COLUMN: NBA to Louisville should be a slam dunk

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By John Herndon


Imagine one of the biggest sporting events in the world taking up shop just up the road from Lawrenceburg.

And no, I am not talking about the world cyclo-cross championships taking place in Louisville this week.

Think finals. The Finals. The NBA.

It's not far-fetched.

Not likely, either, but really, you never know.

Unless you have been hibernating and watching non-stop reruns of the Kentucky Wildcats' run to the NCAA championship last year – hey, it's tempting – you know that some movers and shakers in Louisville are trying to woo an NBA team to town as a way to help bring stability to the financially-troubled KFC Yum! Center.

It would be wonderful thing.

I am old enough to remember when Louisville was the home base for one of pro basketball's most successful franchises, the Kentucky Colonels.

The 1974-75 version of that team, featuring Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel and Louie Dampier, might have been the best team in the world. We never found out since there was no “World Series” between the ABA and NBA titlists. But many analysts at the time felt those Colonels were superior to the Golden State Warriors, the NBA champs.

After only one more season – and the disastrous (and stupid) trade of Issel to the Baltimore Claws – the Colonels were no more.

Area fans, who filed into Freedom Hall as one of the top draws in pro basketball at the time, were left to head to Indianapolis to see the once-hated Pacers.

I could only be nostalgic Saturday night as I watched the Utah Jazz take one from the Pacers in overtime on the NBA Network.

Those were two of the ABA's outposts. The Pacers, arguably the ABA's most successful franchise, were home to the great Mel Daniels, Downtown Roger Brown and Freddie Lewis. A young George McGinnis got his start there too.

Utah? The old Stars might have folded during the ABA's last year but they also had quite a rivalry with the Colonels. Moses Malone got his start there. Zelmo Beatty, Ron Boone and company defeated Kentucky in a seven-game finals thriller in 1971.

Those kind of things could happen again.

Just think. This is basketball country but how many people want to see the Wildcats or Louisville Cardinals but can't get tickets? How many would warm to the idea of the NBA being in town?

I can't answer that, but what I can tell you is that when I attended the Indiana Pacers' home opener with the Sacramento Kings back in November, there were large cheers for former Kentucky players DeMarcus Cousins and Chuck Hayes playing for the Kings.

It's fair to say those cheers were not from people living in Muncie or Terre Haute.

I still don't think it will happen, even though Louisville is smack-dab in the middle of basketball country and is roughly the same size as Oklahoma City. Last time I looked, the Thunder was doing quite well, thank you.

For a team to come to Louisville, and presumably the new downtown arena, it would have to share the facility with the University of Louisville. Understandably, both will want to be No. 1.

The real world doesn't work that way.

I also wonder how the Pacers would react to having another franchise in their back yard, but I believe the rivalry between Louisville and Indianapolis – it is more than basketball, trust me – would be a huge selling point in both towns.

Presumably, Seattle and possibly Las Vegas, are the main competition for Louisville in bringing a team to town. Neither has as many positives as this area, especially given Kentucky's hoops obsession.

It should be as sure as a Kevin Durant slam dunk.

Unfortunately, I just don't see it happening.

And that's a shame.


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