I know I wasn’t the only Sonic fan seething with rage as I watched the soundbite tonight by NBA Commissioner David Stern:
“As strong as the Seattle bid was – and it was very strong – there’s some benefit that should be given to a city that has supported us for so long.”
He was talking about Sacramento. But it left us wondering, where was that support for the incumbent city when the NBA let Clay Bennett mosey off to OKC with the Sonics?
Prospective new Sonics owner Chris Hansen has done a masterful job in galvanizing support for a new arena and for a return of the NBA to Seattle. In a region that is paralyzed by process, Hansen – and his co-investors Steve Ballmer and the Nordstroms – brought clarity, vision and fiscal responsibility along with their hoop dreams.
I certainly don’t think the Seattle group is finished. The Hansen group has almost $60 million in real estate acquisition costs for the arena and the $30 million deposit with the Maloof brothers in Sacramento – these guys didn’t become billionaires by throwing away $100 million here and there.
In a statement Monday night, Hansen vowed to keep fighting for his deal with the Kings owners:
We just wanted to let you all know that we remain fully committed to seeing this transaction through. As you are all well aware, we have a binding transaction to purchase the Kings for what would be a record price for an NBA franchise, have one of the best ownership groups ever assembled to purchase a professional sports team in the US, have clearly demonstrated that we have a much more solid Arena plan, have offered a much higher price than the yet to be finalized Sacramento Group, and have placed all of the funds to close the transaction into escrow. As such, we plan to unequivocally state our case for both relocation and our plan to move forward with the transaction to the league and owners at the upcoming Board of Governor’s Meeting in Mid-May.
If the Hansen group doesn’t get the Kings, I still think an expansion team is quite possible. I don’t see how the NBA can turn its back on an ownership group with this kind of credibility and a solid Seattle arena plan in place.
While many Seattle basketball fans are feeling burned once again by the NBA, let’s give credit – and blame – where it’s due:
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has been a great leader in his city’s fight to keep their team. If Greg Nickels had one-tenth as much fight in him in 2007, the Sonics may never have left town.
Howard Schultz could have easily made keeping the team in Seattle a condition of sale – but his deal with Clay Bennett was an act of petulance and a “screw-you” to local politicians who he felt hostility towards.
NBA Commissioner David Stern’s statement Monday night was nauseating. Seattle set an all-time single-season NBA attendance record when the Sonics played in the Kingdome in the early 80’s. This region had supported the Sonics for 40 years. Stern’s NBA let his league abandon this city. And now Stern cares about franchise stability?
Clearly this fight isn’t over. But Monday’s news was certainly disappointing for all the passionate fans in this area who still feel badly burned by Nickels, Schultz, Stern and the NBA.