Just a thought: Have changing times made Vancouver a viable NBA market, which it wasn't when the Grizzlies stumbled through six seasons in the late '90s and early part of this decade?
There was a sellout crowd at GM Place last night for an exhibition game pitting B.C.'s own Steve Nash and his Phoenix Suns against the Seattle SuperSonics. That was kind of a spur to thought about how much the conditions that hastened the Grizzlies have changed.
The Grizzlies, who moved to Memphis in 2001 were done in by a low Canadian dollar and a team that was neither competitive nor particularly easy to warm up to. (The Raptors have had bad teams, but always had their working class heroes, such as Matt Bonner, Alvin Williams or Michael 'Yogi' Stewart.) Meantime, the declining popularity of the post-Michael Jordan NBA also trickled across the border, especially as far too many minds, including more than a few with influence in the media, decided it was a bad thing that the league was getting quote, unquote "too black."
(One of the biggest stumbling blocks for the NBA in Canada is, let's face it, that most whitebread Canadians outside of big urban centres have no capacity for understanding where many of NBA players come from personally and socially.)
However, look around: All of that's changed to a degree. When the Grizzlies left, the Canadian dollar was trading at about 63 cents U.S.; now it's at par.
The perception of the NBA's makeup is changing as more and more players from Europe, South America and the Pacific Rim enter the league each season. (What if the Grizz, in a city such as Vancouver with a huge Chinese-Canadian population, had lasted long enough to draft Yao Ming in '02?) The Raptors have succeeded by going global with their roster; why couldn't it happen with Vancouver?
The point is that it's not that far-fetched to think Vancouver could accommodate the NBA. The city's profile with Americans is improving and will increase exponentially after the 2010 Olympics. The management team of a future NBA franchise would also learn from mistakes and make sure the players get to know the city better and are put more at ease in a foreign environment. Too often during the Grizzles' run, there were instances of players voicing displeasure with the city, which alienated potential ticket buyers, since everyone knows Vancouver is the greatest city in the world (in fact, that's what everyone in Rome, London and Sydney says too, really).
It's not even on the radar screen. The NBA is probably not coming back to Vancouver. It is fun to think that it's not really that far-fetched. A lot has changed since 2001.
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