NBA has quietly been surverying a number of cities as a companion expansion franchise for Seattle; Omaha, believe it or not, is on list.The NBA coming back to Omaha? Really?
— Jim O'Donnell (@jodonnell17) May 27, 2013
Probably not, but after the success the NBA has had in Oklahoma City, it's certainly behooves the league to cast a wide net. O'Donnell's report probably is correct; I can see the NBA looking at Omaha, if it were on a list of a dozen or more potential targets. Certainly Kansas City is on that list, and probably much higher. I suspect that Cincinnati, Hartford, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, San Diego, St. Louis, and Tampa are also on that list.
I suspect that Omaha ranks below most of those cities. Omaha has an arena that'll work for the NBA, and with five Fortune 500 companies headquartered here, there's probably a workable business community here. Creighton has shown that people will attend basketball games here. So why not?
For starters, I doubt that the Omaha market is ready to support 41 games of $40+ tickets. Of course, I'm not sure anybody thought Oklahoma City was ready either, until Hurricane Katrina blew the Hornets out of New Orleans temporarily. And the Hornets' success in Oklahoma paved the way for the Seattle NBA franchise to move once the Hornets were able to return home.
The Nebraska and Iowa television region is probably not enough to support an NBA franchise. If anything, the television dynamics would make Kansas City a more likely destination, due to a larger (vacant, I might add) arena, larger metropolitan area, and a more centralized television market. You can probably sell Kansas City basketball to Omahans. It'll be tougher to sell Omaha NBA basketball to Kansas Citians.
Would Omaha jump for the NBA? That's debatable. I'm a hockey guy who despises what the NBA became about twenty years ago, so that influences who I follow and who I talk to. But I hear very little NBA talk, frankly. The only media guy with any passion for the NBA seems to be Dirk Chatelain of the World-Herald, it seems. Of course, if the NBA came to town, that would change in an instant.
Would the NBA be a good thing for Omaha? Hard to argue otherwise, unless the team didn't work out on the court and be profitable. It certainly raises the profile of the city to be mentioned along side Chicago, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. Bringing stars to town like LeBron and Kobe on a regular basis certainly spices things up.
So while it's fun to dream, it's about as likely as me winning the PowerBall jackpot. And frankly, if I were to win the PowerBall, I wouldn't waste my money on an NBA franchise in Omaha.