Buffalo could become home to an NBA team for the first time in 42 years if the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt travel when the next basketball season begins.
WKBW reports New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) has sent a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri, asking the 2019 NBA champions to make Buffalo their “home away from home in the event that the Canadian Federal Government declines to provide the Raptors an exception to the current ban on cross-border travel between Canada and the United States.”
Non-essential travel from the U.S. to Canada has been banned due to Covid-19, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this month that he’ll keep the border closed as long as cases remain elevated in the U.S.
“We will continue to make sure that Canadian safety is top of mind when we move forward,” Trudeau said. “We see the cases in the United States and elsewhere around the world, and we need to continue to keep these border controls in place.”
The border shutdown similarly led the Toronto Blue Jays to play “home” games at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field during the shortened 2020 MLB season.
The 2020-21 NBA season could begin in December and likely won’t be played in a bubble again, according to multiple reports. The Kansas City Star reports the Raptors may also consider playing home games in Kansas City, Missouri, with support from KC Mayor Quinton Lucas.
Buffalo was last home to an NBA team in 1978; the Buffalo Braves joined the National Basketball Association as an expansion team in 1970 and played played eight seasons in Western New York. Dolph Schayes, who won an NBA championship with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955, was the Braves’ first coach.
In ’78, the team moved to San Diego and became the Clippers. The franchise later moved to Los Angeles and have been the L.A. Clippers since 1984.