Steelers, Penguins and Pirates could soon be sharing city of champions with NBA franchise

Jared Wickerham

Is a city already married to its Steelers, renewing its affair with the Penguins and still entertaining the occasional tryst with the Pirates, capable of loving an NBA franchise, too?

According to the Houston Chronicle, David Stern has named Pittsburgh as a potential NBA expansion target.

Does the city of Pittsburgh really need an NBA franchise?

The Steelers, even during off-seasons following non-playoff-worthy years, will always own the heart of Pittsburgh. They have been through too much together over the years to ever break their bond. With two victories out of three championship game appearances, this bond is as strong as it ever was. However, when the NFL concludes its season with the Super Bowl, fans must have other things to preoccupy their minds as time drags on toward the following year.

The Penguins have drafted their way into second place for most loved sports franchises in Pittsburgh. When the NHL and its players decide to get together and actually play hockey, the Pens have one of the most skilled young rosters in the league and are perennial contenders for Lord Stanley's Cup, reminding the city of its last championship roster from the early 90's which included the likes of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Tom Barrasso. The precipitous winters in western Pennsylvania create the perfect environment for hockey infatuation - especially when the Pens are playing well.

If you live in Pittsburgh and hockey isn't your thing, you may choose to fill your non-Steelers time with the Pirates. The storied MLB franchise of the the Pittsburgh Pirates is a shell of its former self. World Series champions in the 60's and 70's, to consistent National League championship runner-ups, to the first minor league team to compete with the teams farming it. A recent ownership change and solid talent development has begun to assemble rosters which have lit the fuse to the emotional bomb which would consume the city should the team return to the playoffs, or - dare I say - another World Series. Signs are promising, but no tangible results as of yet. Luckily, baseball begins their spring training shortly after the end of the NFL season, and will carry on into October.

Love for the Steelers comes naturally to this city. It's part of its genetic construct. This love is strong enough to endure even the toughest times.

Love for the Pens comes easy because they have two of the most talented players to ever lift a stick on the same roster. However, hockey continues to chip away at its own audience by locking out players every so often. As long as the team is said to have a chance, the Pens have as much support as there is to be had.

Love for the Pirates is like an old family member who can't help but get on your last ever loving nerve, and always lets you down. You know they mean well and you appreciate their efforts, but sometimes you could just choke them. This love is hard because it requires just as much heart-space for equal hate when the team consistently falls apart approaching the playoffs.

The average sports fan has heart enough for at least one of these loves, though most are usually two-timers. The die-hard fans go three-way, but they usually have a prioritization. It is almost impossible to love all three equally. It takes a rare heart.

Does the city of Pittsburgh really need an NBA franchise?

In this modern era of sports, professional basketball could survive in Pittsburgh; but any teams forming in this town will have a lot of time to make up if they're ever going to be loved as much as the other local teams. There would be no stories of personalities-past like Jack Lambert, Joe Greene or James Harrison. There would be no temporal comparisons between a young Lemiux and Jagr, and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. There would be no legendary moments like Mazzeroski's World Series home run or anything Roberto Clemente. They have to start from scratch and develop their own legacy.

In this fast-paced society, patience is becoming a lost art. Would the NBA or potential team owners be willing to put in the time necessary to make the team relevant in its own market? There's also the matter of facility. Would the team be required to build its own facility, or will it share a home with the Penguins or Pitt University? Either way, major investments would be needed to accommodate NBA expectations. With the mountain of history a new team would have to climb, is it an idea worth investing in as an experiment? Attendance numbers for Pirates and even Penguins games can't invoke too much confidence about ability to sell out contests regardless of quality of product.

There's also the effect on the people of Pittsburgh and its sports fans. Can they handle another home-team? The entire city has to be put on death watch if the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates are all playing poorly at the same time. Would another losing franchise push the good people over the edge? Should the Pirates continue their improving ways and begin participating in post-season activities, while the Steelers and Penguins continue to field contending rosters, could the new basketball team handle the pressure of being the only losing team in the city of champions?

Let's not forget the possible scenario of all four major franchises winning championships in the same season. The city itself would probably explode with nuclear force, most likely annihilating half of the eastern seaboard in the blink of an eye. The loss of the American center of government would shift the balance of power on planet Earth, sending the human race into an apocalyptic world war. Economies would implode, resources would be exhausted and life as we know it would come to a bloody, bitter end.

Does the city of Pittsburgh really need an NBA franchise?

I think so.

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