Does Seattle deserve an NBA franchise? Yes!

Yesterday, the NBA owners voted to keep the Sacramento Kings from being sold to a group that would have brought the franchise to Seattle.  Yesterday, we also posted an analysis of fan base quality for the NBA.  We reported results for each Team’s “Fan equity” for the past season (and the change from 2012).  We found that the franchises with the best fan bases included the Knicks, Bulls, Celtics and Trail Blazers.  We also found that the worst fan bases were those of the Nets, Hawks and Pistons.

While we focused on this most recent season, our methodology can also be applied to previous seasons.  This morning we have run the numbers for seasons from 2002 to 2006 to see how the Sonics fan base compared to other cities (we excluded the last two years to avoid having the numbers biased by a negative fan reaction due to the planned move to Oklahoma City).

We found that the Seattle market ranked 20th over this time period.  While this is not a great performance it does place the Sonics far from the bottom.  The Sonics fan base was more supportive than fan bases in Denver, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and the Clipper side of LA.

The conclusion seems to be that while Seattle isn’t a truly great NBA market it is at least a decent one.  And one that does have something of a history.  Now that the opportunity to grab the Kings is gone, the next question should be what about expansion.  This recent article in Forbes describes an analysis of markets such as Louisville and Seattle as candidates for expansion.  While we don’t have access to the underlying data, we would like to point out that Louisville already has a very strong basketball market.

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2013