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The tropical paradise of Hawaii conjures up images of sun, sand and surf, but could it also be home to an NBA team someday? As one of America’s most popular sports leagues, the NBA has looked to expand into new markets over the years. Hawaii’s isolation in the Pacific Ocean presents some challenges, but its passionate basketball fans and tourism appeal also offer opportunities.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: While Hawaii faces hurdles like its remote location and smaller population size, its popularity as a travel destination and the state’s enthusiasm for basketball could make it an intriguing NBA expansion possibility down the road.

In this nearly 3,000 word article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the prospects, pros and cons of Hawaii landing an NBA franchise. Key factors we’ll examine include Hawaii’s geographical isolation, its smaller population size compared to other NBA markets, the state’s reputation as a basketball hotbed at the youth and college levels, and whether an arena with sufficient capacity could be built. We’ll also compare Hawaii to other unconventional NBA cities like Oklahoma City, Memphis and New Orleans.

Hawaii’s Geographical Obstacles

Remote Location in the Pacific

Hawaii’s geographical location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean poses a significant obstacle when it comes to establishing an NBA team. The state is over 2,000 miles away from the nearest mainland city, making travel logistics a major challenge. This remote location means that teams would have to endure long flights, which can be tiring and potentially affect performance on the court.

Moreover, the time difference between Hawaii and the mainland can also be a hurdle. For example, during the NBA playoffs, games typically start in the evenings, which would mean late-night games for fans in Hawaii. This could potentially impact attendance and viewership for a local team.

Distance and Travel Times from Mainland

The distance between Hawaii and the mainland is not only a challenge for the teams themselves but also for fans who would want to travel to the games. The cost and time commitment of flying to Hawaii for away games would be significant, making it less feasible for fans to support their team in person.

Additionally, the long travel times would also impact the scheduling of games. For instance, a team from the mainland playing in Hawaii would likely need to schedule multiple games in a row to make the trip worthwhile. This condensed schedule could affect player fatigue and increase the risk of injuries.

Would Attracting Free Agents Be Difficult?

One of the key considerations for any NBA team is its ability to attract top talent, including free agents. The remote location of Hawaii could potentially make it less appealing for players who may prefer to be closer to family and friends on the mainland.

Furthermore, the lack of a strong basketball culture in Hawaii compared to mainland cities could also impact the ability to attract top talent. While Hawaii has a passionate fan base, it may not have the same level of basketball infrastructure and exposure as cities with existing NBA teams.

However, it is worth noting that Hawaii’s natural beauty, pleasant climate, and vibrant culture could be enticing factors for some players. The allure of living in a tropical paradise might outweigh the logistical challenges for certain individuals.

Hawaii’s Population Size

When considering the possibility of Hawaii having an NBA team, one important factor to take into account is the population size. While Hawaii may be a popular tourist destination and home to a diverse mix of cultures, its population is smaller compared to most NBA markets.

Smaller Than Most NBA Markets

Hawaii’s population currently stands at around 1.4 million people. This is significantly smaller than the populations of cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, which are home to multiple NBA teams. The smaller population size could potentially pose a challenge in terms of generating enough fan support and ticket sales to sustain an NBA team.

However, it’s important to note that population size alone does not determine the success of an NBA team. There are several factors that come into play, including the level of fan enthusiasm, market demand, and the team’s performance on the court.

But Not the Smallest in the League

While Hawaii’s population size may be smaller than most NBA markets, it is not the smallest in the league. Cities like Memphis, New Orleans, and Salt Lake City have smaller populations, yet they have successfully supported NBA teams for years. These cities have managed to cultivate dedicated fan bases and generate enough revenue to sustain their teams.

It’s worth considering that the unique culture and strong sense of community in Hawaii could potentially contribute to the success of an NBA team. The pride and passion that Hawaiians have for their state could translate into strong support for a local team.

Tourism Could Boost Attendance

One advantage that Hawaii has over other NBA markets is its thriving tourism industry. The state attracts millions of visitors each year, many of whom are sports enthusiasts. If an NBA team were to establish itself in Hawaii, it could potentially tap into this tourism market and attract both local residents and visitors to games.

The presence of a professional sports team can enhance a city’s appeal as a tourist destination, providing visitors with another exciting activity to experience during their stay. Furthermore, the influx of tourists could help boost attendance and revenue for the team.

Hawaii’s Rich Basketball Tradition and Culture

When you think of Hawaii, basketball might not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, the Aloha State has a rich basketball tradition and culture that runs deep. From local leagues and high school rivalries to the success of the University of Hawaii basketball program, basketball is a beloved sport in Hawaii.

Passion for Basketball at All Levels

Hawaii’s passion for basketball can be seen at all levels of play. From the grassroots level, where children start learning the fundamentals of the game, to the competitive high school leagues, basketball is a major part of the sports landscape in Hawaii. The local communities come together to support their teams, creating a vibrant and enthusiastic basketball culture.

Additionally, Hawaii has produced talented basketball players who have gone on to play at the college and professional levels. Players like Jeremy Lin, who rose to fame with the New York Knicks, and Jabari Parker, who currently plays for the Sacramento Kings, have roots in Hawaii. Their success has inspired a new generation of young players and added to the basketball legacy of the state.

Success of University of Hawaii

The University of Hawaii’s basketball program has also played a significant role in cultivating the sport’s popularity in the state. The Rainbow Warriors, as they are affectionately known, have a dedicated fan base that fills the Stan Sheriff Center for home games. The team has had its fair share of success, making multiple appearances in the NCAA Tournament and capturing conference championships.

With the university’s strong basketball tradition and fan support, the idea of having an NBA team in Hawaii becomes even more enticing. The Rainbow Warriors have shown that there is a passionate fan base ready to support basketball at the highest level.

Could There be Sufficient Fan Interest?

One of the main considerations in bringing an NBA team to Hawaii is the potential fan interest. While Hawaii may have a passionate basketball culture, the question remains whether there would be enough fan support to sustain an NBA team. The NBA is a major professional sports league, and the financial investment required to establish and maintain a team is significant.

However, with Hawaii’s unique geographical location and the allure of the islands, it is not hard to imagine fans from all over the world making the trip to watch NBA games in paradise. The tourism industry in Hawaii already attracts millions of visitors each year, and the addition of an NBA team could be a major draw for basketball fans.

Ultimately, the decision to bring an NBA team to Hawaii would require careful consideration of various factors, including fan interest, financial feasibility, and logistical challenges. But one thing is clear – Hawaii’s rich basketball tradition and culture make it an intriguing candidate for an NBA team.

Finding an Adequate Arena Solution

No NBA-Caliber Facility Currently Exists

One of the major challenges in bringing an NBA team to Hawaii is the lack of an NBA-caliber facility. Currently, there is no arena in the state that meets the standards and requirements set by the NBA. The league has specific criteria for arenas, including seating capacity, locker room facilities, and state-of-the-art amenities. While Hawaii does have several indoor arenas, such as the Neal S. Blaisdell Center and the Stan Sheriff Center, they would require significant renovations or expansions to meet NBA standards.

According to the NBA’s official website, the average seating capacity of NBA arenas is around 19,000. The largest indoor arena in Hawaii, the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, has a maximum capacity of approximately 8,800 for basketball games. This significant difference in capacity would need to be addressed in order to accommodate the demand for NBA games in Hawaii.

Public Funding Would Likely Be Required

Bringing an NBA team to Hawaii would involve a substantial financial investment. The construction or renovation of an NBA-caliber arena alone would require a significant amount of funding. In many cases, public funding has been utilized to finance the construction of professional sports arenas.

Public funding for sports arenas has been a topic of debate in many cities, as it involves using taxpayer money for a private enterprise. Proponents argue that a professional sports team can bring economic benefits to the region, such as increased tourism and job creation. However, opponents question whether the public should bear the financial burden of building an arena for a private sports team.

It is important to consider the economic impact and potential return on investment before committing to public funding for an NBA arena in Hawaii. Conducting thorough feasibility studies and engaging in transparent discussions with the community would be crucial steps in determining the viability of public funding for such a project.

Location Possibilities in Honolulu

If an NBA team were to come to Hawaii, Honolulu would be the most likely location for its home arena. As the capital and largest city in the state, Honolulu has the necessary infrastructure and amenities to support an NBA team.

There are several potential locations in Honolulu that could be considered for an NBA arena. One possibility is the redevelopment of the Aloha Stadium site, which is currently used for football games and other events. Another option could be the construction of a new arena in the Kakaako area, which has been undergoing significant revitalization in recent years.

Ultimately, the location of the arena would need to be carefully chosen to ensure accessibility, parking availability, and minimal disruption to the surrounding communities. Engaging with local stakeholders and conducting thorough impact assessments would be essential in the decision-making process.

How Hawaii Compares to Other Unconventional NBA Markets

When discussing the possibility of Hawaii having its own NBA team, it is important to look at other unconventional markets that have successfully hosted NBA franchises. These markets have proven that basketball can thrive outside of the traditional NBA cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. Let’s take a closer look at three examples: Oklahoma City, Memphis, and New Orleans.

Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of NBA cities, but the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder has put them on the basketball map. The team has a dedicated fan base that fills the Chesapeake Energy Arena for every home game. The Thunder’s success can be attributed to the passionate support of the fans and the team’s commitment to building a competitive roster. Hawaii, with its vibrant culture and sports-loving population, could potentially replicate this success.


Memphis is another example of a smaller market that has embraced their NBA team, the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite being a smaller city, the Grizzlies have a strong following and have consistently been competitive in the Western Conference. The team’s “Grit and Grind” style of play has resonated with fans and created a unique identity for the franchise. This shows that a team in Hawaii could develop its own unique style and brand, drawing in fans from both the local community and tourists.

New Orleans

New Orleans is known for its vibrant culture, music, and food, but it is also home to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans have faced their fair share of challenges, including the impact of Hurricane Katrina, but they have persevered and become an integral part of the city’s identity. The team has developed a strong fan base and has hosted major NBA events such as the All-Star Game. This demonstrates that even in the face of adversity, a team in Hawaii could become a source of pride and unity for the community.

While these examples may not provide a definitive answer to whether Hawaii could have its own NBA team, they do show that unconventional markets can successfully support basketball franchises. Hawaii’s unique culture, beautiful landscape, and passionate sports fans make it an intriguing possibility for NBA expansion. The potential for a team in Hawaii to create its own identity and attract both local and tourist fans is certainly worth considering.


In conclusion, while Hawaii faces some inherent challenges in remoteness and market size, its profile as a basketball hotbed and tourism magnet could make it an outside contender for NBA expansion one day. With creative solutions to issues like travel logistics and constructing an adequate arena, the prospect of NBA basketball in paradise can’t be ruled out entirely down the road. Hawaii’s natural beauty and vibrant culture would certainly make for a unique NBA market unlike any other.

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