NBA Relocation

NBA Relocation | Sport$Biz | Martin J. GreenbergThe National Basketball Association has experienced several relocations of league teams since 2001:

2001 – Vancouver Grizzlies relocated to Memphis, Tennessee.

2002 – Charlotte Hornets relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana. In turn, the NBA granted Charlotte a new expansion franchise, known as the Bobcats, in 2004. However, the Bobcats reclaimed the “Hornets” name before the start of the 2014-15 season.

2005 – New Orleans Hornets moved temporarily to Oklahoma City following Hurricane Katrina and became known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

2007 – New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets returned to New Orleans full-time. The team was renamed the Pelicans in 2013.

2008 – Seattle SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder.

2012 – New Jersey Nets relocated to Brooklyn and became Brooklyn’s first major professional sports franchise since 1957.

The rules regarding relocation in the NBA are found in the league’s Constitution and Bylaws. The rules prevent teams from relocating without first obtaining the consent of the NBA Board of Governors. The NBA takes into consideration the proximity of other teams to the proposed relocation destination, the profitability of the new destination for the team and for the NBA, as well as any state or local laws or regulations that might inhibit or prohibit an NBA team’s success in a new location.[1]

Article 7 of the NBA Constitution and By-laws outline the procedure for a requested relocation, including the engagement of the NBA Relocation Committee. The question whether to approve the proposed relocation is decided by a majority vote of all the members, while a sale or transfer of a team requires a two-thirds vote.

The last proposed relocation, the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, was voted upon in May of 2013 and rejected by a vote of 22 against and 8 for relocation.[2] Any relocation requires sixteen “yes” votes.

Shortly after the NBA’s refusal to permit relocation, the City of Sacramento and the Sacramento Kings, Limited Partnership (owner of the NBA franchise) entered into a Team Non-Relocation Agreement (“Agreement”) dated May 20, 2014.[3] The Agreement contains typical non-relocation covenants, including an obligation to play home games at the arena, maintenance of the franchise, franchise headquarters, and team names in the City of Sacramento and an affirmative covenant not to relocate or permit the relocation of the team outside of the boundaries of the city.

The remedies afforded the City of Sacramento are in line with the most current and recent agreements affecting other sports franchises. The team in the Agreement acknowledged that it is unique, and that the covenants are the essence of the bargain and essential to the Agreement.

The first remedy provided in the Agreement is the equitable remedy of specific performance in that there is no adequate and complete remedy of law to enforce the Agreement, which would also permit injunctive relief. The Agreement goes on to acknowledge that if equitable relief is not available or granted by a court of law, the City of Sacramento would be entitled to liquidated damages over the term of Agreement which would commence at $580 million in year one and decrease to $200 million after year thirty. Finally the Agreement permits any and all other remedies if neither equitable relief nor liquidated damages are granted by a court of law.

See, Non-Relocation Agreements in Major League Baseball: Comparison, Analysis, and Best Practice Clauses, Marquette Sports Law Review, Volume 21, Issue 1. (



[1] What process does the NBA follow when deciding whether to allow a city without a team to get one? Is it different for the NFL, NHL, and MLB? Answer by Mohit Kumar, June 4, 2014,

[2] In final vote, NBA rejects Sacramento Kings’ Relocation to Seattle by Nick Eaton, May 15, 2013.

[3] “Team Non-Relocation Agreement” dated May 24, 2012 by and between the City of Sacramento and Sacramento Kings Limited Partnership.