The NBA is constantly trying to find new and creative ways to expand their league and reach a wider viewer base. So, it isn’t surprising to learn that they have added on multiple expansion teams over the years to hit larger fanbases. However, some have obviously been added on more recently than others. What was the last NBA expansion team?
What Was the Last NBA Expansion Team? The most recent expansion team to come into the NBA was the Charlotte Bobcats; they joined the NBA for the 2004/05 season to mixed success. This followed the original Hornets Franchise moving from Charlotte to New Orleans in 2002/03. Following re-branding in 2012 they are now known as the Charlotte Hornets again, with the New Orleans franchise becoming the Pelicans. The 2004 expansion brought the total number of teams to 30. The Charlotte franchise now has home state hero Michael Jordan as its majority owner.
It certainly wasn’t an easy decision to bring in an expansion team from Charlotte with so many other great places potentially being on the table. However, the league determines these things in their own ways.
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The franchise was seriously struggling before joining the NBA around 2002. They were being forced to relocate and had to deal with a few lawsuits along the way. During this entire time, the NBA realized that they could find a spot for the franchise in their league. They started to come into talks with the organization and eventually set a deal in place for a brand-new arena to be made for them. They then saw multiple high-class celebrities attempt to purchase the franchise as it joined such a s Larry Bird just to give an example. Bird and his team couldn’t win the final bid though, as the league decided on the offer sent in by Robert L. Johnson, making him the first majority African American owner in professional sports history in the country. Hip-Hop artist Nelly also was added on as a co-owner in the franchise at the time. The team paid a $300 million fee to get themselves into the association and was titled the Bobcats. Funny enough, the ownership team sent out a survey to the fans in Charlotte to take in name suggestions for their team. The name Flight won by an overwhelming margin, but the team looked at it and decided against it, rolling with the Bobcats instead. Their logo was designed to the point where it wasn’t going to interfere with the Carolina Panthers logo and they hired Bernie Bickerstaff to be their very first head coach and general manager in history. Once their stadium was finished being built, we saw them get into the expansion draft and officially join the league.
Story Of How They Rebranded
Charlotte didn’t stay as the Bobcats forever, in fact, they lasted about 10 years before deciding on a name change. In 2013, Michael Jordan was one of the new primary leaders of the organization and decided to submit an application into the league office to try and rebrand ahead of the 2014 NBA campaign. He suggested that they be called the Charlotte Hornets but it needed a majority vote by the NBA Board of Governors to get it to officially pass through. Shortly after the application, the league approved it unanimously and they were able to alter their jersey colors, logo and name by the end of the season. In order to hype up their name change, they started a campaign called Buzz City to try and hype the fans up for what was to come in Charlotte. Included in this deal, they were able to get the history and records of the 1988-2002 Hornets team. See, this was confusing because they used to be known as the New Orleans Hornets back then. However, when they rebranded to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Hornets acquired the records to their team back then. Meanwhile, the years 2002 all the way into 2013 apparently stayed with the Pelicans organization. It’s a really interesting situation that doesn’t really make all that much sense, though it was all included in the rebranding deal.
Possible New Expansion Teams
There’s been heavy rumors that the league is hoping to add another team into the fray by the 2024 season. This may or may not be true, but it’s worth looking into all the possibilities before that time comes around and catches everybody off guard. There are a few locations that are certainly catching the commissioner‘s eye right about now. The first would be Seattle. Seattle is currently listed as the largest American media market that doesn’t have an NBA franchise. The league doesn’t have to worry about a fanbase not being created down there either, as the Oklahoma City Thunder were formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics and had a ridiculous amount of attention. It was even reported that the Sacramento Kings wanted to relocate to Seattle at one point back in 2013. The next team that could be included would be a franchise in Las Vegas. Who doesn’t want to expand into Vegas? A few years ago, we saw the NHL introduce the Vegas Golden Knights and shortly after that we saw the NFL relocate the Oakland Raiders into Las Vegas with a shiny new stadium. Even LeBron James himself said that he wants to own an NBA franchise one day but only if it’s located in Las Vegas. The market and the amount of people they could draw in here might just push them over the edge and roll with them. Though Seattle might feature more die-hard fans than Vegas. It’s truly a toss-up between these two locations. One final spot that might get some recognition is San Diego. San Diego is right up there with Seattle as one of the largest American media markets without a franchise in the NBA. Not just that, but they don’t have a franchise in the NHL, NFL or the MLS. They used to own the San Diego Chargers, but the NFL relocated them to Los Angeles. San Diego is a severely underutilized market that has featured ridiculous die-hard fans in the past. That passion could get them into consideration.