“Seattle will get an NBA team”

Dec 7, 2010, 2:39 PM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

When Steven Pyeatt was eight years old he wanted a bicycle for Christmas.

He didn’t get one.

Instead, his father handed him a piece of paper that explained he was the new owner of 100 shares in the Seattle SuperSonics.

“I had no idea what it was because we didn’t have an NBA team yet. That was six month before the Sonics started playing here,” he says. “My dad took me to that first game and I was hooked. We were season ticket holders for 41 years. I grew up with every great moment of Sonics history.”

He was also here for the end of Sonics history.

The Sonics played in Seattle from 1967 through 2008. Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz owned the team at the end, and sold it to an investment group headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. Bennett moved the Sonics to Oklahoma. They’re now the Oklahoma City Thunder.

SOSPyeatt hasn’t stepped one foot inside a Starbucks coffee shop since.

He is co-founder of the failed “Save Our Sonics” effort to keep the team here. Now he’s thrilled with the rumored possibility of getting another NBA team in Seattle.

It’s been widely reported that the NBA is proceeding with a plan to buy the New Orleans Hornets from majority owner George Shinn and minority owner Gary Chouest. The Hornets could have the right to break their lease at the New Orleans Arena after this season. The lease runs through 2014, but the team is allowed to break it if average attendance falls below 14,735 during a two-year period.

Even if the Hornets don’t end up coming to Seattle, Pyeatt says he’s “100 percent confident the area will land another NBA team.” He also believes Steve Ballmer is the man who will bring a team here, but not necessarily to Seattle.

“A guy like Mr. Ballmer is could build a new arena in Bellevue where 60 percent of the Sonics season ticket holders live to start with,” Pyeatt says. The arena could even house a National Hockey League team.

“A guy like Mr. Ballmer could put 50 percent into something that would be his legacy, and he would be a hero,” he adds.

Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, has sold $1.3 billion in stock recently. He is a huge basketball fan. A few years ago Ballmer was part of a prospective ownership group to invest $150 million towards a $300 million renovation of KeyArena in order to keep the Sonics in Seattle. Those factors have lead some people to conclude that Ballmer wants to buy an NBA team and move it to Seattle. His office has not commented on those rumors.

Pyeatt has thought through the business part of this deal for Ballmer. He says now is the time to buy a team because of the tough economy. Local owners would be able to purchase property and build an arena for “a lot less” than before and when things turn around they would have a greater value.

“A smart businessman looks at this environment and says this is the time to buy. And I believe Ballmer is a very smart businessman and if he wants to be an NBA owner I think this is his opportunity, and it’s ours,” Pyeatt says.

He guesses we have a 60 percent chance of bringing the Hornets to Seattle and he’s 100 percent confident that some NBA team will be back in Washington in his lifetime.

“Seattle will get an NBA team,” he says. “It may not be the Hornets, it may be somebody else. It may not be next year, it may be the year after or it may be five or ten years down the road. It will happen.”

Pyeatt isn’t the only person who’s hoping an NBA team will move back to Seattle. A Facebook page called Bring the New Orleans Hornets to Seattle is up. The page fan page with more than 6,000 supporters includes these highlights:

  • Seattle was the first city to average over 20,000 fans a game over an entire NBA season.
  • Seattle led the NBA in total attendance 4 times
  • Seattle had one of the longest sellout streaks in the NBA during the mid to late 90’s despite one of the highest average ticket prices in the league.

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“Seattle will get an NBA team”