With long-time NBA commissioner David Stern having just stepped down from his post after a 30 year run, his successor is already hard at work trying to improve the quality of the game he inherited. Adam Silver, the new head of the sport, sees big things for the future of the NBA and appears to have a vision that closely aligns with Stern’s. This makes sense, as the two have worked closely together since Silver first came into the league’s front office in 1992. One subject the former and current commissioner do not seem to agree on, however, is whether or not the NBA should be considering expansion for the immediate future.
These different viewpoints came to light publicly while both men took part in a joint press conference during last year’s All-Star festivities. Stern, ever the optimist, spoke about the promising prospects of expansion in the near future, calling the number of additional NBA players unlimited. Silver, taking on a more cautious note, expressed skepticism that there is enough talent to draw from to equip new teams with players that will not weaken the overall quality of the league.
Should the NBA choose to consider expansion, the international talent pool would need to be mined at length, something Stern obviously feels won’t prove problematic. Silver, for his part, agrees with his predecessor regarding the importance of utilizing international talent, but expressed concern that the quality of competition may already be suspect enough as it currently stands.
The NBA saw several expansion franchises enter the league during Stern’s tenure, as the 23 teams in the 1984-85 season have ballooned to today’s total of 30. The most recent example is the Charlotte Bobcats, who joined the NBA in 2004. Other teams such as the Toronto Raptors, Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies, Miami Heat, and Orlando Magic have also been introduced to the league since Stern took over as commissioner.
While Silver did not rule out expansion, it appears he may not have the same aggressive policy on the subject as did Stern. Silver, a lawyer who grew up in New York as an avid Knicks fan, noted that many factors would have to be considered before the league added any new teams, including key economical questions such as what geographical markets could even support a franchise.
Whether the talent exists worldwide to fill up the rosters of an additional couple teams (or more) may be debatable, but the growing presence of international players in the league is not. At the start of the 2013-14 NBA season, a record 92 players from an astounding 39 different countries were scattered throughout the league. This diversity helps drive the NBA’s popularity on a global scale, something that Silver expects to tap into significantly over the coming years in his stated effort to narrow the considerable gap between the revenue of the NFL and the NBA.
Even considering Silver’s hesitant remarks, it’s almost a given that the NBA, hungry for growth, is always considering expansion. Whether the talent pool is deep enough to support such a move, and whether there are enough fans in a targeted region to provide adequate attendance for a new team, remains to be seen.
By Spencer Hendricks