On October 31, 2006, the fate of the Seattle SuperSonics was effectively sealed, and the reigns of the organization were handed to an Oklahoma City investment group headed by Clay Bennett. After failing to secure funding for a new arena, the group made a $45 million settlement to pay off the remainder of the lease at KeyArena, and moved the franchise and Kevin Durant to Oklahoma City.
Since that time, Supersonics fans have been forced to sit idly by and watch as the franchise we lost grew to success on the shoulders of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, all original Sonics draftees. The success culminated with a trip to the NBA Finals a year ago.
2012, however, was a year for optimism in the eyes of Sonics fans and basketball junkies, as a group of investors led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer begun actively pursuing the possible return of the SuperSonics in the form of a relocated franchise. Hopes hit a peak in October when plans for a $500 million dollar arena in SoDo were approved by Seattle City Council and King County City council.
At that time, all that was needed was a team to relocate to Seattle. With the New Orleans Hornets finding ownership, the only team that was a realistic possibility was the Sacramento Kings, an organization owned by the debt ridden Maloof family.
The search seems to ended, however, as Hansen and Co. have launched an official bid for the majority ownership of the Sacramento Kings, valued at $525 million. On Sunday, January 20, stories broke that the Maloof’s had accepted the offer and the deal is awaiting league approval.
As a life-long basketball fan, and a fan of sports in general, I relish the thought of having another team to root for in Seattle. The prospect of having a team ripe with young talent is even more appealing. The Kings, despite achieving little success in recent years, have been able to draft a core of youth that could blossom into something special in a short period of time.
Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins are both incredibly talented, and newcomers Jimmer Fredette and Thomas Robinson have both experienced success at the NCAA level and have the potential to blossom into quality NBA players. Homegrown talent Aaron Brooks and Isaiah Thomas have ties to the area that should make for a smooth transition for themselves and the rest of the team.
SoDo, with its burgeoning reputation as the Arena District of Seattle, seems like a perfect home for a new arena. With the additions of new public transport to the area, the groundwork is there for a fantastic home for the Sonics. Another arena will further revitalize the area, and be an economic boost to the Seattle area.
However, the plan does have its fair share of caveats. The last time Seattle had an NBA franchise, the team wasn’t able to secure the funding to make necessary upgrades to the arena that would allow them to stay. While funding shouldn’t be a problem this time around, it makes me wonder whether fans infatuation with a Sonics return is simply a flash in the pan or a true desire to regain a team.
The only way that question will be able to be answered, though, is by moving a team here and seeing how many seats are filled after the initial buzz.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that by moving the Kings from Sacramento, we are doing exactly what Oklahoma did to us that created so much resent and frustration. There are loyal Kings fans, and moving the franchise means we are guilty of doing the same thing we were so vocal to criticize when it happened to us. By purchasing the Kings, many will argue that we are righting our situation at the expense of another fan base and compounding the problem that began with the relocation to Oklahoma.
I don’t hold this belief, but I ould be lying if I said the feelings didn’t exist elsewhere. One thing that is certain, however, if the deal is finalized and the team moves to Seattle, we cannot afford to give the team anything but unconditional support, including the transtiiton period and the building of a franchise. It wouldn’t be fair to take from Sacramento something that people enjoy and not give the franchise wholehearted support.
While I am in favor of having the Sonics, it is with some regret and disappointment. I regret that another fan base has to be sacrificed for us to have what we lost, and it disappoints me that because of a deal curated almost 7 years ago, two fanbases will now have to feel the pain of losing their team. For every hat, or shirt, or sign with the word ROBBED on it, there is the possibility of a Sacramento fan feeling the same thing. We owe it to those fans to treat the acquisition as a gift, not a right, by cherishing our opportunity.
Kevin may be contacted at [email protected]