Inside the Sixers: Don't worry: The Sixers are staying in Philadelphia

76ers owner Josh Harris and a partner bought the Devils and the lease to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
76ers owner Josh Harris and a partner bought the Devils and the lease to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (Getty)
Posted: August 19, 2013

Concerned 76ers fans really need to relax.

Although some NBA fans would love for the Sixers to move to Newark, N.J., that's just not going to happen.

Having a franchise in Philadelphia means too much to the Sixers ownership group and the NBA. So much so that moving to New Jersey, especially North Jersey, would be a disaster for both parties.

But some fans are panicking because Sixers majority owner Josh Harris and another member of the ownership group, David Blitzer, bought the NHL's New Jersey Devils and the team's lease to the Prudential Center in Newark.

"The Nets moved out of Newark because Brooklyn was a better market, but that doesn't mean the Sixers owners don't think New Jersey is a better market than Philadelphia," wrote one participant during a live chat Thursday on Philly.com. "Remember, they have an arena with seats to fill in Newark. And the owners are New Yorkers. And their new [CEO Scott O'Neil] is a [former Madison Square Garden] guy."

O'Neil is the new CEO of the Sixers and Devils.

Those are valid points, considering the Sixers rent the Wells Fargo Center from Comcast Spectacor, which also owns the Flyers.

But who in his right mind would move another NBA franchise into a crowded New York market to compete against the Knicks and Nets for fans? And who would move an NBA franchise to Newark?

We shouldn't forget that the Nets moved to Brooklyn last season for a reason. It's the same reason the New York Giants, New York Jets, and New York Red Bulls refuse to embrace a New Jersey identity despite playing home games in the state.

The better marketing opportunities come from being linked to New York. That's why Red Bull GmbH, an Austrian company that sells the energy drink, dropped the NY/NJ acronym when it bought the Metro Stars.

The Nets were never able to establish a solid footing in the Garden State despite consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003.

Some may point to the Devils' Stanley Cup titles in 1995, 2000, and 2005 as an argument for why a franchise can succeed while identifying as a New Jersey entity. But the franchise has never been a fantastic draw while living in the New York Rangers' shadow. The Devils also lost about $25 million last year.

Those shortcomings alone should quiet any rumor about the Sixers moving to Newark.

"I can tell you this," Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie said Wednesday. "Josh Harris is more committed than ever to owning the Sixers and to the fans of Philadelphia and to keeping the Sixers here forever."

And even if Harris changed his mind, other NBA owners would have to approve the Sixers' bid for relocation to another city. League owners would probably approve a move to Seattle, which lost the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008, over Newark.

But there's no need to worry. Harris called the rumor floating around Philadelphia and New Jersey a conspiracy theory that he wanted to categorically shut down.

"The Sixers are staying in Philadelphia," Harris told reporters during Thursday's Devils news conference.

Enough said.


Contact Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers.

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