cataLISTS Sports

One Man’s Definitive List for NBA Expansion Squads

Featured image
Written by AJ Smith

Written By: AJ Smith (@adotjdotwoots)

As we enter the holiday season, the top of our wish list here at Wheelhouse Factory includes a request for Santa to deliver additional NBA franchises. With the exception of the miserable 76ers, (a historically proud franchise, mind you…) the NBA is experiencing the fruits of its popularity in the 90s. The Jordan effect, followed by the Kobe boom, has produced millions of aspiring professional ballers. Take this incredible interest, couple it with the age of social media (making mega stars like LBJ feel more attainable and connected than ever before)… the growth of sports science, general health and fitness, and the influx of performance gear (lookin’ at you man-leggings), and the NBA is enjoying a surplus of talent like never before. As such, we at Wheelhouse Factory believe it’s only appropriate to begin brainstorming the most compelling complements to an already appetizing line up of brands, characters, locations, logos, and storylines.

Before we begin, let’s get one thing straight. The following suggestions must know their place, and that is firmly behind our #bringbacktheSonics campaign. Don’t even get us started about the cruel, unusual, and unjust deception that led to the Sonics being ripped away from the beautiful, moist environment supported by those amazing, appreciative, 12th man fans. The very legacy of Sonics ball propped up by the NBA Jams all-time-favorite squad of the Glove, Kemp, and Schrempf, deserves to be sustained with a competitive team. And to think, this is being written by a pair of two, ultra-homer, diehard Suns fans! One last thing as we prepare to dismount the soapbox. The very existence of the MLS can be traced to the rabid and ferocious appreciation Seattle shows the Sounders. Let’s not forget the time they cheered on #beastmode so loudly they could be heard from space…. #bringbacktheSonics

Alright, now that we’ve got that out of our system, let’s move on to the meat and potatoes. As always, some criteria to keep us on the straight and narrow:

  • Our proposed city must have a compelling case for an NBA team based on “performance” of fans for other major sporting squads, including, but not limited to another professional sport (NFL, MLB, MLS, etc.) OR collegiate sport.
  • Our proposed team must relate to something historically or currently relevant or unique to that city OR have exceptional broad-based appeal.
  • Our proposed color scheme should ideally tie into the existing brand identity of other franchises in that market (when possible).
  • Our proposed city, team, and scheme will be slightly unconventional with Wheelhouse Factory’s unique fingerprints impressed upon them. This list should be unlike any others you’ve ever stumbled upon before.

We think two expansion teams would be perfect – click to expand the ideas we’ve created below and tell us your two favorites! Drumroll please…


1. Baltimore Riot

Combined statistical area Baltimore Population: 9.4+ million (4th in US)

Baltimore is a proud city with passionate fan bases for its professional sports franchises, including the NFL’s Ravens and the MLB’s Orioles. While our team at Wheelhouse Factory strongly considered naming the NBA’s Baltimore-based franchise the “Angry Birds” to stay consistent with its current sports brand, we went outside the box.

Unfortunately, Baltimore suffered one of the worst riots of the antebellum South in 1835. However, just like a Raven soars above the chaos (and even delivers critical messages in the world of Game of Thrones), Baltimore rose to the occasion and pioneered one of the world’s first dental colleges. Talk about resilience. Get it, Baltimore.

Since Baltimore’s current professional sports franchises fall on different ends of the color spectrum (Black/Purple vs. White/Orange), we embraced the opportunity to take creative liberties. Wheelhouse Factor recommends the Baltimore Riot dawns a Black/Orange/Red color scheme (paying homage to the successful basketball legacy of the nearby Maryland Terrapins), featuring a logo such as:


2. Pittsburgh Powerhouses

Combined statistical area Pittsburgh Population: 2.6+ million (20th in US)

Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how passionate, dedicated, and rabid Pittsburgh fans are for their Steelers. These guys travel extremely well, and they produce a measurable home field advantage year after year. Couple this commitment with an extremely solid Pittsburgh Panthers fan-base, and we’ve found a fantastic market in need of a professional basketball franchise. The perfect opportunity to create an intra-PA rivalry with the historically proud (and admittedly, struggling) 76ers.

Its football franchise, named after Pittsburgh’s leading industry (steel production), may have taken the most logical name – but let’s read between the lines. Pittsburgh is so much more than steel. A leader in aluminum, glass, petroleum, electronics, and other manufacturing, is also making waves in technology. Pittsburgh welcomes an incredible menu of tech-leaders, including Google, Apple, Bosch, Uber, Intel, and IBM to generate more than $20 billion in revenue. These powerhouses represent the sheer standard for excellence Pittsburgh has set.

When we think Pittsburgh sports, we’ll always think the Steelers. At the very least, we believe black and yellow belongs in Pittsburgh. As such, Wheelhouse Factory proposes the Powerhouses dawn black and yellow unis with a logo such as (what figure better encapsulates power than Popeye?):


3. New England Night's Watch

New England Population: 14.6+ million

 I think we can all agree, New England is the foundation this country stands on. The region that represented the lynchpin for so many important historical events that shaped the United States. With great success came great tribulation, as our forefathers had to fight to protect the independence and freedom they so desperately believed in. While the cause is admittedly different, the Night’s Watch pledges to represent “the shield that guards the realms of men.”

With a strong regional tradition for basketball excellence, notably in Connecticut (those Huskies though!), Wheelhouse Factory believes there’s an underserved New England population that wants more than the Boston Celtics.

Since the Brooklyn Nets have so rudely claimed the predominantly black uni approach, Wheelhouse Factory wants to get creative. In honor of the Patriots and Huskies, we believe the classic black Night’s Watch look can be accented by America’s red, white, and blue, as follows:


4. Missouri Monstars

Missouri Population: 6+ million

I know what you’re thinking, we’ve done a masterful (your words, not ours) job linking history with name recommendations, and then THIS?! Touché – you raise a valid point. This is where we play our broad-based appeal card. After exhaustive research, we’ve determined even children in Missouri grew up watching Space Jam. The Monstars breakdown borders.

As one of the most entertaining basketball movies of all time, especially for the current generation of NBA players, Space Jam as a place in the NBA. Yet again, we can read your minds… Why not the Tune Squad? Excellent question. We’re glad you asked. The Tune Squad is the stuff of legends, man. It’s reserved for campfire tails and Space Jam 2, featuring LeBron James in the next 5 – 10 years. The Monstars are ready for their moment to stand alone as heroes.

Mizzou fans have loyally cheered for their Tigers, and are ready for the big leagues.

Remaining consistent with the University of Missouri’s black and yellow will be challenging, as the Pittsburgh Powerhouses (described above) are the clear cut favorites to claim this color scheme. However, in Space Jam, the Monstars unis tastefully integrated a black and yellow design with a turquoise/lime green (which signifies evil in all children’s movies) finish. As such, we have our scheme and logo:


5. Green Bay Stackers

Wisconsin Population: 5.7+ million.

Green Bay Population: 100+ thousand. (A classic case of quality > quantity.)

Let’s begin by stating the obvious. Green Bay has incredible fans. In fact, according to a recent study by Forbes (as reported by ESPN), the Packers have the “Best Fans in the NFL.” It’s damn near impossible to acquire tickets to Lambeau. For goodness sake, Google says the average wait is nearly 30 years to get season tickets. That’s longer than this writer’s life.

Now how do we know this passion will translate to a successful NBA fan base? We don’t. But it’s fun to dream. Sure, Green Bay is just a mere 118 miles down I-43 to Milwaukee, where the proud (ish) franchise of the Bucks is doing stuff. That said, Wheelhouse Factory believes Green Bay is such a close-knit community, it will rally around a franchise that it can call theirs.

Another intra-state rivalry is always compelling, as well… Fear the Deer meets…. Read on J

Our theory is that any professional sports addition to Green Bay must seamlessly and respectfully relate to the legacy of the Packers. Naturally, the most delicious connection is with that of cheese heads. So behold, we present, the (obviously green and yellow) Green Bay Stackers.



6. Kansas City Baby Backs

Combined statistical area Kansas City Population: 2.3+ million (23rd in US)

Alrighty, so we’ve already described Missouri’s case for a professional basketball squad. Let’s zoom in a little bit, and talk about how Kansas City is at the top of the sports world. 2015 marks the first year the Royals and Chiefs made the playoffs in the same year. And of course, the Royals (after making it to the World Series in 2014) brought home the hardware in 2015. So what Missouri, more broadly, has going for it in population, Kansas City may make up for it (and then some) in sports pedigree.

Let’s not forget about the Kansas Jayhawks (with Kansas University located a hop-skip-and-a-jump of 40 minutes East on 1-70 from Kansas City.) The Jayhawks have been a historically world-class collegiate basketball program. Even though we’re more than a decade removed from the Heinrich/Collison days (can you believe it?), Kansas is just one of those programs that doesn’t re-build. It just reloads.

All that said, it may be time to welcome a squad of the professional ranks to a deserving locale. Of course, Kansas City is known for its world famous barbecue (nomnomnom), so we at Wheelhouse Factory feel it’s only appropriate to pay homage to that sultry and perfectly seasoned meat, by naming the franchise the Baby Backs. With a unique red/blue/yellow/white color scheme, it’s the perfect addition to the KC sports tripod.


7. Las Vegas Aces

Metro Population: 1.9+ million (30th in US) – Let’s be honest, that doesn’t even remotely reflect the amount of talent rolling through Sin City on any given day.

Vegas will appear on most lists concerning possible expansion destinations for professional sports leagues. Of course, this is risk business due to the profound gambling industry and its Pete-Rose-level-temptations. That said, we felt unreasonably filthy about not including this adult playground on our wish-list, so alas, we present, the Las Vegas Aces.

Before getting to the good stuff, it’s also worth mentioning the NBA already sees some potential in Vegas, as a portion of its Summer League games are played here, Reno has its very own D-League squad (the Bighorns), and UNLV has a strong following of fans.

The good stuff: We propose the Aces break the mold for NBA color schemes. Of course, we wouldn’t go so far as to recommend glitter or bedazzles, per say, but these threads need to look dapper. As such, we recommend a color scheme of platinum with red, gold, and silver accents abound.


8. Des Moines Whirlwind

Iowa’s Population: 3.1+million (30th in US)

Iowa needs some professional sports love, man. Here at Wheelhouse Factory, we’re blessed to have a few buddies that grew up or otherwise attended college in Iowa, and they’re some of the best people you’ll ever meet. And they love their Hawkeyes. As per the recent success of both Iowa and Iowa State, there’s some serious talent amongst the cornfields. It’s time to graduate to the next level, and reward these folks with some professional swag.

With Des Moines located only 30 minutes from Iowa State University, and 1.5 hours from Iowa City and Iowa University, we believe it’s a perfect neutral zone for these fans to unite!

Naturally, Iowa is known for its ‘Nadoes, so we believe the Whirlwind is an appropriate name for this Midwest masterpiece (Think of it as the Cyclones bigger broader brother!). Fortunately, both universities utilize gold in their color scheme, meaning the perfect combination for the Whirlwind is black, red, and gold. Check it out!


9. Birmingham Steamrollers

Alabama Population: 4.8+ million (24th in US)

Another football-fan-epicenter makes the list! Clearly, the Alabama Crimson Tide (Roll Tide, yeah, we get it) has a rich history of victory, swag, and general dominance. In fact, we may see yet another national championship in the near future as Saban’s squad prepared to duel with the Spartans.

Alabama’s collegiate basketball team is certainly respectable, and while Birmingham is within striking distance of Atlanta – the Hawks aren’t Alabama’s.

As such, Wheelhouse Factory recommends a Duel Down South.

Why the Steamrollers? We’re glad you asked. Birmingham has major railroads in its metro area, and represents a blue-collar, industrialized domain. Not to mention, Bama fans will only have to adjust a portion of their rally cry, from ROLL TIDE! To ROLL STEAM! (See what we did there?)

Crimson is a staple of this area’s color scheme. Crimson and white, we’re looking at you.


10. Louisville Legends

Kentucky Population: 4.4+ million (26th in US)

To be complete transparent, the only reason this potential expansion option fell to the bottom of our list is the lackluster “Legends” name. As such, listen to our rationale for while Louisville needs a professional franchise, and comment with your suggestions for (significantly) better names – hopefully names that maintain the stellar alliteration J

Kentucky is a mecca for college basketball. Between the storied and super successful programs at Kentucky University (the One and Done capitol of the world) and Louisville University, it’s challenging to find a much more appetizing location primed for professional interest. (Yeahhhhhh Duke and North Carolina have a compelling argument, but it hasn’t done much for the Bobcats/Hornets recently….)

While Louisville is known for its production of the Sluggers, it only felt appropriate to select a name with greater broad-based appeal. Go-go-gadget Legends.

However, Wheelhouse Factory refuses to settle for mediocrity, so we have elected to remain steadfast in our resolve, and avoid creating a logo until we identify a better franchise title. Don’t leave us hanging!

Did we get it right? Leave us your feedback, suggestions, or questions in the comments. Get some!

– AJ Smith (@adotjdotwoots) and Wheelhouse Factory (@wh_factory)

About the author

AJ Smith

AJ has a bachelor degree in marketing and management as well as a master's degree in business administration. His specialties are basketball (letsgoo Suns!), baseball (letsgoo D-Backs/Bo-Sox!), football (letsgoo Cards and my "legendary for all the wrong reasons" fastasy football teams), early 2000s pop-punk, college gourmet culinary creations, Star Wars, bromance, cheese, and longwindedness.

Leave a Comment