Let’s Talk Some NBA

It might be a good time to get on board

If you tried to watch the NBA All-Star game last night, you’re a better fan than I am. But I’m much more interested in the buzz around town about the NBA potentially bringing a team here to play in Freedom Hall.

While doubters abound, there’s plenty of reason to think this NBA thing is for real. And really, help me figure out why so many people around here don’t want the NBA here — why would you not want a major league sports franchise in your city? If we did, this morning’s news would likely be about how a Louisville player did in last night’s all-star game, and the TV ratings for the NBA would grow exponentially.

But what really matters is what J. Bruce Miller thinks.  He’s the one who went to David Stern’s office last week, and he’s the one holding the cards with the foreign investors he says are willing to cough up millions to get a team in Louisville. If you want to hear more , he will be on Joe Elliott’s show today at 1, likely repeating the story he told Fox 41 last week after Stern didn’t list the city among potential NBA expansion sites.

Miller explained Stern’s omission in a believable way, showing the station an e-mail exchange that indicates the NBA may have been doing due diligence on Miller’s investors.

Then there’s Dan Johnson, the Metro Councilman who is the staunchest supporter of the effort. He called me the night of the Stern interview, telling me that the omission was nothing to worry about, because the mysterious foreign money men put Louisville in the lead.

And then last week I came across a guy named Albrecht Stahmer, a business executive living in Tokyo who may know more about the NBA negotiations than anyone this side of Miller. Stahmer went to Ballard High (class of ’89) and UK, before getting into the telecom industry and what he described as management training in Tokyo.  He explained to me how he reached out to Miller a few years ago after reading Miller’s book “Airball” about the city’s previous NBA pursuits.

Stahmer has no official role in the effort, he says, but is constantly in contact with Miller. He’s a bit cagey when answering questions about the foreign investors. “There’s a business connection to Kentucky,” he says, and adds that it’s an emerging country with a high interest in basketball.

Of last week’s media flap with Stern, Stahmer said he thinks Stern may have been referring only to the New Orleans franchise, which the NBA owns, and not another team (the Sacramento Kings) which might be in play. Stern addressed the Kings’ issue over the weekend.

Stahmer was also involved in the news last fall regarding the Kings, and a local sports website (StraitPinkie.com) has devoted a portion of its site to coverage of the NBA to Louisville efforts.  Albrecht is working with local groups, including YPAL, to get young people involved and excited about the NBA.