London head coach Michael Ray Richardson is all smiles after the Lightning took the first ever NBL Canada championship in March. Could expansion be on the horizon for the league? (Image courtesy of NBL Canada)
The National Basketball League of Canada had experienced some great successes in it's first year of existence and is thriving in a time that's not the easiest for young basketball leagues. But after this great inaugural year, is it time to sprout more teams? Can Ball Ray gives his opinion on the matter with the expansion deadline fast approaching ...
The first season of the NBL Canada has come and gone and since the All Star Game was played on April 1, there have been talks of possible expansion of the league.
But is the time right for an NBLC expansion?
The deadline for league expansion is rapidly approaching on May 31 and there have been rumours of several cities looking like viable news homes for NBLC franchises. There has been talk of Kitchener-Waterloo, St. Catherines as possible locations, Hamilton has been in the mix and fans in Ottawa have a Facebook page trying to bring a team to the Canadian capital. There is clear interest from ownership groups to bring the league to new cities and I think that this is a good sign.
But I'm a little leery of having the league expand in earnest just yet.
Other basketball minor leagues, such as the American Basketball League, Premier Basketball League, International Basketball League and even the D-League have gone through expansion phases that just didn't work in their favour in the past and I think this is a lesson that needs to be headed right now by the NBLC. These leagues have had rapid expansion in short amounts of time only to have franchises fail and the league experience some contraction in the process causing confidence in the leagues to falter to a degree.
The league has a great first year. Attendance overall was great and the game was a real hit in the areas the league's starting seven played. The idea of staying out of the major metropolitan areas worked well and the cities that were homes to the teams seemed to embrace them, the players and the league as a whole.
I think the growth of the league should definitely be tempered for its second year to help ensure the league has proper foundations in place first of all for the league itself and secondly for the teams in the expansion markets.
The league looked good and seems to have prospered in year one and with seven teams adding another one would be an excellent idea and it would also even out the league to a four and four format. But I think an eight team should be the only one to be added at this point.
Adding anymore teams than one will increase the costs for the existing teams and put pressure the league also in some form I imagine. Keeping the existing teams viable and successful I'm sure is the first priority of the NBLC right now and adding a new amount other than one would be more work than I think the league should take on, for now.
Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of the NBLC growing but the steps need right now, like last season, are small steps. One more expansion team for next season would be an excellent idea and any more than that in my mind would be more than they should take on right now even if they are able to.
Most businesses fail in their first year and the league has gone though their first year flying high. Now the magic benchmark is year three. Small steps towards then will help to ensure a more successful year four and beyond. And that is the time to push for the Manifest Destiny of more and out west.
For now, I'm hoping they stick to one and done.