In June 2019, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters during the Finals that the league was "not in expansion mode" to add more franchises to the 30 existing teams in the league. Fast forward a year and a half, and he may already be wavering on that statement.
A lot can change in a year, as evidenced by a global pandemic that has shut down the entire world, including sports on multiple occasions. Silver said back in June the league was focused on "creating the best possible competition among the 30 teams" that exist in the NBA. That is still at the forefront of its plans, but the league's stance on adding more teams may be changing.
"I think I've always said that it's sort of the manifest destiny of the league that you expand at some point," Silver said while talking to media members Monday, via ESPN. "I'd say it's caused us to maybe dust off some of the analyses on the economic and competitive impacts of expansion. We've been putting a little bit more time into it than we were pre-pandemic. But certainly not to the point that expansion is on the front burner."
That's not a green light to start marking cities that should be given a team, but it is a bit of a flip from his comments last year in which he raised the question on what an expansion team could bring to the league that the existing 30 don't already. A global pandemic, and millions of dollars lost in revenue later, and the league appears to be considering all avenues for the future in order to generate money for the NBA.
Any team added to the league would have to pay a $1 billion entry fee, which would then be split among all 30 teams in the league. That amount of money is enough to reconsider the idea of expansion, but while Silver said that they've circled back to that idea, the league's focus still remains on creating a competitive balance among all 30 teams.
"We're very appreciative of the markets that have indicated an interest in having an NBA team," Silver said. "One of the issues for the league office, and this comes up all the time in terms of competitiveness, it's not a secret that we don't have 30 competitive teams at any given time right now when you go into the season, measured by likelihood of ability to win a championship.
"One of our focuses as the league office is always on how do you create better competition. So that's one of the things that we continue to think about as we consider expansion. It's an economic issue and it's a competitive issue for us. So it's one that we'll continue to study, but we're spending a little bit more time on it than we were pre-pandemic."
The Charlotte Hornets -- previously the Charlotte Bobcats -- were the last expansion team the NBA added to the league, but that was back in 2002. The topic of expansion comes up at least once a year for the NBA, and the top destination that always seems to be linked to that idea is Seattle. After the SuperSonics left Seattle for Oklahoma City, the city has been without a team, but the commitment and love for the Sonics has never wavered in Seattle.
While it's a sign that a new team could be added in the immediate future, hearing Silver and the league change their tune on expansion does show that it's a possibility down the line.