There are bigger and crazier sport fans than me, but I would still weigh in on the “serious supporter” side of sports enthusiasts — and the recent NBA talk around the city has really piqued my interest.
First, I want to be transparent upfront: Since I returned to my hometown seven years ago, I’ve dreamed of an NBA team in my favorite city almost daily. And I push every chance I get to win over dinner party friends when the conversation heads that way. I would actually invest my “first communion” money in this dream if I thought it would help secure a franchise just to position Louisville and the Commonwealth as the potential “Basketball Capital of the World.” This would be the first thing I would brand out if I were Mayor or Governor. We are a city and state on the verge of breaking out, especially when considering the news this week that we are a “top 10er” for best U.S. cities for jobs! The NBA if nothing else is a magnet for talent recruitment. It would be an economic driver to enhance our growing workforce needs, which will stimulate more global industry relocation to our state—a “common” “wealth” goal for our city and state leaders!
Second, I am throwing my personal support as a community leader behind the grassroots efforts to bring professional basketball back to where its deepest roots were seeded decades ago by Kentucky pioneers — way before the NBA ever thought about becoming one of the most recognized brands in the world after the first “Dream Team” World Tour in 1992!
Basketball – we love it, we understand it, we breathe it, and we embrace it in any way we can get access to it.
First and foremost, I am a diehard University of Louisville fan and consider my UofL season ticket package as my “stay vacation” because I have loved our Cardinals irrationally since birth, like many of us. I can go back to my grade school days praying my Catholic prayers on my knees at the side of my bed where I would slide in a few Cardinal prayers, asking God if he would help us get our first NCAA title just to “shut up” my Big Blue classmates for once.
In my slowing maturity, I learned to love the Kentucky Wildcats years later when I moved away and quickly realized we need less “hate in this state” with regards to our best Commonwealth assets, at which outsiders across the country look at us with envy. I finally had the revelation that we need to shift our mental mode from “bitterly divided” to a theme of “unification and abundance” and just own our own very aspect of “BASKETBALL INC” so we can celebrate basketball in any and every form! In the end, we just need more things to cheer for in Kentucky in general.
As a supporter, I think I understand the resources required to support our Two crown jewel of NCAA college basketball programs that are only 70 miles apart…and how blessed we are to have that “world class college” experience any time we want it or need it!
Both programs are revered around the country and I feel great pride traveling in my day job and talking them both up every chance I get! I often say Kentucky Wildcat alumni could field the first two expansion teams by themselves with nearly 30 former Wildcats tearing up the NBA!
On the flip side, many Commonwealth basketball enthusiasts are too busy cheering on their own respective teams, that they don’t realize our small state has held every major basketball title! The dynasty runs deep! In 2011 alone, Bellarmine University won their first NCAA Division II title and the University of Pikeville won Division III, along with the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky’s steady top 10 annual presences — the state is already a basketball mecca!
What other state in the U.S. could ever possibly hold the honors of the “U.S. Title State for All Basketball” and “Most NBA Players from One State”?
We have many negative people saying no one would buy NBA tickets. Are you kidding me? We sell out any real sporting event like no other place in America, verified by the Breeders’ Cup and any PGA event, including the Ryder Cup, despite being hard to get to by travel standards.
Personally, I have attended NBA games in over half the cities in the U.S., preferring basketball over food on my travel per diem since the early 90’s. In many markets, an NBA game is just another social outing option for many, or a corporate thank you gift to a vendor or management team, or your family ticket package divided with your church group. But here in Kentucky, “Basketball” is a TRUE RELIGION as it SHOULD BE!
Perhaps it is silly, but I actually believe that the NBA needs their Green Bay-type city where the franchise has a kind of religious experience with their home franchise. NBA watchers worldwide could see “true fanatics” that this game creates here in Louisville. We already have that in our DNA, from our inter generationally-connected heritage; our elders’ storytelling passing and passing of the torch over family dinners; and in our daily lives where it is embedded in daily conversation because we ALL know BASKETBALL like no other city, state or country in the world!
To keep it simple, I don’t really understand the heated political debate about it – or the complicated venue debate either, or the economic argument around something so fundamentally simple that we should claim ourselves as “The Basketball Capital and Basketball Mecca!” With our horseracing heritage and the Kentucky Derby, with our expanding arts community, with new business “landings,” with the bourbon explosion — our city is on the verge of breaking out into a top city in the nation and a destination spot to live! Let’s be not only the greatest “two minutes in sports” but the greatest 48 minutes in basketball in the world!
We all need to just start celebrating great basketball all around us and move beyond our own bitter basketball rivalries. Go see a Bellarmine University game and tell me their energy isn’t better than anywhere in the country for D1 or D2. Even if you don’t like UK or UofL, go to a home game at the other venue and observe the passion. Or watch our crazy parents in youth basketball games and realize we love basketball for the essence of what it symbolizes to all of us!
This sport is a cultural experience that displays lyrical team chemistry when played correctly. It is a game that can be played with cost effectively without barriers to entry. It can be mastered by any size person. We learn life lessons about winning and losing, but more importantly to play by the rules and leave everything you have on the court!
We need to take back “our” basketball legacy, especially its capacity as one of the biggest future economic drivers and brand it out: “NBA to Louisville,” “The Basketball Capital of the World,” “The Basketball Title State,” and “The Pro Basketball Training Center.” All we ask is that they return our World Champion Kentucky Colonels to us so one day so that we could be the first place in the world to hold all the important basketball titles in one state! And everyone can be a fan!
Please embrace the possibility, dreaming of something bigger than ourselves. Imagine the greatest athletes in the world entering the Basketball Capital of the World. Let’s get serious about it because no matter what rumors you’ve heard, if “we build it they will come,” it is our own “field of dreams” because the NBA knows they have a brand on fire that must grow and breed success – and, as we know, there is no place like Kentucky in the world!