NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed reporters on Monday at 2023 Summer League in Las Vegas and touched on a number of topics, most notably expansion. He confirmed that the league will begin exploring the idea once the current media rights deal is up in 2025.
"We will turn to expansion once those new media deals are done," Silver said. "It's not a sure thing but, as I've said before, I think it's natural that organizations grow over time."
While expansion has been a topic of conversation for a few years now, Silver has previously downplayed the possibility., Silver said talk of expansion was "not true," adding "at some point, this league invariably will expand, but it's not at this moment that we are discussing it."
A year later, his tone is markedly different. While he was careful to note that the league has not begun the process, he offered a general timeline for expansion and name-dropped a few specific cities, including Las Vegas and Seattle.
"We will look at [Vegas}," Silver said. "There's no doubt there's enormous interest in Seattle. That's not a secret. There are other markets that have indicated interest. For the people who hear or read about this interview, we are not engaged in that process now. We're not taking meetings right now with any potential groups. What we're saying to everyone, privately is the same thing I'm saying publicly that there'll be a very open process at the time already to consider expansion. But that's not yet. That's not yet now."
Las Vegas had long been a no-go zone for major professional sports leagues, but that changed in 2017 when the city was awarded the Golden Knights, an expansion franchise in the NHL. Soon, the WNBA's Aces arrived, and the NFL's Raiders relocated there. MLB is potentially getting involved as well, with the A's trying to force a move out of Oakland. It would only make sense for the NBA to eventually have a team there too. Already, the league uses Vegas as its base for Summer League and the G League Showcase.
As for Seattle, that's a no-brainer. The city was an NBA market from 1967-2008 until the SuperSonics were sold and moved to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder. Issues with the team's arena were a key reason for their departure, but the building was recently renovated and re-opened as Climate Pledge Arena in 2021. There is a rabid fanbase in the city and the return of professional basketball would be a certain success.
Again, the formal expansion process is years away at the earliest, and there are no guarantees when it comes to major undertakings like this. It seems likely, though, that at some point in the near future the league will add two teams and they will play in Las Vegas and Seattle.