Pittsburgh: The NBA’s next basketball City?

Pittsburgh: The NBA’s next basketball City?

With the NHL owners and the NHLPA (NHL Players Association) still dragging their feet and no new meetings seemingly in sight, the Consol Energy Center is pretty quiet these days. It looks like we will have to trade in the sounds of skate blades scraping the ice, for the squeaky sounds of sneakers on the hardwood now that the NBA season has begun.

Thinking about that it brought up the topic of the NBA and the city of Pittsburgh. This seems to always bring a good debate in town as to if anyone thinks Pittsburgh could be a four sport town such as Boston, Denver, Detroit, etc. As we all know, Pittsburgh is not as big as those cities, so the bigger question is if there are enough entertainment dollars to support an NBA franchise here.

Pittsburgh has attempted the basketball movement a few times but never at an NBA level. In 1967 the Civic Arena was home to the ABA (American Basketball Association) team the Pittsburgh Pipers. An inaugural franchise that actually won the championship and averaged more than 3,000 fans a game but the next season moved to Minnesota, though they had an encore in Pittsburgh in 1969.

In 1970 the Pittsburgh Pipers changed their name to the Condors. The team struggled which led to low attendance figures. The ABA attempted find another market that could support the team but in the end the team folded in 1972.

The latest attempt for basketball in Pittsburgh was the Pittsburgh Xplosion starting in 2004 as part of the CBA (Continental Basketball Association). They played their home games at both the Peterson Events Center and the Civic Arena to small crowds. The team had former local college basketball stars such as Carl Krauser (Pitt) and Kevin Pittsnogle (West Virginia) but the franchise only survived until 2008 which as the whole CBA folded.

People try to use those teams as arguments as to why Pittsburgh would not support an NBA franchise. Give me a break. It is 2012 and most people didn’t even know that the Xplosion actually existed. How many people are going to go to a CBA game anyway?

Pittsburgh could be a great option for a potential NBA franchise in the future. Instead of having struggling franchise like the Sacramento Kings who are having serious issues financially and do not seem close to building a new arena in Sacramento. Other cities Like New Orleans and Memphis struggle to sell tickets as well.

Psst. Hey, NBA commissioner Stern. Consol Energy Center is basically a brand new state of the art arena that holds over 18,000 people. No need to build a new arena somewhere else, Pittsburgh has one.

Just look at the attendance numbers for University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and even Duquesne University men’s basketball. Go to the City Game between Pittsburgh and Duquesne and there is huge crowd at Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh alone sells out the Peterson Events Center (over 12,000 capacity) nightly, even when other teams in town are playing.

Like any franchise if you want people to come see your team play all you have to do is win. If the NBA put a franchise in Pittsburgh and they are successful there is no doubt people would go. Winning is the best recipe for any franchise and Pittsburgh being the sports crazy town that it is, from afar looks like a smart move.

Imagine the rivalries between a Pittsburgh franchise and the Philadelphia 76ers or the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Battle of Pennsylvania could begin a whole new chapter. Not to mention when superstars like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant come to town, tickets would be sold out far in advance.

Not to say that this could actually work but seems like there is a lot of evidence that Pittsburgh could support an NBA franchise. Maybe though this idea just sounds good these days because the Penguins haven’t played yet and Pittsburghers need something to watch besides the Steelers.

 

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Doug Andiorio

Doug is a freelance writer for Pittsburgh Sporting News.

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