Basketball was the first major league sport in the Twin Cities. The Minneapolis Lakers won six titles (one NBL, five NBA) from 1948 through 1954. Six years later, they left for Los Angeles with hardly a whimper of protest, even though the great Elgin Baylor had been in Minneapolis for two dynamic seasons.
The American Basketball Association was an outlandish failure in the late '60s, with the Muskies (50-28) and the Pipers (36-42) drawing crowds in the hundreds at Met Center.
There was a curiosity factor when the NBA returned, with huge crowds at the Metrodome in 1989-90 and sellouts at the new Target Center in 1990-91. The coach was Bill Musselman, the same guy who had made the Gophers relevant immediately after his arrival in 1971.
The Timberwolves dumped Musselman after his second season. The fire was soon gone from the on-court product, and the upper reaches of Target Center started to show plenty of empty seats, even as sellouts were announced.
Twenty-six years later, the NBA has been basically a bust in downtown Minneapolis. There were eight consecutive playoff seasons, capped by the entertaining journey to the Western Conference finals in 2004, but here's what said it all about the status of pro basketball in the Twin Cities:
The Wolves opened the next season vs. the New York Knicks on Nov. 3, 2004, and there were 2,000 unsold seats in Target Center.
That would become the first of 13 consecutive non-playoff seasons — a fantastic run of futility.
The NBA is an "in'' league, nationally and internationally. Example: Even as the NFL season beckoned, the madness on ESPN and other outlets concerned where Kyrie Irving would wind up for the 2017-18 season.
Are the Twin Cities ready to join as the NBA enjoys this enormous popularity?
Tom Thibodeau, after a bland first season, has created intrigue with a roster remake led by the trade for Jimmy Butler. There's also Karl-Anthony Towns, this area's most compelling athlete.
Will the sporting public routinely fill 85 percent of Target Center's seats? I'll have to see it to believe it here with professional basketball.
Read Patrick Reusse's blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at email@example.com.