The Kansas City Basketball Myth
In the 17 years I spent in Kansas City, most of which I worked in the fields of NCAA Division I sports, sportscasting and as a radio personality, I was brainwashed into the myth that Kansas City is THE basketball mecca.
Kansas City’s basketball resume is impressive:
Home to the NBA’s Kings from 1972-85.
Downtown’s Municipal Auditorium has hosted 9 Final Fours, while Kemper Arena in the West Bottoms hosted the 1988 Final Four.
The Big 8/Big 12 Conference Tournament has been played in Kansas City more times than any other city.
The NAIA National Tournament is played in Kansas City.
The 1989 McDonald’s All-America game, featuring Kenny Anderson, Allan Houston, Bobby Hurley and some guy named Shaquille O’Neal was played at Kemper Arena.
In fact, Kansas City BELIEVES it is the home of basketball so much, there is this nugget on the VisitKC.com website:
Each March, Kansas City hosts more college basketball tournament games than anywhere else in the country. In 2015, the whopping total comes to four tournaments, 58 teams and 54 games stretched across 14 days.
The above statement is a lie, but I will get to that in a minute.
Kansas City wants you to forget a few things about it’s basketball pedigree:
In the Kings’ final season in KC, and in the era of the NBA featuring “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird, Dr. J and the rookie season of Michael Jordan, the Kings averaged less than 4,000 fans per game and moved to…Sacramento. The California capital is only marginally bigger population-wise than Kansas City.
The main reason the Final Four was hosted in Kansas City so often was the NCAA National Office was located in Kansas City from 1952-99. All nine Municipal Auditorium Final Fours happened before 1964. The Final Four wouldn’t return to KC for 24 years.
The NCAA office left for greener pastures in Indianapolis.
The Big 8 became the Big 12 and moved from Kansas City to Irvine, Texas.
Kansas City was practically the last major U.S. city to have a Division I basketball team. Kansas City, the 37th biggest city in America didn’t have a Division I basketball team until 1985. That doesn’t compare very favorably to no. 41 Omaha (Creighton, 1917), no. 49 Wichita (Wichita State, 1906), no. 58 St. Louis (Saint Louis U, 1914) or no. 148 Springfield, Mo. (Missouri State, Division I since 1981).
Kansas City basketball history of departure and mediocrity. Kansas Citians will try to deflect this by saying that the University of Kansas is Kansas City’s basketball team. The University of Kansas is located in Lawrence, Kan., a short drive from the Kansas City metro area. In addition, the Jayhawks won the 1988 Final Four in Kansas City. Those same people not only have never looked at a map (Kansas City is in Missouri, Lawrence in Kansas) nor have a sense of history (the two States were on opposite sides of the American Civil War and still hold ill feelings toward one another 150 years after the last battle was fought).
Now to that erroneous statement from above. Kansas City is referring to:
The Division II MIAA Conference will have eight men’s teams and eight women’s team play seven games each March 5-8. The Big 12 men’s basketball tournament is next, where 10 teams will play nine games from March 11-14. Then 32 NAIA teams will play 31 games to determine their champion from March 18-24.
To sum up:
MIAA – 8 men’s teams/7 games
MIAA – 8 women’s teams/7 games
Big 12 – 10 men’s teams/9 games
NAIA – 32 men’s teams/31 games
Total – 58 teams/54 games.
At least Kansas City’s math was correct. It’s the first sentence of the statement that is a bald-faced lie borne of Kansas City’s arrogance and ignorance.
Enter Las Vegas. One of the world’s most visited cities also happens to be a bigger March basketball draw than Kansas City.
Las Vegas’ basketball resume:
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas has been a Division I basketball team since 1970. The UNLV Rebels have been to the Final Four four times and won National Championship in 1990.
The NBA All-Star Game was held in Las Vegas in 2007. The bigger of the two NBA Summer League’s is held annually in Las Vegas.
USA Basketball hosts its camp and a showcase in Las Vegas.
And the clincher, Each March, LAS VEGAS hosts more college basketball tournament games than anywhere else in the country. In 2015, the whopping total comes to seven tournaments, 67 teams and 60 games stretched across 14 days.
The West Coast Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament features 10 teams playing nine games at The Orleans Arena March 5-10. The West Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament features 10 teams playing nine games at The Orleans Arena March 5-10. The WAC (the conference that includes Kansas City’s own UMKC) Men’s Basketball Tournament features seven schools playing six games at The Orleans Arena March 11-14. The WAC Women’s Basketball Tournament features seven schools playing six games at The Orleans Arena March 11-14. The Mountain West Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament features 11 teams playing 10 games March 9-13 at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV Campus. The Mountain West Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament features 10 teams playing 9 games March 11-14 at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV Campus. The Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament features 12 teams playing 11 games at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on The Las Vegas Strip March 11-14.
To sum up:
WCC – 10 women’s teams/9 games
WCC – 10 men’s teams/9 games
WAC – 7 women’s teams/6 games
WAC – 7 men’s teams/6 games
Mountain West – 11 women’s teams/10 games
Mountain West – 10 men’s teams/9 games
Pac 12 – 12 men’s teams/11 games
Total – 67 teams/60 games.
Las Vegas has nine more teams and six more games than Kansas City.