THE NBA WOULD NEVER MAKE IT IN CINCINNATI

I got a revelation. I've been an NBA fan forever. I don't talk about it much 
on channel five, simply because I don't think there are a lot of viewers, 
listeners, who share my love for that game at that level. Not around here. 
Veteran fans maybe, fans over 50. You'd have to be that old to remember the 
last time Cincinnati played host to an NBA game that counted. 

When the Royals packed up and left for Kansas City, the NBA was a different 
game. This was before Mike, Before Bird, before Magic. In a lot of ways, it 
was a better game. Because both teams played hard for 48 minutes. Sure there 
were clear outs and players took plays off. That's been going on since before 
James Naismith got his medical degree. It was a slower game, a more brutal 
game. Didn't matter if you played guard or center, you were beaten up on just 
about every play. I loved that game. I like the NBA now. But I loved it back 
in the 60's and 70's

Willis Reed was my guy, Dick Barnett and the Pearl too. I wanted to dress like 
Clyde Frazier. I hated Red Auerbach, until I met him right before his death 
when i was working in Washington DC and his office was right around the corner 
from my television station. I spent three hours in his office one afternoon 
talking basketball. He laid out every strength and weakness of every player I 
told him I admired as a kid, growing up. That memory won't be leaving me 
anytime soon. For some reason I found myself rooting for a guy named Bingo 
Smith and Bob McAdoo. But none of them were as good as Oscar. Mike wasn't as 
good as Oscar. The only thing that Mike had that Oscar didn't have was his 
games on TV every night. Oscar didn't get on TV much, until late in his 
career. If Oscars games were on TV everynight, there would be no debate at to 
whom was better. Mike was great, Oscar was better. You say that enough now and 
they call you a grumpy old man. But it's true. Even when he didnt have the 
ball, you had to watch Oscar.

I often think had the Royals survived, had Bob Cousy not been sent here to be a hachet man for the guys who 
owned the team, the Jacobs Brothers...and what else would you call someone who 
trades Jerry Lucas one year and Oscar the next....I often think Cincinnati could 
have been a great NBA town. Think of the rivalries with Cleveland and 
Indianapolis. If somehow, the team could have survived another eight years 
until Magic and Bird arrived, I think it would have flourished. The 
conventional wisdom is that this isn't a big enough area to support three sports 
franchises. And, there's a lot of truth to that. Cincinnati, at the time the 
Royals moved, was something like the 20th television market. It's 35th now. 
No television markets our size have three major professional sports franchises. 
Pittsburgh would be the closest in size, eleven markets bigger. Milwaukee lays 
claim to the Packers, but they only are home to the Brewers and Bucks.

And there's market dollars, or lack there of, to consider. Major industry like 
GM and Cincinnati Milacron are no more. Ask the Bengals and Reds how tough it 
is to sell luxury boxes. Major League Baseball is a bargain compared to the 
NBA these days. You might be able to find a ten dollar ticket for an NBA game 
on a promotion night in some outpost like Sacramento. But in LA, the Lakers 
have tickets that top out at $2,700 a seat. Now times that by 40 and you've 
about got the cost of a starter home. Certainly the top ticket here wouldn't 
be that high. But in a league with a salary cap and an average salary of over 
$5 million a year, tickets would certainly be higher than for the Reds, where 
baseball's average salary is $3.3 million and the Bengals which is approximatley 
$2 million. And, you'd have fewer seats to sell than the Reds or Bengals, 
which would automatically mean higher ticket prices.

As much as David Stern hates to admit it, the NBA is a regional game, not a 
national game, not in the sense of the NFL. If you don't live in an NBA market, 
it's tough to follow. When I was in DC we had the Wizards. I loved covering 
that team, even though it was the dregs of basketball. The paper carried 
extensive coverage. There was a local cable sports channel devoted to the 
Wizards and their hockey counterparts. If you follow the NBA here, you're 
relyin on the internet and watching games on television. In an NBA city, you 
can sit and marvel at the speed, beauty and brutality of the game. I remember 
taking my kids to the MCI Center in DC. I wanted them to see the Admiral. I 
wanted my son to see how Calbert Cheaney played defense, until Mike put 50 up on 
him in the one time the Wizards actually made the NBA playoffs. I wanted him to 
see Georges Muresan, as my son was a soon to be seven footer. We asked Georges 
what kind of car he drove so we could get one my son cold fit behind the wheel 
in. I'll never foget what Muresan said: get good car, take back seat out, 
move front seat back, then drive. I remember Juwan Howard telling my son, who 
had blossomed into a size 18 shoe by his senior year in high school where to buy 
foot wear. Howard gave us the name of the place, the guy to see, then called 
the game to tell him we were coming. A place in Atlanta, named Friedmans, by 
the way. That's how easy and seamless it is to follow the NBA in a town that 
has a team. Out here? Not so much.

NBA players are the best conditioned athletes on the planet. But they don't 
operate, nor do they capture the attention of the universe called Cincinnati. 
Not anymore. And that's a shame.
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About kenbroo

Multiple EMMY Award Winning Sports Director At Cincinnati's WLWT News 5 and Sports Talk Host At 700 WLW
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