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The NBA’s Board of Governors has voted down the Sacramento Kings move to Seattle, commissioner David Stern announced at a news conference Wednesday.
Stern said 22 owners or their representatives voted against relocation, just eight in favor of the move.
Stern said there was no discussion of a possible franchise for Seattle at this time, with expansion ruled out until at least after the NBA signs new television contracts. The NBA’s current deals run out after the 2015-16 season.
Stern said while Seattle made a strong bid, “the edge went to the incumbent” in keeping the team in Sacramento.
Stern said he could only offer one promise to Seattle: “Just our promise of fair dealing and ultimate consideration down the road.”
The vote came after last ditch proposals by investor Chris Hansen and the majority owners of the Sacramento Kings, followed by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson and software magnate Vivek Ranadive.
The Maloof Family, which owns the Kings, had said repeatedly it still wanted to sell the team to the Seattle investor group led by Chris Hansen, whether it’s for the 65 percent ownership under the current binding agreement or for the 20 percent backup plan recently announced.
But Stern said he was confident a deal could be reached with the family to sell the team to the Ranadive group.
George Maloof told reporters the deal to sell the team to Hansen died with the relocation vote, but there were still options for the investor to become a part-owner of the team.
Hansen released a statement late Wednesday saying he planned to continue pursuing a partnership with the Maloofs.
“We do thank the league and the owners for their time and consideration and look forward to hearing back on our agreement to join the Maloofs as Limited Partners in the Kings,” he said. “Our day will come…and when it does it will just be that much sweeter for the struggle. I love you, Seattle!”
While Stern seemingly rejected Seattle outright, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver was less dismissive of chances for Seattle to land an NBA franchise in the future.
“We are very appreciative of the fans in Seattle as we regretted having to leave the market the last time and we fully expect we’ll return there one day,” Silver said.
Silver will replace Stern as NBA commissioner in 2014.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who worked closely with Hansen to craft an arena deal, issued a statement holding out hope for the future.
“I share the disappointment of Sonics fans about today’s vote. But we are in this for the long haul. The Memorandum of Understanding we have with Chris Hansen is for five years, and we will continue working to bring the NBA back to Seattle. I want to express my thanks and appreciation to Chris Hansen, Steve Ballmer, and the Nordstroms for their hard work and dedication to bringing the Sonics home.”
Sacramento Mayor Johnson was gracious in a press briefing following the announcement, praising Seattle fans and the Hansen group and saying his “hat’s off” to the city.
“I know what they feel like”, Johnson said. “I hope they get a team at some point. I think they will. I’m rooting for Seattle.”
NBA legal analyst Michael McCann said the Seattle group had done all it could do to get the team.
“I actually thought Seattle would win this, to be perfectly honest,” said McCann. “I thought Seattle had made a compelling case, if the data pointed towards Seattle, but I think – give Sacramento credit. They really put together a strong counter proposal and an arena deal that’s clearly attractive to the NBA.”
Maloof said his family would not pursue any legal challenges.
McCann said he didn’t expect to see lawsuits from Hansen following the vote. But he does believe the Seattle group will push hard for expansion. He believes that might be why Hansen upped his offer for the Kings last week. He believes it was a play to show the NBA that Hansen really wants a team, and he’ll do anything to get one.