With more than 20 relocations, the NBA has seen all sorts of movement between cities since its founding in 1946. Here are six of the most notable city moves in league history.
Seattle SuperSonics –> Oklahoma City, 2008
KD in green and gold. It’s easy to forget, and hard not to wonder what might have been. After a fight to raise public funds for a new arena in Seattle failed, an ownership group led by businessman Clay Bennett moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008 – a gutting blow to Seattle's furiously loyal fan base. More than a decade later, the city is still holding out hope for the return of an NBA franchise. And it might just happen one of these days.
Minneapolis Lakers –> Los Angeles, 1960
Just over 60 years ago, the Lakers went from the land of 10,000 lakes to the land of … not quite 10,000 lakes in one of the most consequential franchise relocations in all of professional sports. We all know what’s happened since – a whole lot of winning, a whole lot of legendary players, and a whole lot of glitz.
New Orleans Jazz –> Utah, 1979
Salt Lake City, the birthplace of jazz music*. It’s only natural the Jazz would move there. OK, we’re obviously kidding, but this move had major ripple effects, starting with Salt Lake thoroughly embracing the Jazz and establishing one of the more spirited and loyal fan bases in the league. And for the next ripple effect … see the next entry.
* – Disclaimer: Salt Lake City is not the actual birthplace of jazz.
Charlotte Hornets –> New Orleans, 2002
After losing its ABA team, the New Orleans Buccaneers, to Memphis in 1970 and its NBA team, the Jazz, to Salt Lake in 1979, New Orleans scored a little karmic justice by landing the Hornets from Charlotte. Led by star point guard Baron Davis, the Hornets were an instant hit, making the playoffs out of the East in 2002-03 and 2003-04. They shifted to the Western Conference in 2004-05 and then rebranded as the Pelicans in 2013.
Vancouver Grizzlies –> Memphis, 2001
Seven years before the Sonics ditched Seattle, their Canadian neighbors clawed their way out of town en route for Memphis. That left the Toronto Raptors as Canada’s sole team – creating a rabid nationwide fan base, and that made for quite the parade when the Raptors won it all in 2018-19.
San Diego Rockets –> Houston, 1971
San Diego Clippers –> Los Angeles, 1984
OK, the Clippers didn’t go far when they moved from San Diego to Los Angeles in 1984, but losing two franchises in 13 years? Yikes. The Rockets would go on to bag a couple of titles in the 1990s, but at least San Diego can take solace in the fact the Clippers haven’t won anything in the nearly 40 years since moving to L.A. – unless Kawhi Leonard and company change that this summer.
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