Yep, the age old question. If you ask that in Columbus, Ohio most folks would rightly answer with, “Walk him and pitch to the Rhino.” Ohio is a three-balled state, no doubt about it.
I usually refer to Ohio as a three balled Elephant. Three balls: Football, Baseball, and Basketball. The elephant is Football. But really central Ohio is a One Balled elephant - OSU Football. The NBA won’t move here. I’m pretty certain of it. If the Blue Jackets have taught us anything, it’s that Columbus is a college sports town and anything that competes with the football Buckeyes is doomed. Oh, and don’t you dare throw the $2.9 million dollar payroll Columbus Crew at me. Don’t you dare. The Crew doesn’t directly compete with the football Buckeyes for fans, broadcasting, or media coverage. While it is Major League in moniker, it is certainly minor league in its sports universe and that is how it’s operated. Hmmm. Successful minor league sports franchises in Columbus. Where have I heard that before? The thought is, CHILLing?
Now, if the Blue Jackets were a good team that made money, I’d be slightly concerned about an NBA coming to the county owned Nationwide Arena. But the Jackets are not. They are not good and they don’t make money. Don’t give me this “winning” crap about making money. 1) The Jackets still have pretty good attendance while their season ticket numbers dwindle. Winning may slightly increase revenue on luxury suites, but until then the player’s wives will continue to buy them for nurseries during home games and Wiggle concerts. 2) No matter how well the Blue Jackets do, they or any other winter/fall sports franchise, have to sell advertising spaces against the OSU Football machine, and then bowl season. No Stanley Cup ring will devalue the far reaching power of advertisements connected with OSU football.
This first, second, and third obstacle is that OSU Football rules the roost August until July from media coverage to the casual fan. Then, after that, the NBA would have to contend with an already established and loyal basketball fanbase in central and southern Ohio. I can't see them putting a team in Columbus, OH. It would kind of be like putting an NBA team in the same market as Duke, UNC, Wake Forest, and NC State. Oh, wait a second...
You have the OSU competition in Columbus, both Football and Basketball, maybe with a little spill over from Dayton basketball. Then you have the Kentucky, Louisville, Xavier, EKU, and Cincinnati basketball teams to contend with in southern Ohio. I can’t name 5 college basketball players, but I could rattle off 5 D1 college basketball teams in the SE Ohio broadcast area in three seconds. I think I proved my own point. You also have broadcast rights issues The Blue Jackets have taught us about already too. 10% of the counties in Ohio can’t broadcast non-Penguins hockey gams.. What does a Columbus NBA team get for a broadcast area? No Cleveland, and very little southern Ohio. Pretty weak TV market to generate revenue and sell t-shirts.
Many of the reasons the CBJ flounder here in Columbus will plague whatever NBA team theoretically moves here, except for a deal with the arena. I can’t imagine any other ownership group in the world agreeing to an arena deal as bad as the Blue Jackets willingly signed up for. The NBA would be remiss to relocate an NBA team to no matter how misguided or out of touch it’s mayor is.