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Seattle Supersonics

The NBA Finally Admits It Was Wrong, Wrongs Another City

Back in February of last year I wrote that the NBA NEEDS Seattle and today, almost a year later, David Stern has approved a deal that brings professional ball back to the Emerald City. The deal allows the Sacramento Kings to finish up the season in “cow-town” before moving to Key Arena in Seattle for the 2013-14 season.

Before I go into the specifics and the celebration that has already commenced across the Twitter/sports universe in Washington state, I want to point out first and foremost that this is not exactly how Seattle sports fans wanted to get a team back. Having gone through the evil leadership of the Clay ownership group, Sonics fans have an acute awareness of how shitty it feels to have your hometown team stripped out from underneath you. So a deep apology out to those in Sacramento who are hearing this news and are heartbroken to lose their only pro franchise. At least in Seattle there were the Seahawks, Mariners, and eventually the Sounders left in the wake of the ex-Thunder’s departure. This case is certainly a different story of a town leaving town.

Two big reasons why:

1. The Maloof Brothers suck – at most things

  • The Maloof brothers were an incompetent ownership group in every sense unless you are judging them on their ability to milk their franchise for any/every possible ounce of profit. They have taunted the local government in California into striking phenomenal deals that favor them (most recently this). They have bankrupted their team and though they had a strong stretch losing to Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers every year, they have zero NBA titles to show for their efforts (Editor’s note: Tim Donaghy, we’ll be sending you that yearly fruit basket shortly).
  • Their family had one serious cash cow–booze. The Maloofs have exclusive distribution rights over Corona, Coors, Guinness, Heineken, and other brews. They sold those rights in 2010 for a boatload of cash. In the middle of a recession. Come on.
  • The other ventures started by the brothers (a music company, a skateboarding contest series, a film production company) haven”t turn too much of a profit.
  • Clay Bennett was very good at a whole bunch of financial ventures. He is the Chairman of the Dorchest Capital Corporation, a hedge fund giant, and has brought in plenty of jobs and money to Oklahoma City. He made his own empire (though his in-laws are wealthy and used to have a stake in the Texas Rangers).
2. The Maloofs purchased the team with no intention to move
  • When Clay Bennett and his ownership group bought the Sonics they said all the right things about wanting to stay in Seattle. At the time they had a recently renovated Key Arena and a fan base supporting a poor on the court product. Then came talk that the team would not be profitable unless it had a brand new arena, one that needed to be financed by Seattle tax payers. The original overtures of wanting to keep the Sonics in Seattle shifted quickly, and less than five years later those hideous blue jerseys were seen for the first time in OKC. 
  • The Maloofs intended to build a champion off the bat. They purchased top notch players, drafted decently, hired solid coaches, and were legitimate contenders in the West. Their stadium (then ARCO Arena) was reviled by opposing players for its noise and intensity. They certainly were screwed on their timeline as they had to get by Shaq, Kobe, Timmy (and later, the Mavs) to get anywhere in the playoffs. Once the Maloofs got bored with their toy basketball team, it became time to start stripping it for parts and angling for profits from the c

Why the NBA NEEDS Seattle

I grew up with two NBA franchises in Los Angeles. One program brought me continuous joy and excitement while the other brought me nothing. The Lakers have won 7 World Championships since I was born. I have seen the Showtime era (don’t remember it, I was too fresh), the Shaq-Kobe era, and the just Kobe era. All of which were fun to watch and follow throughout the years in LA.
Championships and deep playoff runs aside, I have only been to three Lakers games my entire life. I believe myself to be a huge fan of the team but I do admit that attending a Lakers “event” at the Staples Center is not your typical sports experience. For one thing, it is absurdly expensive to see the purple and gold play. Nosebleed tickets average about $100 and for all that money you are barely able to make out the grease in Pau’s hair. That’s not to say that the games are not a blast to attend. The celebrities show up late (along with everyone else sitting in the lower bowl) and leave shortly after the game is decided (regardless of time remaining on the clock). The Staples Center regulars are what I consider the quintessential LA sports fan stereotype. There for the scene, happy to lend a hand to the team when its trendy, but more or less there to be entertained and not part of sportsnation.
When the Lakers won the title in 2009 I was in LA for the weekend and I headed downtown for the parade. There were over 150,000 Lakers fans there along the parade route. Judging by the fans in attendance, they were not the folks dropping $2,500 a game for courtside seats. These folks were “la gente”, or the people who really make up Lakersnation. Ask any of the folks along the route and they could tell you they had been to a handful of games in their LIFETIME and yet they were lifelong fans. I don’t think you could say that of any other successful franchise in the country. Dodgers and Kings fans have different connections to their teams than Lakers fans as they can interact and view games in person for a much more affordable rate than those trying to see Kobe live at Staples.
I have never thought this dichotomy of support and the ability to express it in person to be much of an issue. In fact, I have assumed (correctly) that for Jerry Buss to spend so much money on payroll year in and year out, he needs to charge ungodly amounts for tickets. It’s a formula that has been successful and I don’t propose changing it in the least. However, I was exposed to an entirely different type of fanbase when I moved to Seattle; the type of fanbase that the NBA needs if it is going to continue to maintain so many teams nationwide.

I went to school in Washington state (go Loggers!) and ended up living there for five wonderful years. While I lived there I had the chance to enjoy an entirely different type of NBA franchise. The Seattle Supersonics had just drafted Kevin Durant my first year of college and were in the midst of what seemed like a fairly simple sale to a man from Oklahoma. Through my time in college I witnessed the purchase of the Sonics, the attempts to secure a new stadium, and ultimately the move to Oklahoma. When all was said and done I had learned a lot about Seattle and how it is an underdog of a sports city with a pulse and passion rivaled in few other American cities.
Trips to see the Sonics play happened quite regularly with my buddies. We scoured the schedule as it came out each year and circled the games we wanted to attend. Tickets were incredibly affordable at Key Arena (averaging between $15 and $45). Since our school was about 30 minutes from the arena, each game began with a six-pack race. Whoever pulled the small s