May 17, 2013
Just what is it that the NBA has against Seattle, Washington? Location? Close to another NBA travel partner in Portland, Oregon, the Pacific Northwest is a wonderful place to live and visit. Sure traffic commutes are horrible. Where in metropolitan America is driving to and from work a pleasure? Heavy road congestion is everywhere. People that live in Seattle enjoy an active lifestyle and embrace a climate with more rain than sunshine.
The word that strikes me when I think of Seattle is diversity. Like much of America these days, Seattle is a melting pot of ethnicity and culture. Big business thrives there. Boeing, Microsoft, and Starbucks are all headquartered in Seattle. For music, it's the place that's gave us Jimi Hendrix, Heart and Nirvana. That's certainly three different spectrums of popular sounds.
It's a good sports town, too. Aside from trying to claim the 12th man tradition from the Aggies a few years ago, there is little to slam Seattle sports fans over. They support the Seahawks, baseball's Mariners and the University of Washington in the Pac 12. And that's despite a significant lack of championships for those teams. A check of the scoreboard shows that the Seahawks are 0-for-1 in Super Bowl appearances. The Mariners have never been to the World Series. As for the college Huskies, they are more than 20 years removed from their last national championship in football.
When the Supersonics were home in Seattle, the only thing the team was guilty of was playing in bad buildings. It was the first NBA team to have a game rained out. In 1986, a leaky roof at the Coliseum made the floor unplayable. That seems like poetic justice for a city known for rainy weather. Other home floors included the Kingdome, a building with little to distinguish itself from similar covered stadiums in Detroit, New Orleans, Houston or even San Antonio. The Sonics also played for a time in the Tacoma Dome. NBA home games in Seattle have been played in three different locations.
The city's first pro sports franchise, established in 1967, the Sonics were the city's only pro sports champion. They made three trips to the finals, won it all in 1979, and built a colorful history with players like Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and "Downtown" Freddy Brown. When Clay Bennett bought the team in 2007, he told fans his preference was to keep the team in Seattle. Most thought the Sonics would be headed for Bennett's home in Oklahoma CIty. And the suspicion that he was lying about his intentions for the Sonics was confirmed when a partner in the ownership group told Oklahoma City news media that the team wasn't being purchased to keep it in the northwest.
In 2008, the sale and movement of the Sonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City was approved. OKC had proved its value to the NBA when it hosted the displaced New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina. Is there anything more crushing to civic pride than losing a professional sports franchise? Seattle fans were demoralized. The Supersonics nickname lingered behind in hopes the NBA would return. The Sonics were now the Thunder.
Fast forward to this year. Arena problems in Sacramento put the Kings' franchise in play. The Maloof family agrees to sell the Kings to Seattle-based investors for an NBA record price. There is no deception. The Kings will become the new Supersonics, playing in a brand new arena. Sacramento fights back. Former NBA player Kevin Johnson, now the mayor of Sacramento, puts together an 11th hour bid to keep the Kings in California. And the same NBA that allowed the Sonics to move, votes to kill the impending sale and transfer of the Kings to Seattle.
There is little reason to be surprised by the recent turn of events. NBA commissioner David Stern spoke last week that Sacramento benefited from being the incumbent location for an NBA team. That was his explanation for why the Maloofs weren't allowed to sell their team to an owner of their choice. In 2007, there was no such power of incumbency when Seattle was threatened with the loss of the Sonics. Stern was too busy giving man hugs to Bennett and the new ownership group in Oklahoma. His retirement as commissioner, next summer, can't come soon enough for me. I've never been a fan.
The official collapse of Kings' relocation occurred on the same day the Thunder was eliminated from the 2013 post-season. There may be some fans who believe this is karma for Seattle losing out on a chance to return to the NBA. I can't imagine anyone in Seattle is still rooting for the Thunder. There may be cheers for Kevin Durant, the player that spent one year as a Sonics' rookie. But cheer for Oklahoma CIty? That's not happening.
The bigger picture is that Seattle has been slammed again, and for no apparent reason. The city belongs in the NBA. Explanations as to why pro basketball dodges the Seattle dilemma are weak and without merit. The spirit of the Supersonics lives on, without the satisfaction of a team and players to fill the uniforms.
Dave Brown serves as a special contributor to CHANNEL 5 Sports and produces his Overtime blogs on a weekly basis for www.krgv.com/sports.more »