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Does the NBA Have a Challenger From The North?

The fledgling NBL gives Canada it's own basketball league (

Starting at the end of October, Canada will have its own basketball league, the National Basketball League of Canada. As surprising as it may be, the country has never had a national basketball league. The league currently has seven teams, located in large cities like Halifax and Quebec City, mid-sized cities like Oshawa and London, and smaller cities like Moncton (population: 97,000) Saint John (90,00), and Summerside (14,500). This is a very modest beginning, but this league could eventually rise to become a viable alternative to the NBA. What chance does this league have to thrive and what impact will it have on the NBA?

Fledgling professional leagues need to start very small if they want to eventually thrive, so the NBL seems to be starting off correctly. They can build slowly, because Canada has shown the ability to support a variety of professional sports. The NHL and the CFL are of course the most notable examples. There are a number of large cities that can support basketball, and they all have large hockey arenas. Those arenas need to be filled on off nights, and if the NBL plays its financial cards right, it could find a home in every city with an NHL team. The crown jewel of this effort would be Vancouver, which lost the Grizzlies for reasons other than an inability to support the team. If Vancouver can handle the NBA, it would be a huge addition to the NBL.

How to Deal with Toronto

There is, of course, one major roadblock to this expansion plan. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, already has a basketball team. Why would Torontonians support an NBL team when they can support the Raptors? It is unlikely that an NBL team could successfully exist in the Raptors’ shadow, so the only way for the league to break into Toronto is to eliminate the competition. To do that, they will need to take a page from college athletics and snatch the Raptors from the NBA. David Stern has mentioned contraction as a reasonable possibility, and by virtue of being one of the league’s 22 unprofitable teams, the Raptors are not immune from such talk. However, they have more pressing reasons than random chance to worry about contraction.

The Raptors are the only NBA team in Canada, and that isolates them from the rest of the league. For better or worse, they are beholden to exchange rate fluctuations and different tax laws from the rest of the league. These complications could be avoided if they were simply removed from the equation. Moreover, they would mean more to the NBL than they ever could to the NBA. Instead of being an afterthought, they would be the league’s signature franchise. The NBL should pursue this aggressively, because they could improve their league’s franchise and the NBA could get rid of dead weight. In fact, the NBL should aim to purchase the Raptors from the NBA. It is not a viable option now, but if the NBA’s financial woes continue, this could solve some problems.

The NBL vs. the NBA

Setting the potential for franchise-nabbing aside, the NBL does have a chance to make a legitimate impact on the NBA. Since the NBL is in its infancy, it loses its biggest chance to make an impact now. With players looking to play elsewhere, what better option is there than Canada? There are no glaring cultural differences between the US and Canada and players are already used to Toronto, so it would not be a big transition. Despite the cold, it’s much more welcoming than Turkey or China. Unfortunately, the league doesn’t have the resources now to lure anyone worthwhile. However, if they play their cards right they might be a viable option for the next lockout. That’s a terribly cynical strategy, but it is the best they can hope for.

The NBL will never be bigger than the NBA. Barring something catastrophic, the NBA will always attract the best talent, and there will always be more money in the US for professional basketball players than there will be anywhere else. It would be folly for the NBL to take aim at the NBA. If they do, David Stern will destroy them. What they need to do is aim to be a competitive minor league that is at least on par with the NBDL. It might take a while and might need some shady maneuvering, but that is very possible.

Author’s Note: It seems there’s been a bit of disagreement about this article. I appreciate the constructive criticism you’ve all given me. You are very gentle. To address the issue of whether the Raptors are in fact making money, the most common fact that you bring up is that they are the tenth most valuable NBA team. That makes sense, because Toronto is a big market. However, a team’s valuation is different from how much money it makes. The one number that seems to stick throughout all of the labor talks is that 22 teams are losing money. So, if you think that the team with the tenth highest value is making the tenth most money, then they are losing money.
Now, if you understand the difference and think that the Raptors are still in the top eight in revenue, they are not. Additionally, the Raptors were 19th in the league in attendance and 28th in the league at being good at basketball (.268 winning percentage). There’s not much on-court evidence to back up the claim that the Raptors are making tons of money either.
Also, eagle-eyed readers, I said Canada is colder than the United States, which it is. I never said Toronto was colder than every other NBA city, but I feel pretty confident saying Calgary (as the article alluded) is colder than Atlanta.

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35 comments for “Does the NBA Have a Challenger From The North?”

  1. The Raptors are one of the 8 teams making money. Check your facts. 10th in straight up revenue. 6th in profit. Imagine if it were a team that was actually good enough to make it out of the first round? You’d have to jump them into the the top 5.
    It’s still not a ‘basketball market’ when it comes to free agency… but if they folded 20 teams, the Raptors wouldn’t be one of them.

    Posted by Chris | September 4, 2011, 10:00 am
  2. Check your facts, the Raptors will not be contracted.

    Posted by R.J | September 4, 2011, 1:50 pm
  3. Who ever wrote this article is an idiot.

    Posted by John | September 4, 2011, 2:52 pm
  4. To John, the author is not an idiot. He’s worse than that. Whoever hired this moron should be fired immediately !!!

    Posted by Eric | September 4, 2011, 8:02 pm
  5. this is like bleacher report bad of an article

    Posted by aoojlaa | September 4, 2011, 8:08 pm
  6. Just turrible, lunacy, fantasy & idiocy all in one. Maybe the worst article I’ve ever read.

    Posted by J | September 5, 2011, 3:41 am
  7. How the Hell is Canada any colder than the United States???

    Posted by David | September 5, 2011, 1:58 pm
  8. Raptors aren’t going anywhere. NBL is only going to make money if they have TV exposure and an agreement with another league, otherwise its adios like all the other attempts of creating a Canadian basketball. Anybody remember the Hamilton Skyhawks?

    Posted by Jonathan | September 5, 2011, 2:28 pm
  9. This is just poorly written article with little to no research. The Raptors are one of the teams actually making profit despite the lack of success on the court.

    Also, if the NBL wants to purchase the Raptors, then there going to need to have somewhere around 1.8-2.1 billion dollars to purchase them along with the Leafs (and a bunch of other places), as the Raptors won’t be sold as a seperate entity but rather packaged in a deal (which MLSE is looking to do).

    Posted by Yaseen | September 5, 2011, 3:15 pm
  10. The raptors are dead weight?, what do you call the wolves the cavs the bobcats the pacers the pistons etc..

    Posted by John | September 5, 2011, 3:16 pm
  11. Wow. Am I reading an offshoot of the Onion here? I’m not sure if this is a satirical piece or not, but the writer is so far off it’s funny. That’s supposed to be, right? I’m so confused, but not as much as the writer is (or isn’t?)

    Posted by Baester | September 5, 2011, 4:04 pm
  12. Lmao this guy is an idiot.

    Posted by Sean | September 5, 2011, 4:12 pm
  13. The author is an idiot. The Raptors aren’t going anywhere.

    Posted by Bro | September 5, 2011, 4:13 pm
  14. The author of this article is an idiot. Did he even bother to check ANY facts. Terrible piece. Toronto is one of the most profitable teams in the league, how the hell are they dead weight?

    Posted by John | September 5, 2011, 4:13 pm
  15. LilOzzy sucks!

    Posted by steve | September 5, 2011, 4:54 pm
  16. Yeah, a team worth 400Mil (10th in the NBA), one of only ten teams to gross 1Mil+ per game at the gate last season, one of the richest owners in the league and a team that averaged nearly 17,000 per game last season despite being the 3rd worst in the league……..has a snowball’s chance at getting contracted. You’re a complete tool who absolutely knows nothing about the subject. Sit down and STFU!!

    There are 10-15 teams in front of them that are far better candidates to be moved and most of them aren’t going nowhere.

    Posted by Swagger | September 5, 2011, 5:11 pm
  17. What you’ve just written is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent article were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on this site is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    Posted by Bert | September 5, 2011, 5:11 pm
  18. Who let this moron write an article?

    Posted by Tree Fiddy | September 5, 2011, 5:14 pm
  19. Despite the Cold??? Good lord, has this guy been to Minnesota, Chicago, Indianna, Cleveland, Detroit etc…?? Seriously, this whole BS of Toronto being so cold….it’s not even the coldest city in the NBA. Oh and the whole tax argument is a complete farse, a good accountant, the difference isn’y even noticeable. It’s amazing how uninformed Americans are and how ignorant they can be when it comes to being fair and balanced about anything outside their border. Ignorance is bliss!

    Posted by Swagger | September 5, 2011, 5:22 pm
  20. Where’s the retraction?

    Your career is over before it even started.

    Posted by Jay | September 5, 2011, 6:43 pm
  21. This is a joke right?

    Posted by Jer | September 5, 2011, 6:50 pm
  22. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose.

    Posted by Joe | September 5, 2011, 8:26 pm
  23. I am an American and this is a fucking joke. Is this guy that ignorant? holy shit.

    Posted by Steven Joe | September 5, 2011, 10:56 pm
  24. Either this author is saying incorrect crap for views from the massive Raptors internet torch mob (always works), or he’s simply a terrible writer. Please check basic facts before you write an article, especially if said article intends to criticize something.

    Posted by Ryan | September 6, 2011, 5:20 am
  25. I think the article did it job…get a lot of traffic (Raptors nation)..stirr the pot up…good job bro!

    Posted by LMAO | September 6, 2011, 10:33 am
  26. The NBA and the NBL as it stands now are 2 very different things. The NBA is a $ billion enterprise showcasing the best b-ball players in the world. The NBL is a small league that will give a few guys on their way down a chance to play and make a few $, and give a few young guys the chance to showcase their skills and maybe hook up with bigger $ on a team in Europe, the middle east or Asia. The teams will play before maybe 2500 folks a night and if last year with the Millrats was any indication, be a great, affordable, fun night out.
    The whole league will run on the money paid to a 7th or 8th man in the NBA so suggesting the NBL buy the Raptors is laughable.

    Posted by James | September 6, 2011, 10:59 am
  27. As many have mentioned this article is full of incorrect assertions and it is safe to say that more research could of been done. Dan, you should really do your research before publishing your name to an article. It could come back to bite you in the future. All it takes is one silly article for people to not take what you write seriously.

    Posted by Derek | September 6, 2011, 3:44 pm
  28. I like the use of the word ‘folly’. It would be folly for this website to let you write another article for them.

    Posted by Rob | September 6, 2011, 4:42 pm
  29. The idea behind the NBL is to expand interest in basketball around the country, because other than hotbeds in southern Ontario and BC and Halifax, interest is pretty low.

    However, without the Raptors in the NBA there would be a steep decline in the already small amount of interest that exists outside of basketball-playing markets. It would counteract all the hard work Canada Basketball has done to promote the game on a grassroots level.

    Without the Raptors in the NBA, there will be no NBL…simple as that.

    Posted by Ye Dig | September 6, 2011, 6:07 pm
  30. bwahahahahahahahahahaha!! what?!?!?

    are you retarded son? first off do some god damn fact checking you moron, raptors are one of the most successful nba franchises in its short history. source:

    2nd of all, why would we give up our own team because of the fact that were separated from the US, do you know on a god damn map where toronto is? in relation to new york, cleveland, boston, chicago, minnesota?

    so what is it? you hate canadians? did we do something to you? do you not like the fact that we have a team and a lesser city should receive one? huh? what is it? come on dude, be real your a god damn joke!

    Posted by ziggy diggy | September 6, 2011, 7:06 pm
  31. looove the rebuttal. Yes your math is correct if 22 teams are losing money and if the Raps are the 10th most valuable team then they are losing money.

    Are you also suggesting then that we should cut the rest of the teams outside of the top 10 then as well? Detroit is close enough to Toronto, they can watch the NBL. Hey isn’t the American credit rating bad? I guess you guys are bleeding money too, let’s cut the whole country while we’re at it.

    PS. Alberta is warmer then Alaska.

    Posted by Jan | September 7, 2011, 3:43 pm
  32. Hey Danny,

    Here is an ESPN article regarding Toronto being top 5 in NBA revenue.

    Just saying…

    Posted by The Huge Deal | September 16, 2011, 9:57 am
  33. This is such a silly article.
    Ontario (Toronto)has a new ABA francise
    the Revolution, which starts play in the fall which is is more of a threat.
    This writer did no research 0.Why would
    Canadians accept any team that did not give them American acceptance

    Posted by Monty | September 17, 2011, 1:21 pm
  34. The NBL teams have only 2 Canadians
    per team.What national league in any country operates like that rather reversed
    only two imports.The only advantage for Canadians is seeing their young players developing not some unheard of Americans
    This whole league is joke.If you are going to war make sure of your battle plan here there is none.The legitimate team they have is Halifax
    Go Revolution

    Posted by Monty | September 17, 2011, 1:33 pm
  35. How does a team so terrible, with a career .409 winning percentage, still make so much money?

    Posted by Pete | September 22, 2011, 10:09 pm

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