The NBA’s potential return to Vancouver would be a slam-dunk for the majority of British Columbians, according to a recent poll.
Nearly three in five B.C. residents said they think an NBA team in Vancouver would be a “good” or “very good” idea, according to a poll by Research Co. last month, while fewer than six per cent were against the idea.
Almost a quarter of Metro Vancouverites also said they would “very likely” attend a game if the NBA came to Vancouver, the online poll of 800 people found.
Research Co. president Mario Canseco says the results show an even “larger appetite” for NBA basketball now than when Vancouver had its own franchise, the Grizzlies, more than two decades ago.
“It’s pretty high … and I think it has a lot to do with how the NBA has expanded itself,” Canseco said in a late December interview with CBC News.
“Now it’s a completely different ball game as far as the global reach of the NBA, partly because they’ve done a good job connecting outside of the United States but also because now we have players from everywhere.”
Chatter about a new potential NBA team in Vancouver has been growing since November, when NBA commissioner Adam Silver mentioned the city alongside Montreal as potential places for the league to expand.
The prospect is particularly significant for Vancouver — which lost its Grizzlies NBA franchise to Memphis in 2001 after just six seasons, according to Canseco and some basketball aficionados.
“They were pretty bad at the time, but it was pretty sad to see them go,” Demi Harris, who says he grew up playing basketball and getting cheap tickets to Grizzlies games with his family, told CBC News.
Harris later went on to play in university and professionally for the National Basketball League in Australia and New Zealand before returning to Vancouver, where he coaches and mentors young players.
“Everybody wants to see an NBA team come to Vancouver. Not just for the team that we would have, but to see all the other teams come here,” he said. “It would just be perfect.”
‘Someone to look up to’
Harris says basketball is “booming” for kids and youth in B.C. and a professional team could help young players see themselves going pro one day.
“I think a lot of basketball players really try to go to a higher level and quit. But the levels don’t really matter, to be honest with you — it’s the love of the game,” he said.
Harris, whose seven-year-old daughter plays basketball, says he would also love to see a WNBA team consider calling Vancouver home.
“All the girls in Vancouver that want to try something from that age to high school, they need someone to look up to,” he said.
“And guys, we can only do so much. We’re getting old, we’re in the men’s leagues and stuff like that. But a real NBA star or WNBA star? That’d be so cool.”
Canseco says while it’s clear B.C. has the interest to sustain a team, which could be a significant economic boost, actually making it happen is another story.
“It’s one thing for the NBA to say we want to expand,” he says, “but unless somebody raises their hand and says, ‘I’ve got a couple of billion [dollars] to spare,’ we’re not going to see this happening.”