20 cities that deserve an NBA expansion team

Basketball is a sport that is universally loved, and the NBA is at the forefront of the sport’s dizzying growth. It’s about time the NBA started expanding its league to include new teams in new cities. You will find 20 cities that deserve an NBA expansion team the most in this list.

Here are the criteria we used:

1. Is this city known as a sports town?

2. What is their population? Can it house an expansion team?

3. Is this a city with a rich basketball history?

Side note: There will be no Bay Area teams on this list. So if you’re from San Francisco, Oakland, or San Jose, you won’t find your city here. Be happy with the Warriors. 



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Seattle has to be first. The people of Seattle have been deprived of a professional basketball team since the SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City and changed their name to the Thunder in 2008. It’s a crime they were run out of town. 

Seattle has a long history with the SuperSonics. Seattle is already home to the Seahawks, Mariners, and the brand-new Seattle Kraken of the NHL. 

The SuperSonics could come back as an expansion team the same way the Cleveland Browns of the NFL came back to Cleveland in 1999. Let’s hope the result is better for Seattle if it were ever to happen.


Las Vegas

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Viva Las Vegas! The NBA has had its eye on Vegas for a while, and they already have connections to the area. The NBA Summer League is played in Sin City every year. Vegas is the sports betting capital of the world, and it already has an NHL and an NFL team. With how quickly those teams were sent to Vegas, an NBA team feels like it’s right around the corner. 

If this ever happened, LeBron James has expressed interest in owning a team in Las Vegas,  per James brings 20 years of unofficial GM experience to the table.


Mexico City

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This one may surprise some of you, but the NBA is having serious conversations about this one. In fact, it’s considered a dark horse candidate for an expansion team, per Marc J. Spears. It’s the largest city in Mexico. Since the NBA has already played a slew of games here, this one might happen sooner rather than later.



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The city of Baltimore used to be home to the Bullets franchise before it relocated to the nation’s capital in 1973. Baltimore is a great sports town. The rabid crowds at Ravens’ and Orioles’ games are proof. They should name their franchise after a bird like the Ravens and Orioles if given an expansion team. The only downside to an NBA team in basketball is that the Washington Wizards are so close. You’d have to win over diehard Wizard fans living in Baltimore.


New Jersey

Beachgoers on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights (2022).
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The Nets franchise has a storied history here. They made back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and ’03. The Nets relocated to Brooklyn in 2012 and have played in the borough ever since. The Garden State has proven it can house an NBA team before. If given an expansion team, it would be the fourth team in the Tri-state area, with the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, and Philadelphia 76ers playing nearby. It might be tough to bring fans into the building on a nightly basis, but if Jackie Moon could find a way, so can they.



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Already home to the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates, Pittsburgh just needs an NBA team to house all four major North American sports. The Steel City has earned the right to be considered for an NBA expansion team because of its rich history as a tough sports town. An NBA expansion team in Pittsburgh could have a bitter interstate rivalry with Philadelphia. Don’t believe me; just look at the Flyers-Penguins NHL rivalry. 

Side note: Since all of Pittsburgh’s sports teams have black and yellow jerseys, the expansion team should have the same colorway to keep the tradition going.



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Our rival across the pond, this team would have an immediate home-field advantage thanks to the time zone differences and long flight times. It would be one of the biggest media markets in the league from the get-go. Also, you’ve got so many options for naming the team. You could go with the Monarchs, Royals, or Redcoats.

A rivalry between the Boston Celtics and London would be iconic. Social media would be in a frenzy every time they play. I can imagine the memes now.



A packed crowd cheers on the Nashville Predators (2022).
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The Music City could be an intriguing spot for the NBA. The city is already loaded with tourists. Adding an NBA team to the mix could make that team a fixture in the community and for tourists who want to see their home team while on vacation in Nashville. The city already has the Titans and the Predators, proving they can house professional sports.


San Diego

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The Clippers used to play in San Diego until they relocated to Los Angeles in 1984. Since then, they’ve been without an NBA team. This could become a destination for the All-Star Game because of the beautiful weather. Also, who wouldn’t want to live in San Diego? It would immediately become one of the most desirable locations for free agents in the NBA.


Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay skyline (2009).
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This is a fun one to throw around. At one time, Tampa Bay was all the rave in the sports world. They solidified themselves as a true sports town after the Lightning won back-to-back Stanley Cups (2020, ’21) and Tom Brady’s Buccaneers won Super Bowl LV. Things have simmered down in the heat-stricken city since then, but make no mistake: Tampa Bay has what it takes to host an NBA team. They could have an epic rivalry with the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat. We’ll see if this one happens. Watching playoff basketball a few minutes away from the beach sounds too good to be true.



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Ohio sports fans are die-hards. Look at the way they cheer on the teams they already have. Cincinnati was once home to the Royals before they relocated to Kansas City in 1972. Given that they’re one of the biggest cities in Ohio, it makes sense for the NBA to consider expanding here, even if it is Ohio.



The Louisville Cardinals mascot gets the crowd hype during a game (2022).
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Basketball is more than a game for the people of Louisville. Similar to the state of Indiana, Kentucky is a state with a rich basketball history, and Louisville is a viable candidate for an expansion team. Louisville and Kentucky basketball are right around the corner, and their games sell out consistently. So there are definitely basketball fans here. Since Kentucky is so obsessed with the sport, it might make sense to name them after the state instead of Louisville.


Kansas City

Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones takes a selfie with diehard Chiefs fans (2022).
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Like the nearby city of St. Louis, Kansas City used to have an NBA team (the Kansas City Kings) before they relocated out West to Sacramento in 1985. (Geez, a lot of NBA franchises have relocated.) In this hypothetical, Kansas City’s NBA team could play in the T-Mobile Center.



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Duval County, baby! Home to the Jacksonville Jaguars and their daredevil mascot, Jaxson de Ville, the city is a major contender for an NBA team. The only problem is Florida’s already so saturated with basketball teams (Miami Heat, Orlando Magic). If this ever happens, they need to follow the Jaguars’ lead and build a pool in their stadium. It’s only fair. I still can’t believe the Jacksonville Jaguars have a literal pool in their stadium. 



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James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was born in Canada. It’s only right Canada gets a second NBA team. While the Canadiens of the NHL are the city’s pride and joy, we could see them rooting for an NBA expansion team. The NBA has talked about expanding internationally before. Montreal offers a safe bet to evaluate what works and doesn’t work before taking on a city that poses a bigger risk. 


St. Louis

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Like many other teams on this list, St. Louis used to host an NBA team. The Gateway to the West used to have the Hawks, but then they migrated to Atlanta in 1968. They were a solid team during their St. Louis era, winning the title in 1958. Home to the St. Louis Cardinals, a storied franchise, and the St. Louis Blues, there is a long history of great sports in St. Louis. The Gateway to the West deserves pro basketball again.



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This would be the first pro team in either Alaska or Hawaii. You could build a stadium right by the beach! Honolulu would have a sizable home-field advantage if given a team because of flight times and the distracting beachy atmosphere. Maybe we test this one out in NBA 2K before giving it the green light.



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Who doesn’t love rooting for the little guy? It would be the first pro team in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the country. This one is a bit of uncharted territory regarding NBA teams. Regardless, this one could work out if they were good enough to reel in a loyal fanbase.



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Yes, it didn’t work out with the Grizzlies, but Vancouver deserves a second chance. The expansion Grizzlies didn’t stand a chance in Vancouver because the NBA Draft Lottery was never in their favor. In today’s NBA (with a bigger salary cap and the desire to expand), it’s entirely possible that Vancouver could find a franchise player in no time. Also, those ’90s Grizzlies uniforms were a thing of beauty. 


Virginia Beach

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I know what you’re thinking. Believe it or not, this one almost happened. According to CBS News , the Sacramento Kings considered moving here, but multiple factors swayed both parties from shaking hands and putting ink to paper. However, from a sheer size standpoint, Virginia Beach is competitive with existing NBA markets like New Orleans and Milwaukee.

With a population of 8.6 million people, Virginia is one of the biggest states without an NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL team. If Virginia Beach were given a team, the entire state would root for the hometown team because it would be all they have. This makes Virginia Beach an intriguing argument for an expansion team.

David J. Hunt is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. He ran cross country at Penn State, became a volunteer firefighter during COVID-19, and is a self taught journalist. He’s a diehard Philly sports fan. When he isn’t watching sports, he enjoys working out, fishing, and traveling. You can find more of his writing at The Chestnut Hill Local and The Temple News. You can follow him on Twitter at @dave_hunt44.


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