Baltimore’s history with professional sports can best be described as “tumultuous.” The now-Washington Wizards, formerly known as the Baltimore Bullets, left the city in 1973. Since then, Baltimore has broken even on NFL teams, losing the Colts and gaining the Ravens. MLB’s Baltimore Orioles have also just about broken even in that time, going a combined 3851-3984, just barely shy of a .500 record over the last half-century.
Would the perennially-middling Wizards benefit from a rival team setting up shop 40 miles away in Baltimore?
Since all signs point to Seattle and Las Vegas receiving teams in the next round of expansion, Baltimore’s best hope for an NBA team is relocation of an existing team. Typically, a team relocates due to some combination of inadequate market size, waning fan interest or sustained lack of success.
The most important of these factors is sustained lack of success — though not every team that struggles for a long stretch is due for relocation, repeated failure is a common thread connecting most teams that relocate. The last team to relocate after finishing their season with an above-.500 record was the 2001-02 Charlotte Hornets; other than that, no team in the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB has relocated since 2000 following a winning season.
The Memphis Grizzlies are the least valuable NBA team according to Forbes, but the team is locked into a stadium lease until at least 2029. The New Orleans Pelicans, the second least valuable team, are a more likely candidate for relocation since their lease at the Smoothie King Center expires in 2024. The Pelicans also ranked 25th out of 30 teams in attendance during a season in which they made the postseason, the lowest finish of any playoff team.
The most viable candidate for relocation, however, is the Hornets. Charlotte, the fourth least valuable NBA team, have a rocky past with the city of Charlotte. The convoluted joint history of the Charlotte Hornets and New Orleans Pelicans is too complicated to get into in this article, but you can read about it here.
The current incarnation of the Hornets has been laughable at best, only qualifying for the playoffs three times and losing in the first round each time. Additionally, other than reigning All Star LaMelo Ball, the Hornets’ roster is severely strapped for talent, especially with Miles Bridges looking like he may rightfully be out of the league.
With the Hornets’ lack of on-the-court success and near bottom-of-the-league value, they are a prime candidate to pack it up and move to another city, especially if owner Michael Jordan wants to do it — or if he sells the team. What better city than Baltimore? (Provided Seattle and Vegas expansion teams are an inevitability).
Baltimore, the fifth largest metropolitan area in the United States without an NBA team, already has an NBA-ready arena renovation in the works. With Washington just under an hour’s drive away — optimistically, at least — a rivalry between the hypothetical Baltimore team and the Wizards could be huge in revitalizing fan interest in the Wizards after several monotonous decades of a second-round ceiling.
Since the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens play in opposite conferences of their Washington counterparts, Baltimore and DC teams do not match up enough for a rivalry to form. But with the unified structure of the NBA, a DMV showdown could help renew interest in Wizards basketball.
What are your thoughts on a team like the Hornets moving to Baltimore? Do you think that would benefit the Wizards? Let me know in the comments!