Article by Basir Jamil | Photography by Abbey Rigney & Joshua Eller | Owl Staff
For yet another year, Baltimore is missing out on the excitement, thrill, and expectations of an NBA season. The NBA is enjoying its highest level of popularity since the days of Michael Jordan, with more recognizable stars than any other sports league in the country, and once again, Maryland will be left on the sidelines.
Baltimore once had a proud basketball franchise in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Baltimore Bullets produced four Hall of Fame players: Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Earl Monroe, and Gus Johnson, before relocating in 1973 and eventually becoming today’s Washington Wizards.
Basketball is rooted into Maryland’s culture, with the popularity of college basketball and the Maryland Terrapins standing out in particular. Maryland is just as important to the contribution of outstanding players to the NBA as any other state, having produced a number of athletes that have reached stardom in the NBA.
Since entering the NBA in 2007, Kevin Durant has become one of the game’s biggest stars, having earned the scoring title as well as All-NBA and All- Star honors for three consecutive years. He is coming off his best season yet, ending as an MVP finalist and leading his team to the brink of a championship. Along with Olympic teammate Carmelo Anthony, the two are perhaps the game’s most gifted scorers.
What few people know is that both stars are Marylanders. Kevin Durant played basketball at Montrose Christian High in Rockville, while Carmelo grew up in West Baltimore and played ball at Towson Catholic. In addition to these two, Maryland has helped raise several other recognizable players including Rudy Gay, Ty Lawson, Michael Beasley, Roy Hibbert, and Jeff Green as well as Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley. With Maryland supplying such NBA talent, it only seems right to have an NBA team here, and for these players to have the opportunity to play for their home city.
Luckily, there seems to be a recent trend of teams exploring relocation. The Seattle SuperSonics moved to become the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008, and they’re among the league’s best. The New Jersey Nets moved to Brooklyn in November, while the Golden State Warriors plan to return to San Francisco from Oakland in time for the 2017 season.
The greatest opportunity for Baltimore to land an NBA team is to make a push for the Kings, who have been unable to agree on a new stadium deal with their hometown of Sacramento. The Kings have been linked to several different cities, from Seattle to Virginia Beach. Each city either has, or has expressed interest, in building a suitable stadium for an NBA team.
If Baltimore can make a plan to build a new arena fit for an NBA team, perhaps by expanding 1st Mariner, they could attract a team like the Kings. Raising funds would be the biggest hurdle, considering that the Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the Thunder, cost nearly $90 million by the time it was completed in 2002. The new team would contribute to the costs, but a large portion would have to be covered by Maryland taxpayers.
On the other hand, an NBA team would be beneficial to the local economy in terms of merchandising, helping local businesses on game nights, and creating jobs. In addition, according to The Baltimore Sun, there is some genuine interest for the Baltimore-Washington area to make a bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, and having an NBA sized arena already built would drastically improve Baltimore’s chances of landing the Olympics as well, which would also do wonders for the local economy.
“I think it would be a great idea to bring basketball back to Baltimore,” says Harford student Adam Goodman. “It’s a larger market than Oklahoma City and I feel like the city would really get behind the team.”
With the popularity of the Ravens and Terps, it’s not hard to see why. Baltimoreans are some of the most passionate fans, so fanatical that M&T Bank is one of the toughest stadiums to play in for opposing teams, according to a study done by the National Football Post. It’s no stretch to think that many of these fans would get behind an NBA team, if given the chance.
“I would love to have an NBA team come to Baltimore,” says Stewart Hammill, a 2nd year student at Harford. “I don’t really have a favorite basketball team because there is no team close, except for Washington, but driving to D.C. to see a game I don’t really care about would be a waste. I would definitely go see more basketball games if Baltimore had a team.” With the void left from the old Bullets, it is clear that Baltimore deserves, and is ready for, a new basketball team to call its own.
Should Baltimore City have an NBA team? HCC Students Weigh Inn:
Aaron Farley, General Studies, Guard:
“I think it would be a good idea because if you look at how hyped up everyone is about the Ravens and the Orioles, I think people would definitely go out and support them…everyone says the Ravens are the best supported team, [and have] the most energized stadium, and I think it would be the same for basketball.”
Jordan Lilly, General Studies, Point Guard:
“Baltimore’s biggest sport, in my eyes, is basketball. Everybody plays basketball because if you walk around, everybody’s got a ball, everybody’s dribbling…”
Jeff Joynes, General Studies, Point Guard:
“I live in Baltimore … [and] a lot of people down there love basketball … so I think that would be a really good idea, and a lot of people would come. And it might cut down on the crime because people would have something to do.”