The National Basketball Assn., refusing to choose between what it considers two equal Florida applicants, accepted both Miami and Orlando into the league Wednesday along with Charlotte, N.C., and Minneapolis.
Charlotte and Miami will be admitted for the 1988-89 season. Minneapolis and Orlando will follow a year later, primarily because their new arenas are not as close to completion.
Each expansion franchise will pay an entry fee of $32.5 million.
“It just wouldn’t have been fair to choose between two equal Florida applicants,” Commissioner David Stern said after the announcement, which came after a four-hour meeting. “We decided that the only proper thing to do was take both.”
On April 2, the NBA’s Expansion Committee recommended that Minneapolis and Charlotte be accepted along with either Orlando or Miami. In the weeks since that recommendation, which Stern said was based on the committee’s instructions from the Board of Governors that three teams be invited, the Florida cities have exchanged barbs.
“Much has been written about the deficiencies of those two cities, but in fact the problem for the board was choosing between them,” Stern said. “Because of the support demonstrated in Miami and Orlando, and the civic pride and involvement by both government and fans, we couldn’t do anything but choose both.”
The commissioner said the governors’ vote was unanimous, although only an 18-5 majority was required.
Two expansion drafts, one in 1988 for Charlotte and Miami and one in 1989 for Minneapolis and Orlando, and college drafts will be used to stock the four new teams.
Each of the 23 existing teams will protect eight players in each expansion draft and each will lose one player. In the college drafts of 1988 and 1989, the new teams will choose eighth and ninth.
The location of three of the four teams in the East complicated the divisional alignments, so the governors adopted a rotating system that has little regard for geographic location.
In 1988-89, Charlotte will compete in the Atlantic Division and Miami in the Midwest, with Sacramento moving permanently to the Pacific.
In 1989-90, Charlotte and Minneapolis will compete in the Midwest, Orlando in the Central and Miami in the Atlantic.
In 1990-91, Minneapolis and Orlando will move to the Midwest, Charlotte to the Central and Miami will stay in the Atlantic.
In 1991-92, Miami and Orlando will compete in the Atlantic, Charlotte in the Central and Minneapolis in the Midwest.
The Charlotte team is tentatively known as the Spirit, while the other teams will be the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat.
“All the pro teams in Minnesota are called Minnesota,” said Marv Wolfenson, who owns the Timberwolves along with Harvey Ratner.