NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wishes for a franchise in Vancouver

It’s been 18 years since the Canucks have had competition in Vancouver for a sports team in one of the major four leagues in North America, but in a recent interview with CBC, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has high hopes for that to change.

The Vancouver Grizzlies only existed for six seasons before their move to Memphis, but with the recent success of basketball in Canada, the league might revisit the idea of having a franchise in this city.

“In retrospect, I wish we had a team in Vancouver right now. I think that we do have regret — we were a bit ahead of our time,” Silver said.

There has been a slow surge of interest in basketball all over the country, due largely to the success of the Toronto Raptors. From being considered a joke franchise around the league, to now having one of the best basketball player on the planet and having a shot at winning a championship, the franchise has grown the sport in this country immensely.

Jamal Murray, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and RJ Barrett are just three examples of young superstars in the NBA that are all from the Toronto area. If Vancouver were given a franchise, perhaps there could be the same level of grassroots mentality to spread the interest in the sport.

As of now, Canada has the second-highest amount of players in the NBA behind the United States. A total of 41 players are Canadian, while the next-highest of non-American players are 28 from France.

To have a second franchise in the country, especially in a city like Vancouver, could bring that number up even higher and progress Canadian basketball to new heights.

The only thing the Vancouver franchise would have to do is not repeat any of the same mistakes, or suffer the same losses the Grizzlies did.

“There was a moment in the league where prospects seemed down in terms of the team,” Silver said. “Attendance was down, ratings were down, so I understood from an economic standpoint why the team owner wanted to move the team.”

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For the city to get another major franchise, it could have the same international effect the Raptors have had on Toronto. Making it a destination and not just a novelty to have a franchise in a foreign city.

Similar to the NHL, the NBA is rumoured to be pondering on expansion or relocation to Seattle as well. This would greatly effect any possibility of Vancouver getting a franchise of its own.

Whether the league views a Vancouver/Seattle connection attractive or views it at two hypothetical franchises too close to one another, this could go one way or the other. But as Brian Windhorst of ESPN speculates, Seattle isn’t coming anytime soon, and neither is Vancouver.

One problem is where the NBA is currently.

“Unfortunately we’re not in expansion mode right now,” Silver said. “But sure, over time, given the development of the sport in Canada, there’s no doubt that at some point we’ll look to see whether there’s an opportunity to put a second team in the country. Based on what we’re seeing now in terms of the interest that we could sustain it in Canada.”

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Silver sees the opportunity that could be right in front of him in Vancouver, but the only thing that is needed right now is patience.

Basketball in Canada is still growing and evolving to places deemed impossible just several years ago, so is a new franchise in Vancouver simply a matter of time or have they lost their chance?

To have arguably the biggest sport in the world right now in Vancouver is an enticing idea.

  • Jamie E

    Interesting, but the logistics are tricky. The Aqualinis own the arena. They own the Canucks. They own the Warriors. They own their own E-Sports team that is now booking dates in Rogers Arena. So, its fair to say that the Aquilinis would HAVE to be at least part owners of a Vancouver NBA expansion team to be motivated enough to free up the required dates in Rogers Arena.

    • IF

      Another good reason not to bring the NBA to Vancouver. Although I understand that the strip clubs and escort agencies are lobbying to bring those NBA types back to town.

  • Spiel

    Wouldn’t want an NBA expansion team again. The NBA is pretty much the ultimate have and have not league. How many teams at the start of the season had a legitimate shot of winning the championship? Two or three?
    The NBA is a star driven league, and the stars make super teams in big markets. While a Vancouver team might get a few young stars, they would never be able to keep them around.

    • truthseeker

      More than that. I get what your saying but I actually don’t mind that. In some ways I think parity has been a very bad thing for the NHL. Hockey is already a game where luck is one of the most determining factors in winning. When you put in a bunch of teams that all have the same “balance”, sure it makes for some exciting series, and some crazy upsets, but for me it’s really made the Cup lose a bit of it’s importance. If every single team that makes the playoffs all have an equal shot of winning then really all it is in the end is luck and “hot streaks”. To me that takes away from it.

      Talent matters in the NBA. It’s already the sport where talent determines outcomes more than any other professional team sport. So yes I agree that sometimes it can be “top heavy” but if you take a closer look, teams can swing in and out of that top spot if they are well managed. It’s not like only big markets are successful. The Knicks haven’t won a title in how long? The Lakers suck. Golden State was never considered a “big market” team until they started winning. I remember when GS were one of the laughing stocks of the league for decades. The Bucks had the best team in the league this year, and have a legit shot. Milwaukee. Portland’s doing amazingly well. Toronto. Nuggets too. None of these are teams in huge markets. It’s great that the NBA championship is a tough trophy to win. Much much harder than the cup. You gotta get through the best to win it and that still means something.

      I think the NHL could strike a bit better balance and allow better managed teams to have an advantage rather than trying to manipulate it into evenness for the sake of evenness.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Oh No!!! Another expansion team spending forever in the basement? Look what happened last time. The NBA is a most prestigious league but Vancouver had their chance unless an existing franchise moves here which it won’t. Seattle would be considered much before Vancouver would. Ain’t happening.

  • DeL

    They weren’t ahead of their time Stern handcuffed the team by forcing Stu Jackson on them and not allowing the first pick overall for their first three years. Artie was a little too desperate to join the club.

  • wojohowitz

    Two incidents I remember from the NBA;

    1- Canada? Canada! I ain`t going to play in Canada.

    2- Player making $20m a year holds a press conference. `Nobody loves me…nobody`.

  • IF

    The NBA burned my bridge when they screwed us over with the Grizzlies. The team was given a stiff handicap on expansion,then pulled the plug for greener meadows. All with the tacit approval off the commissioner.
    There may be new generations that will not have experienced that scam but I’m also sure that many people will not get sucked in again to the false hype. By the way. Just take a look at how NBA refs treat the raptor. It’s not a level playing field.

    • LiborPolasek

      Ditto, no NBA in Vancouver ever again !! Also agree on the officiating: it was the same when the Blue jays were in the world series. But in the end the umpires blown calls did not matter to the Jays because the players played like champions and executed enough plays at the right moment to win. The whole Grizzlies situation was both a bad and sad situation altogether. Selfishly the only good memories for me was I got to see various NBA superstars play live without having to travel….

  • I love how the NBA pretends that basketball is some unknown novelty to Canadians. C’mon, man – it’s not jai-alai. Basketball was the most popular sport in my high school well before the Grizzlies existed.

    • truthseeker

      That’s true for certain generations of Vancouverites but many of the ticket buying demographic, especially at that time, it really wasn’t. Hockey was still “their game”. I get your point though…lol…jai-alai…nice choice.

      I suspect an NBA team would probably do better today than back in the 90’s but even then, considering how bad the team was, the attendance was actually not as bad as people think.

  • Burnabybob

    Vancouver really wanted to embrace its NBA team in the late 90’s. But the Grizzlies were crippled by expansion rules that made them ineligible to draft in the top 4(?) for their first several years in the league. The Canadian dollar was also very weak, and players like Steve Francis turned their noses up at playing for Vancouver. Given how awful the team was, I remember attendance being surprisingly good. It would be nice if they got another chance at an NBA team. It’s a great sport.