With the success of the Toronto Raptors winning their first-ever title, it’s time to revisit having multiple NBA franchises in Canada.
When the Vancouver Grizzlies left for Memphis, the Toronto Raptors became the sole team north of the American border. After having just won the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy, there is no better time to consider the possibility of bringing another franchise to the Country.
In 1995, Canada scored two NBA teams. The league expanded into both Vancouver and Toronto. Unfortunately, after just six seasons, the Grizzlies were moved by their new owner, Michael Heisley, out of Canada.
The longevity of a team in a particular location has to do with its financial viability. Financial viability is essentially based upon revenue generated, an area where the Grizzlies struggled during their tenure in Canada. The team struggled to win, which largely led to fans choosing not to attend games. Perhaps if the Grizzlies drafted Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, or Ray Allen in 1996 instead of Shareef Abdur-Rahim their fortunes may have turned around.
The apathy toward supporting the club led the franchise to bleed money. It also kept the team from getting the corporate sponsors required to help make it profitable. They needed a new audience to be successful. Initially, it looked as though billionaire Bill Laurie was going to purchase and move the team to St. Louis, but when he walked away from the deal he had in place, Heisley took over and relocated the team to its current home.
Dick Versace, the Grizzlies president of basketball operations was quoted saying that the team was losing $40 million each year. Operating a team, particularly a losing team, in Canada is expensive.
However, with the increased interest in basketball, another Canadian franchise could succeed in the right situation. For Canada, the time is now.