NBA And MLB Expansion to 32 Teams Coming

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The NFL and NHL both have 32 teams, now that the NHL most recently expanded with the Seattle Kraken. But the NBA has just 30 teams, as does Major League Baseball.

The last time the NBA expanded was in 2004, when it added the Charlotte Bobcats to replace the Charlotte Hornets, who had moved to New Orleans. Since then, the Hornets became the Pelicans, and the Bobcats rebranded as another addition of the Hornets.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver says the near 20-year run as a 30-team league is coming to a close. When the current media rights deal is up in 2025, the league will explore expanding the NBA to 32 teams. 

“We’ll turn to expansion once those new media deals are done,” said Silver. “It’s not a sure thing. But as I’ve said before, I think it’s natural that organizations grow over time.”

Just a year ago, Silver said, “At some point, this league invariably will expand. But it’s not at this moment that we are discussing it.”

The discussion is now taking place, and Silver has his eye on a couple of specific cities.

Las Vegas and Seattle on NBA’s Wish List

Long considered off-limits to professional sports leagues because of gambling, leagues are now embracing sports betting and expansion into Las Vegas. The Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL came to town in 2017, and just won the Stanley Cup. The Raiders are now in Vegas, and their home field of Reliant Stadium will be the site of this year’s Super Bowl.

The Oakland A’s are coming, and have already started the paperwork with Major League Baseball in making the move. And that would leave the NBA as the only league of the big four to be left out of Las Vegas.

Silver didn’t commit to Vegas. But he did say that the league would naturally look into it.

The other, more obvious choice, is Seattle. It is the largest media market in the country that does not have a current NBA team, and it was the home of the SuperSonics from 1967 to 2008, when the team moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder.

Other cities that might be in the running are San Diego, which was the previous home of the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers, and Vancouver and Kansas City, which were also once home to NBA teams.

MLB to Expand “Pretty Soon”

Nevada has approved $380 million in public funding to help make the move for the Oakland A’s to Las Vegas a smoother ride. The team has also officially begun the process of becoming the first Major League Baseball team to move regions since the Montreal Expos went to Washington, D.C.

Once that is finalized and the Tampa Bay Rays finalize  their stadium plans for the future, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he “hopes” to create an expansion committee. The league will also address and settle the questions of realignment before looking at cities for new franchises.

“Within my vision of expansion, you need to think about what you’re trying to accomplish for the sport from a competitive perspective, and deal with those issues before you get into one market,” said Manfred. 

The A’s are looking to move by 2027, which is the same year the Rays stadium deal with Tropicana Field expires. So presumably any concrete expansion plans wouldn’t take place until at least that year, and probably beyond it.

Portland, Salt Lake City, Montreal, and Nashville all have groups of potential owners who have expressed interest in owning one of baseball’s expansion teams. But none of those cities have a plan in place for a new stadium.

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