To hear Dan Issel tell it, the only thing standing between an NBA team coming to Louisville is a decision to expand the professional league.

Issel, a former basketball player himself and leader of the NBA2Lou movement, told those at Wednesday’s Venture Connectors luncheon that if or more likely when the NBA decides to expand, Louisville is high on the list.

“The NBA always plays their cards close to their vest. They’ll say when they’re ready to expand,” Issel said.

Dan Issel

Issel played basketball for the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Colonels in the American Basketball Association and the Denver Nuggets in the NBA. After telling humorous stories about his years of basketball, he told the group that Louisville is very likely to have an NBA team.

“What our group has been charged with is that we have the application in place and ready to go when the NBA does decide to expand,” he said.

While talking to NBA executives at the NBA Hall of Fame induction ceremonies recently, Issel said he was told by the executives that expansion is inevitable and when it happens, there will be two teams. In the past, when the NBA talked about expansion, Louisville was very high up on the list, he said.

But the start of Louisville team wouldn’t come without a very hefty price tag. The group estimates it will cost $1.4 billion to bring a team here — $1 billion for the franchise fee and $400 million to get the team started.

“A billion four is an awful lot of money,” he said, “but you would be surprised how many people, how many groups, have the ability to write that check.”

When asked if the group would accept a G League, or development, team, Issel said: “I think we’re done being a minor league city. I think it’s time we became a major league city.”


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Lisa Hornung a native of Louisville and has worked in local media for more than 15 years as a writer and editor. Before that she worked as a writer, editor and photographer for community newspapers in Kansas, Ohio and Kentucky. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia, and after a 20-year career in journalism, she obtained a master’s degree in history from Eastern Kentucky University in 2016.