What Cincinnati Is Missing: An NBA Team


There are two seconds left on the clock. Ten players, tired and sore, everything left on the court, rise to give all they have left for one final play. The home team’s star player is thrown the ball from the base line and launches one last fall-away shot that clinks off the rim and just rolls in. The bench players mob the court and the fans in the stands erupt. But you weren’t there because Cincinnati doesn’t have an NBA team. Even Cleveland has an NBA team. Actually, even worse, even Salt Lake City has a team. I have no idea why.

We used to have an NBA team. They were called the Royals and I’d bet that you have heard of a couple of their players. But then they left and eventually became the Sacramento Kings and Cincinnati was left with an arena and the Cincinnati Stuff. That trade may be worse than Hamilton for Vasquez or Robinson for Papas. Ok, maybe not Robinson but definitely Hamilton.

So why don’t we have an NBA team? We have the arena for it. No, US Bank Arena is not on par with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn or the Staples Center in LA, but it sits enough. The smallest arena in the NBA is the New Orleans Arena at just under 17,200. At 17,500, US Bank would be the third smallest just behind the aforementioned, newly built Barclays Center. And if Chicago’s United Center can handle the yearly circus, I think US Bank could continue to accommodate the Cyclones.

So, if it’s not the arena, and it’s not the size (Saint Paul and Orlando have teams!) then what is it? Another popular excuse is that Cincinnati doesn’t have enough of a market around the city. With Cleveland and Indianapolis both hosting NBA franchises, the argument is that the area is over saturated. If that’s true than how can you explain Orlando and Miami? Orlando is the same distance from Miami as Cincinnati is from Cleveland and yet the Magic and the Heat do just fine. Kentucky lacks a professional team in any sport (although UK is a better franchise than, say, the Bobcats) and Columbus has only soccer and the currently on-hold hockey. As for Indianapolis, Cincinnatians only go into Indiana for three things, the NBA, gambling and skiing. As soon as the casino opens in Cincinnati this spring you can cross gambling off that list. The same could be said for the NBA.

The Reds are young and relentless. With the addition of Shin-Soo Choo our lineup is solid from top to bottom. The Bengals are making noise again while holding the city hostage. All we are missing is the third team. Like Cleveland, again with Cleveland, Cincinnati could support three professional franchises, and our love of basketball is evident. Don’t believe me? Check out my last article on the Crosstown ‘Classic’.

Of course, all of this is just the opinion of this writer, and if Cincinnatians wouldn’t go to NBA games anyway then this entire argument is moot. While the mayor’s office isn’t exactly turning away hoards of angry NBA nuts demanding that Cincinnati attempt to find a team, there is at least some interest.

Dax Ronko, a local resident who was interviewed for this story had this to say. “We’re a professional sports city and we obviously have a passion for basketball. I think that people would really get behind a professional NBA team.” Dax’s comments further my point. Cincinnati loves basketball.

However, another local resident disagreed with Dax. Brian Hepp, who was interviewed for my story on the Crosstown ‘Classic’, said that the reason Cincinnati loves college basketball so much is precisely because we don’t have an NBA team anywhere close. The way he sees it, an NBA team would only take people away from UC and Xavier and would not help the area.

Another resident agreed. Julia Dose, formally of Chicago, who grew up idolizing Michael Jordan, said, simply, that it wouldn’t be worth it to get an NBA team. “Cincinnati has really loyal fans, but I just don’t think that they would support an NBA team. It’s a lot of money to invest in a sport where the players don’t seem to be trying that hard, you know? The NBA uses lighting and theatrics more than any other sport. It’s kind of a joke.”

While NBA games do at times take on the appearance of a highly theatrical stage show, it is up to the individual to asses this quality as good or bad. While I love the MLB and the NFL precisely because of their ‘anything could happen’ atmosphere, the predictability of the NBA is a nice break from an otherwise hectic world. The up and down, we’ve seen this before property of the NBA, like it’s European cousin, soccer, is relaxing and enjoyable like watching your favorite movie for the 300th time. A bathroom break during a Bengals game is a risqué move as The Law Firm could break one and run for a touchdown. You could take a nap during a basketball game and as long as you wake back up for the end, you should be ok as far as the outcome is concerned.

Of course, I am a little biased. Ever since he was a senior at Kansas during the 1997-98 season, I have been a giant Paul Pierce fan. I own more shirts and jerseys with Pierce, 34 on them then I do Reds or Bengals gear. Last year my girlfriend and I drove to Indiana to watch the Celtics beat the Pacers for our first NBA experience (Pierce led all scorers, it was an amazing night), and while that trip was fun I left feeling like I was missing out. I shouldn’t have to drive to another state and spend my money there when Cincinnati could be drawing in money for the exact same thing. While it would be hard for me to give up my Celtic’s affiliation, I would gladly do so for a hometown team.

Mayor Mallory, Councilman Sittenfeld, even Governer Kasich, listen up. Where does it hurt to at least kick the tires? The Kings want out of Sacramento and they are listening to any offer they hear. Maybe it’s time for the Royals to come home. I for one would be waiting with open arms.

Have a question, comment or story suggestion for J.? Email him at JBShifman@gmail.com.