Naming rights and wrongs: A new bid to bring the NBA to town [Sports]

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This article appears in the January 2011 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

The NBA-to-Louisville discussions have been heating up lately — a team may have already moved to town by the time you read this! — but I’m not going to get caught up in the negotiations. I know better. Over the years, the city has tried to woo existing franchises  — the Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets, Vancouver Grizzlies — but our town hasn’t had a professional hoops club since the 1970s, when the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels played in Freedom Hall. So even though Metro Council is exploring options — would Pitino share his new downtown palace? — I’ve decided to be more productive with my time and consider what to name a professional basketball team if one were to call Louisville home.

For some help, I met at Heine Brothers with Neal Turpin and Josh Gumm, two-fifths of the group of longtime friends that created the Facebook page “Bring the Sacramento Kings to Louisville” in October. “We’re a basketball state, a basketball town,” the 23-year-old Gumm says. “We figure there’d be enough support for an NBA team here.” (They targeted the Kings because the franchise wants a new arena that Sacramento isn't keen on building.) The page had nearly 6,500 fans when this story was published, and Turpin has received plenty of hate mail from Kings fans. “It doesn’t have to be the Kings,” says Turpin, also 23. “We’d take any team that wants to move here.”

The real question: Would Kings be an acceptable nickname for a Louisville squad? “Louisville’s named after King Louis XVI, so I think it could work,” Turpin says. Says Gumm: “We also thought of Kentucky Colonels. But having the Kentucky Colonels play in the KFC Yum! Center? We’d get made fun of on SportsCenter every night.” Any other suggestions? “That’s a step that follows once a team moves,” Gumm says.

Fair enough. And, yeah, I could live with Kings. Once Turpin and Gumm left Heine Brothers, though, I couldn’t stop thinking of options: the Louisville Bridges, the Kentucky Honest Abes, the Louisville Abramsons. As of now, here’s my personal favorite: the Kentucky Bourbons.

Photo: Courtesy Louisville Magazine

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