Louisville might not be very next in line for an NBA franchise, but they might be able to at least babysit one.
According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, Louisville is being highly considered as a temporary host city for the Toronto Raptors franchise as the NBA continues to find ways to navigate through travel restrictions and safety guidelines surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
— Vincent Goodwill (@VinceGoodwill) October 21, 2020
This news piggybacks on the main story, which is that the NBA is tentatively planning on starting the 2020-21 season in early 2021 on Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 18), a theory that is being reiterated by several insiders across the league. However, due to the United States’ poor handling of COVID-19, travel from the states to Canada has been banned, which would force the NBA’s lone team outside of the U.S., the Raptors, to find a temporary home just south of the border.
According to Goodwill, “Former NBA player and successful businessman Junior Bridgeman has been in contact with the NBA, considering Louisville has the KFC Yum! Center that is NBA-ready.”
While the city of Seattle (or even Mexico City) is widely expected to receive an NBA franchise before Lousiville, setting up as the Raptors’ personal Airbnb for an entire season would at least give both the NBA and Louisville a trial run look at what a full-time team in Kentucky’s largest city might look like. Goodwill also notes that, along with the idea of bringing the Raptors to Lousiville, the league could just have Toronto split space with another market–one with enough room (and fan interest) to hold multiple teams in what will likely be a strictly regulated environment.
The NBA successfully executed a large-scale Bubble environment that went nearly four months without one positive coronavirus test, but that was a closed-off project. The overwhelming position of the NBA right now is that they want to have fans inside arenas for the upcoming season, even if they need to severely limit capacity. More fans will increase the likelihood of an outbreak, and the NBA is actively trying to avoid a similar situation that both the NFL and MLB found themselves in when they restarted their respective seasons. But if there is one league that has the awareness to create a safe and comfortable atmosphere, it would be the NBA.
If this report does end up being fulfilled and Lousiville hosts the Raptors, it will be the first time since the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA back in the 1970s that the Bluegrass state could claim a big-time professional basketball organization. Unfortunately, the Raptors don’t have any former Kentucky players on its roster at the moment, but I would gladly make the hour-long drive up to Lousiville from Lexington if it meant I could watch Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam take on, say, John Wall and the Washington Wizards or Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and the Miami Heat.