By Noor Yussef–
The year 2012 was filled with talks of whether residents want an NBA team in Louisville. From the Mayor to the basketball lovers in the city, many individuals agreed that it’s good idea because it will benefit the city. But what about the University of Louisville’s basketball team? It is currently the city’s primary focus team. What would happen if Louisville also brought in an NBA team?
Recently, Mayor Greg Fisher and U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich exchanged harsh words through the media. Jurich accused the mayor of not including them in the discussion of whether or not to bring an NBA team to the city. Even President Ramsey joined Jurich and described the city’s exclusion as “both surprising and disappointing,” according to The Courier-Journal. However, the mayor insists that he will always keep his promise that an NBA team in Louisville must also be a win for U of L.
The university hasn’t provided its official stance on what it will mean having an NBA team in the city.
“We weren’t involved in any of the discussions,” said men’s basketball Sports Information Director, Kenny Klein, “nor does it directly affect the University of Louisville.”
As the city’s major basketball team, it’s been rumored that an NBA team will divert some—if not a lot—of attention away from U of L.
“I think that an NBA would have to compete for attention from our U of L sports,” said Nick Peak, a Resident Assistant at Center Hall. “We have been so successful in the Big East, and our transition to the ACC will excite and grow the U of L fan base even more.”
Caleb Barley, a freshman Civil Engineering major, believes an NBA team will weaken the Cardinal fan base.
“Our focus will be split,” Barley said, “so we won’t benefit from everything since there would be two basketball teams in the city.”
Another problem U of L may face is sharing the KFC Yum! Center with the new team. Recently, ESPN rated the KFC Yum! Center as one of “College Basketball’s Best Arenas.” U of L has also signed a contract until 2040 with the arena.
“Scheduling would be a nightmare,” Nick Peak predicted, “but it would help bring in more revenue. Other than concerts and special events, U of L is the only tenant of the Yum! Center. It’s ours.”
Supporters of an NBA team in Louisville have suggested that an NBA team will unite the divided people of Kentucky. Nick Peak doesn’t think so.
“This state’s basketball reputation exists because of our two great programs at U of L and UK, their histories and the heated rivalry. The last thing we need is an NBA team to try and unite us. What brings this state together is the competition. We live and breathe college basketball. I don’t need an NBA team or any other pro sports team to cheer for. I have U of L.”
To some U of L students, it’s too early to come to a conclusion without carefully studying the facts. Carrie Mattingly, the Student Government Association Vice-President for Academics is among those.
“The possibility of having an NBA team here in Louisville is a very interesting and widely discussed topic in local politics at this time,” Mattingly commented. “I feel that there are many facets that need to be discussed in thinking about an NBA team coming to Louisville.”
Another question raised throughout the discussions is hypothetical: If the NBA team and the U of L basketball team are playing the same day, will basketball fans choose to watch the NBA team over the Cardinals?
“I doubt alumni, donors, or season-ticket holders, many of whom have held tickets for decades, would readily give up their seats watching the Cards to pay to watch an expansion team struggle through an NBA season,” Mattingly stated. “The culture of Kentucky is built on college basketball and college athletics. Children around here grow up hearing stories about U of L legends, not stories about the Los Angeles Lakers or the Chicago Bulls. This is a college town, and it is the economic center of a college state; no professional basketball team would be able to pull away from the tradition of U of L athletics.”
Now basketball fans must wait and see if the mayor will stick to his promise that bringing an NBA to Louisville will be a win-win situation for both U of L and the city, as well as if Ramsey and Jurich will ever announce the university’s official stance on this issue.
Photo: Tricia Stern/The Louisville Cardinal