I don’t know who needs to read this. Maybe it’s just for me. Maybe cause it’s been on my mind a lot. Like, a lot.
I want an NBA team in San Diego.
I want it like I want all the Oreos. Which, is a lot. I want a lot of the Oreos. Correction, as previously mentioned – all of them. For whatever reason this NBA idea seems like a far-fetched pipe dream, but why?
Despite what most “talking heads” outside of San Diego believe, the community really does support it’s teams. You just have to give us a product worth supporting and we’ll be there. Most of sports punditry’s basis for blasting San Diego fanbases is centered around the terrible attendance for the Chargers over the years. However, you’ll see the Chargers still can’t draw in the “second best sports market in the nation”, so clearly it’s a Spanos problem not a San Diego one. Again, give us a worthwhile product and we’ll be there.
The Padres are routinely in the middle of the pack for attendance, which is an incredible feat given what’s been fielded outside of this season. The Gulls routinely draw great crowds, and definitely have a willingness to engage with fans. Their terrible Craig Elsten firing aside, they do love being in San Diego. I mean, hell they’ve tried it like five times!
The Seals and Sockers drew respectable crowds for sports still finding a local footing, and people support the Aztecs when there’s a reason to. Especially the basketball team.
So, why can’t we have an NBA team? The preseason games draw great crowds, and the buzz around the Sports Arena (or whatever the hell its called now) is always electric. It’s a fun environment, and if you go you notice one glaring advantage: kids.
Kids love the NBA. It’s immensely popular with kids, and has recently overtaken football in youth participation. It’s fast-paced, glitzy, features sometimes unbelievable athleticism, and best of all is accessible. By that I mean you can actually see the players faces and heads. That matters.
It’s no secret that NFL players hate having their faces hidden and a large part of that is marketability. Outside of players like Odell Beckham and Tom Brady it’s pretty hard for the average fan to associate with a player. Even MLB has an issue with identity. This is why players like Bryce Harper went to such ridiculous hair lengths. Our beloved Tatis is definitely doing all he can to differentiate himself from the pack and rightfully so. These dudes want endorsements and it helps when the average idiot knows what you look like.
NBA players obviously have an advantage by not needing protective headwear. But, even when they do embrace something protective it becomes their “thing”. I can’t think of goggles without Horace Grant or early Kareem. They know how to market themselves and the league is very savvy in how to market the league. It works. And, I want it.
Yes. It has been tried before. The Rockets were a disaster if only because the era was wrong for this town. As hard as it is to remember, back in the the late 60’s and early 70’s Baseball was king. The NFL was on the rise, but still second fiddle and the NBA was full of bruisers, sloppy play, and no true superstar that the media could embrace and sell on a national level. Remember even professional boxing was more relevant then. At that same time San Diego was a city in the verge. It wasn’t some knock down drag out vacation juggernaut. People were still moving here and most of the communities you live in weren’t even built yet. The city wasn’t big enough to support three pro teams, and it was the same story with the Clippers a decade or so later. Bill Walton still takes blame for collapsing the team’s chances in San Diego due his bad feet and handicapping salary. He’s not wrong. But again, fans weren’t showing up.
If you think San Diego’s reputation of “Why go to a game when you can go to the beach?” is ever present now? Back then? In the days of The Beach Boys and four channels on your TV? Yea, it legitimately was an either/or.
Even in the era of the Clippers the city was still a beach town, then Baseball and the Chargers were just starting to be be righteously followed. Surfing was huge, and beach culture was king. You might be thinking, “beach culture is still huge” but not like it was through the early 1990’s.
I know it’s hard for us to remember, but when I was a little kid you could still go to the beach and get a firepit an hour before you needed it. Not a day before. You could park. You could set up a volleyball game on Mission Beach and no one got in the way.
Less people in the city meant the folks who filled the beaches with volleyball and surfing and boogie boarding and on and on were mainly locals. Sure, we were a growing vacation destination, but if you go to the beach now you’d be hard pressed to find massive amounts of locals at any given time. It’s about half and half. Lots of locals avoid the beaches altogether during the summer, much like I avoid Disneyland. I have a SoCal Select pass to the shoreline if you will.
Beach culture isn’t what it was back then. It’s been commercialized. I blame Eric Nies. Plus tack on the “transplant” residents and we have a whole different melting pot than we used to when World B. Free roamed the halls of the Sports Arena.
Not only has San Diego grown unbelievably in the last 50 years, so has the NBA. The two seem destined to reunite, and it doesn’t make any sense to this casual observer why the marriage hasn’t been given the ol’ ‘3rd times the charm routine’.
Cities like Charlotte, Nashville, Memphis, Brooklyn, and Minnesota have been declining in fandom for years. Hell, even Phoenix has had issues drawing fans over the last decade. Not saying these aren’t great cities – I actually really like Phoenix and Nashville is pretty awesome. However, if the NBA continues to give these cities a product they don’t really embrace when there’s a city smack dab in the perfect location that should be embraced on locale alone, it truly doesn’t make any sense.
And, of course there is a laundry list of things needed to make this even be a real thought: owners, city involvement (yikes), a true venue, and on and on. However, if a billionaire in Minnesota wanted to make his teams value increase, while also living in one of the most beautiful locations in America, I’m just saying there’s a parking lot with a Chick-Fil-a and a Chili’s waiting for naming rights.
This is a pipe dream. I know that. I also am not totally sure what pipe dream means and I have no interest in googling it. It just seems like a very obvious move. I don’t want a team to relocate, having known what that feels like, but the NBA seems cool with that course of action almost twice a decade. I’d rather an expansion team. Honestly, no matter how it happens I just want it to. I would immediately buy season tickets (well, half-season), I would buy merch, I’d be all-in. I’m not the only one. This thing can happen. We just have to start checking things off that list.
We need a billionaire. Joe Tsai seems nice. We need a new Mayor. Todd Gloria seems rational.
Let’s help heal Bill Walton. Give us the NBA.
For more expert sports stuff, and things you probably won’t care about, follow me on Twitter @dallas_mc