Earlier this week, the New Orleans Pelicans won the NBA draft lottery, meaning they will be first in line to draft Zion Williamson of Duke. Williamson is the most highly anticipated arrival to the NBA since LeBron James.
The tone around the country after the fact wasn’t “Hey, Zion is doing to do great in New Orleans!”.
Rather it was “Zion isn’t going to New York or Los Angeles?! How is he going to get out of this?”
Or “Is Zion going to a smaller market team hurting his career and the NBA?”
That second one is concerning. It scares fans and the player himself, who begins to ask that same question if he’s not going anywhere but Los Angeles or New York.
This is a problem for the NBA and yes, our Orlando Magic.
Granted, Orlando isn’t exactly a small market. We’re in the top 20, have great facilities and are building more. Plus our team actually made the playoffs this year, unlike the Lakers and Knicks, which is why they were in the NBA draft lottery to begin with. They were awful.
But these early twenty-somethings are constantly being fed a narrative that you aren’t cool if you’re not going to “La La Land” or the “Big Apple”.
You can’t do business anywhere but those two markets, you’re not getting on TV as much, you can’t be in movies.
You might as well be playing in China.
This also hurts Orlando in the pursuit for free agents. This year is one of the biggest free agent pools in the league’s history but you won’t see any big names coming here.
It’s because we’re not New York or Los Angeles. And it’s not just Orlando but the 26 other media markets as well. The Nets and the Clippers fall in with the Knicks and Lakers in those markets respectively if you’re doing the math.
One solution is winning. I haven’t mentioned the Golden State Warriors in this post. They can draw stars like Kevin Durant but they had to win first. They won first because they drafted well and they attracted free agents. They did this before this trend started.
But if we’re telling players straight out of college that smaller markets are bad this tough task will only become more difficult.
We’re down to the final four in this year’s chase for an NBA championship. I’ll be rooting for the Milwaukee Bucks, the fourth smallest market in the NBA, several spots behind us in Orlando. A championship in a market that small might stall this disturbing trend from moving forward.
If not, winning a championship in downtown Orlando will only become more difficult.