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Could Kansas City score Toronto Raptors? Inside Mayor Lucas’s quest to recruit the NBA team

  

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas is putting the full-court press on the Toronto Raptors as rumors the NBA team could be looking for a temporary home in the U.S. abound. 

The NBA could potentially start its 2020-2021 season early next year. And if the Toronto Blue Jays are any indication — temporarily relocating to Buffalo for its home games as the COVID-19 pandemic and baseball season collided earlier this year — the Raptors could be in need of a host for the upcoming basketball season. 

And so Lucas is shooting his shot. 

“If the Raptors are looking to build a real brand following in a part of the country they might not expect, just spend a year in our city with our fervor and energy,” Lucas told The Missouri Times in an interview. 

Lucas said the T-Mobile Center (formerly the Sprint Center) in downtown Kansas City would be an ideal venue for home games. It’s already been upgraded and built to specification for an NBA team, the mayor said. And players could quarantine at Loews Hotel, about a 10 minute walk from the T-Mobile Center, he suggested. 

Phil Summers, communications manager for the Raptors, declined to comment on potential host cities for next season but said the franchise is “focused on playing our season in Toronto.” 

Still, a team of politicians from Missouri and Kansas are rooting for Kansas City to attract the Raptors. Along with Lucas, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts of Kansas; U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri; and U.S. Congresswoman Sharice Davids of Kansas pitched the bi-state area as a temporary home in a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Tuesday. 

“Kansas City sports fans are unmatched, already providing an avid fanbase for the Chiefs, the Royals, Sporting — and would be eager to extend that support to the Raptors,” the letter said. “Kansas City has plenty to offer with our wonderful food, attractions, and entertainment for basketball fans of all ages.” 

The letter also noted the Kansas City Streetcar, which is fare-free, runs through downtown and stops near the T-Mobile Center. The city’s fare-free public bus transportation also makes multiple stops near the venue. 

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Aside from the letter, Lucas is recruiting the Raptors through social media — including in French and with weather updates using Celcius. And he’s not alone. Beloved Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has also pitched bringing the team to his city. 

When asked what his favorite NBA team is (aside from the Raptors), Lucas, who hopes Kansas City will one day have its own team, pointed to the Oklahoma City Thunder. And it’s clear he’s gotten inspiration from the city about 300 miles southwest. 

After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans basketball team (then the Hornets) relocated to Oklahoma City for two seasons, returning to the Big Easy for the 2007-2008 season. By the next year, Oklahoma City got its own team: the Thunder. 

“They showed they were worthy of holding an NBA team. It’s the same thing we’ll see from Kansas City,” Lucas said. 

The Raptors went 53-19 in regular season play last season but lost to the Celtics in conference semifinals. Basketball fans are sure to wonder if a move to Kansas City would see any magic from the Chiefs, the current Super Bowl champions, rub off on the team.