NBA Supporter J. Bruce Miller Forges Ahead; Critic Calls on Louisville to Back Away

The release of a Greater Louisville Inc. study executive summary questioning the support for an NBA franchise among the city’s corporations appears to be a hurdle for advocates of professional basketball in Louisville, but a longtime NBA supporter says he’s undeterred—and that the prospects are far from dead.

For decades, Louisville attorney J. Bruce Miller has involved himself in the pursuit of an NBA franchise for Louisville. 

In an interview, Miller criticizes the GLI study (what’s been released, at least) for not examining a broader portion of Louisville’s region. 

And, as he’s said in the past, Miller said he’s had discussions with three potential owners who could bring a team to Louisville. Here’s a little of what Miller said:

(Related: WFPL Discusses: Should Louisville Try to Land an NBA Team?)On the study:

“The market area is not Jefferson County. The market area is the Insight-exclusive cable franchise area, which includes Lexington, Frankfort, Covington, Bowling Green, Owensboro and southern Indiana. That’s the market area for a major league professional athletic team. They seem to want to believe that it’s just Jefferson County, and that’s just not the case.”

“… When I was doing this before in 2001, Toyota wanted four boxes and was prepared to make commitments for four boxes. There are companies in Cincinnati that would be interested in participating, because it’s a national and international deal to have a major league franchise. To have a college team, it’s simply to have your neighborhood you’re in.”

On whether the NBA will expand in the near future—making a franchise available:

“The fact of the matter is, Seattle hasn’t got a team right now, but when Sacramento retains its team and Seattle’s businessmen from not only Seattle but other places successfully accomplish an expansion franchise there will be an opportunity for Louisville to get an expansion franchise. And we need to be on the ball and moving toward that along with Seattle, and that’s what my goal is at the moment.”

NBA officials have said there are no plans to expand anytime soon:

“Obviously he’s going to say that, sir. He doesn’t want 35 cities including Virginia Beach wearing him out trying to accomplish this.”

On the prospective owners Miller says he’s talked to:

“They have access and manage enormous sums of money. And they have very smart people who have lots of connections and understand what Louisville could be if it could be helped to understand its position in the global marketplace.”

NBA opponents have absorbed the study differently, not surprisingly. Home Court Advantage—a group that fund an earlier study questioning pro basketball’s viability in Louisville—issued a statement through Boxcar PR that said, in part: 

As the primary tenant in the KFC Yum! Center, UofL Athletics continues to bring revenue and positive national publicity to the city of Louisville. UofL Athletics works daily with AEG Facilities to fill the Yum! Center. Their constructive relationship is evidenced by the arena’s recent profitable financial reports. It is time for all of our elected leaders to acknowledge the good work UofL Athletics does for the city of Louisville.

The Home Court Advantage statement notes that the full study has not been released. And a GLI spokeswoman say that it will not be—it was privately funded and conducted by GLI for “internal use only.”

Mayor Greg Fischer said on Tuesday that the city was never in hot pursuit of an NBA team. In the past several months, he’s floated the prospects of pro basketball as a well to bolster the KFC Yum! Center, where the tax district established to support its construction bonds hasn’t performed as well as city leaders were hoping for. And he added that the GLI study doesn’t close the door on an NBA team someday coming to Louisville—though more data-gathering would be needed should that day come.

Here’s the interview with Miller:

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

@joseph_Lord

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