a geography problem. Of the league’s 30 franchises, at least 10 of them are in cities that aren’t appealing to young rich athletes that want to enjoy being young rich athletes. If a franchise doesn’t have exciting players to market, selling the games is more challenging.
There are better cities for NBA teams, so Perk is right. Seattle and Las Vegas would draw better crowds and more interest. The league has been eyeing expansion for the last few years, but that would be a mistake.
Adding more teams means more games and watering down a regular season that is already struggling to maintain relevance. They would never do it, but contraction and relocation to Seattle and/or Las Vegas might solve some issues.
The way fans consume sports is changing, and leagues like the NBA need to adapt and change with the direction of the tide. Forcing NBA basketball in a market that doesn’t seem to have an appetite for it is a waste.
To that end, as the NBA looks to remain popular among sports fans, it’s time to start rethinking how things are done. Everything should be on the table. The hard questions need to be asked and answered.
How does the best basketball league in the world keep interest high domestically during the regular season? How does the league deliver the best possible product? How does the league leverage broadcast and media partners to effectively deliver its messages?
It’s not about competing with the NFL or any other league. In a nation with a population of approximately 332 million people, let’s assume 100 million people are at least casual sports fans. That’s a large enough number to generate significant interest in the best basketball league in the world.
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