A city’s winning pedigree, with a top-tier team structure and organization, may not be enough to appeal to an NBA free agent in today’s game, especially to a player demanding a max contract payday.
In shorter terms, loyalty is slowly diminishing while smaller NBA markets, with fewer enticing factors for a highly-valued free agent, face the unprecedented challenge of winning a championship.
For smaller markets, the best opportunity presents itself on draft night. If a team capitalizes and selects an asset that will generate buzz, bring exposure to the city, and attract elite players to build a championship-contending team, you have hit the jackpot. Perhaps that just happended in San Antonio with Victor Wembanyama.
It has never happened to the Charlotte Hornets, as fans of North Carolina sports betting well know. The Hornets' young star player, LaMelo Ball, who was selected with the third overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft, recently agreed to a five-year contract worth up to $260 million, the first rookie max-extension in Michael Jordan’s reign as an owner, which says a lot. It also came as Jordan sold his majority stake this offseason as he transitions to a less notable role with the franchise.
But this investment in their franchise player shows how the Hornets can build a young, exciting core with the hopes of drawing a top player in free agency in the near future. This blueprint is one that the Queen City has neglected to execute throughout its 35-year team history.
But now that Damian Lillard has submitted his trade request, specifically targeting the Miami Heat, the discussion of which cities have become more appealing than others and the luxurious factors these cities can offer over smaller NBA markets has become an increasingly pressing issue. Larger NBA markets have demonstrated better leverage than smaller ones, as proven by Lillard’s decision-making process.
With NBA free agency under way, BetCarolina.com compiled a system to determine the most desirable destinations within the league using a series of metrics.
We compiled data on state tax burdens (data from WalletHub), media market ranking (data from USTVDB.com, via Nielsen’s 2022-2023 DMA rankings), city popularity (World'sBestCities.com, via Resonance Consultancy), as well as attendance rankings since the 2018-19 season ( ESPN.com), winning percentage since the 2019-20 season (Basketball-Reference.com) and 2024 NBA Championship Odds (SportsOddsHistory.com) to construct an aggregate ranking.
Toronto was not included on the list as we utilized US data only. We did not include attendance data from the 2020-21 NBA season, as COVID protocols varied across the league. For Washington D.C.’s state tax income, we utilized data from nearby Virginia. 2024 NBA Championship odds are up to date as of July 5, 2023.
Most Desirable NBA Cities
Charlotte: A Challenging Destination in the NBA Landscape
Jordan’s only standout achievement as the owner of the Hornets may have been locking down Ball in the Queen City for the next five years. This move can potentially serve as the foundation for a promising future for the Hornets, addressing the franchise’s urgent need for a superstar. Ball is a good enough, young player with upside who could help attract free agents in the years to come, helping the Hornets' odds on incoming NC sports betting apps in the process.
But the sad reality is The Queen City has been ranked as the 28th most-desirable American city in the NBA, just ahead of last-place Indianapolis. The Charlotte Hornets were ranked in the lower half of the average home attendance in the NBA. And based on the city’s population, Charlotte is considered to be a small media market, joined by the Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies, and Sacramento Kings, all teams with playoff potential.
But for a team, actually a city, that has lacked championship DNA -- marketability, branding, lifestyle, facilities, and resources are not an issue in Charlotte.
Ball is currently the basketball face of PUMA. Ex-Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was at one point the Under Armour football figure, and Charlotte FC was introduced as the 30th MLS team one year ago to a passionate, supportive fanbase.
With Ball as the centerpiece of an exciting roster, his versatile playing style is capable of complementing the strengths of other elite players, allowing him to co-exist with unique styles. Important to note, the free-agency class of 2024 is stacked with the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jaylen Brown, and many more.
The Hornets simply need to start winning to have a shot at landing another superstar player. They have not made the NBA Playoffs since the 2015-16 season.
Keep tabs with BetCarolina.com for future free-agency stories regarding the Charlotte Hornets, plus North Carolina sportsbook promo codes.