LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- This is a storyline that began in 1978. Or maybe it was 1979.
The story is about somebody is bringing an NBA team to Louisville. This time, the rumor was the Toronto Raptors. This time, like every other time, they are not coming to Louisville, three sources told me Thursday, not even for one season.
Louisville is a terrific basketball market, perhaps the best market without an NBA franchise. Any time rumors rumbled about a team looking for a new home, Louisville will make the discussion, especially with a state-of-the-art NBA arena available.
The Buffalo Braves. The San Diego Clippers. The Vancouver Grizzlies. The Charlotte Hornets. The Houston Rockets.
Add the Raptors to the list, but make certain you note the Raptors will not play their 2021 NBA season in downtown Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center, despite one report that the city was being pushed and considered.
“I’ve never been told that it was even an option,” said Louisville businessman and former NBA Players Association president Junior Bridgeman. “I was dumbfounded by the report. From everything I’ve been told, the intention of the Raptors and the NBA is for the team to play the season in Toronto. With the improvements in (novel coronavirus) testing, I believe that is their preferred option.”
The story started to percolate Wednesday afternoon after an unsourced report by Vincent Goodwill at Yahoo! Sports. Without quoting Bridgeman directly, Goodwill said that Bridgeman had been in discussions with the NBA about the Raptors playing in Louisville next season. The story did not draw mention in the Toronto Star. The Toronto Globe and Mail also did not mention Louisville in its Raptors story that focused on the NBA Draft.
Major League Baseball moved the Toronto Blue Jays to Buffalo for the 2020 season because of issues getting players in and out of Canada with the novel coronavirus.
The NBA completed its 2020 season in a bubble environment in Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 11. But the league hopes to return to home arenas next season. Toronto could have issues because of Canada’s restrictions on international travel.
“I have never had a conversation with the NBA about the Raptors coming here,” Bridgeman said.
Bridgeman said that he talked to Raptors owner Larry Tannebaum, but they did not speak until after Yahoo! posted its story.
“I had never even heard about it until then,” Bridgeman said. “I never knew it was even an option. I think if there was something to it, Larry would have told me.”
Two sources who asked not to be identified said Thursday that there were discussions between the Raptors and the arena. But three sources told me and WDRB Sports reporter Eric Crawford that the discussions ended after Raptors players communicated their reluctance to play in Louisville because of the shooting death of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Metro Police officers as well as the social unrest that followed.
Bridgeman said that he was unaware of that and repeated that he had no discussions about bringing the Raptors here.
Leaders driven to bring an NBA franchise to Louisville will have to look for another team.
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