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Raptors fever raises questions about possible NBA return to Vancouver
As Canadian fans from coast to coast celebrate the Toronto Raptors’ NBA championship win, it has some questioning whether Vancouver’s future could include the return of the NBA.
Restaurants and bars in Vancouver were packed with fans cheering for the Raptors throughout the series against the Golden State Warriors, with people of all ages showing a strong interest in the team.
“I do believe it’s a matter of when, not if,” Tom Mayenknecht, TSN radio host and former Raptors employee, told CTV News.
“I think it’s inevitable that the NBA does make a return to Vancouver at some point. I think the league is truly regretful of what happened and the way the team left the first time around,” he said.
It’s been nearly 20 years since the Vancouver Grizzlies were relocated from Vancouver to Memphis after just six seasons.
Mayenknecht believes the league may now regret the departure, especially as Vancouver has grown.
“Not only is Vancouver very different, much bigger city than it was 20 years ago, the NBA is so much more international. I think it would be received differently,” Mayenknecht said.
Raptors fans CTV spoke with in Olympic Village Friday morning were enthusiastic about the idea of an NBA team on the West Coast.
“Yes please, I would love to,” said Jonathan Roxa, who said he’s been supporting the Toronto Raptors for years now. “I would go to every game.”
Another man, who said he was an original Grizzlies season ticket-holder also believes an NBA team could work.
“People lost interest after about half the season. I believe the whole product has changed now, so I think it would be successful,” he said.
Basketball fan Tony Chan also believes the Raptors’ historic win could pave the way for another Canadian team.
“Many of my friends, they think the NBA is really like an American sport and only the American teams would be the greatest team. But now, it shows that the Canadian team can really do great things," Chan said.
Mayenknecht, who was the Raptors’ first executive employee back in 1994 and helped launch the franchise and pick the team name and logo, said NBA audiences have also changed considerably in the last two decades.
“The NBA is very popular among young fans,” he said. “It’s arguably the hottest sport among young fans. That’s what you have to build a business around moving forward.”
If a team were to come to Vancouver, Mayenknecht believes it would likely need to be done in partnership with Canucks Sports and Entertainment.
“I don’t think you want to see a billion-dollar franchise investment and a separate arena built.”
Mayenknecht also says there’s a second market on the West Coast the NBA may also be interested in.
“I do believe the NBA goes back to Seattle first in the second-coming of the SuperSonics. But I do believe Vancouver could happen within five to seven years.”
He believes the attention the Raptors' victory has brought to the sport and the high interest level in Vancouver, may attract the league’s attention.
“There’s really strong interest in the Raptors and because of that I think there would be even more interest in Vancouver getting an NBA team going forward.”