Storyline: Seattle Team?

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Of course who knows how COVID-19 will change that timeline. Calabro called coronavirus the “huge x-factor” in this equation. And he’s right. We don’t know what the financial landscape in professional sports will be like one year from now, let alone five. The collective hope is that this will end up being a minor bump in the road. That’s exactly what Calabro envisions. “Having calculated the x-factor, I still think within five years, yes, we’ll see NBA basketball in Seattle,” Calabro said.

Kevin Garnett wants to buy the SuperSonics

But there was also a surprise: Garnett revealed a deep affinity for Seattle, to the point where he said he’d like to see the NBA return to that city — and said he would bring a team there if he could. “If I have a dream, I would say that I would love to be able to go and buy the Seattle SuperSonics and reactivate the Pacific Northwest,” Garnett said. “Seattle was huge to our league. I would love to be able to do that. That’s what’s up. If there’s one thing I could do tomorrow, it would be that.” These days, it’s not that uncommon for Garnett to be thinking big.

Will an NBA team call Seattle home within the next five years? “I sure hope so. If there’s one thing that I could wish for our league structurally, I think it would be to get a team back to Seattle,” Warriors president Rick Welts told NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh on the “Habershow” podcast. “It’s obviously a really personal issue for me. I know what that team meant to that city — bringing the first professional championship to Seattle. It’s an amazing market. A lot of the future of the world is being envisioned there. It’s got a vibrant community that would really support an NBA team coming back.”

He, more than anybody, knows the NBA belongs in Seattle. “But the path is problematic,” he said. “The good news is the NBA’s business is really successful right now, and that means we have 30 teams operating without anyone feeling like they’re in a market where they can’t support NBA basketball. And the owners — I would say probably to their credit — have shown no interest. And the league hasn’t really promoted any expansion agenda. So how do you get a team there?”

Isaiah describes the Tacoma basketball scene as “gritty” and “competitive,” and it is. Still, the Sonics’ departure in 2008 left an unmistakable hole in the culture. “It hurt the city in a big way, just because the Sonics were a big part of the community,” he laments. “Basketball was a big part of what was going on in the Tacoma-Seattle area. I think it hit big, and then now it’s just, like, forgotten. Not for the most part, but it’s just the norm that we don’t have a team.”

Chris Hansen’s bid for a new NBA arena in Seattle continued recently, after he bought up a pair of properties in the city’s SoDo neighborhood. His real estate adviser told the Puget Sound Business Journal that the entrepreneur has not given up on hopes of building an arena for a men’s pro basketball team. According to property records, Hansen bought two parcels of land in SoDo for almost $5 million. Any potential arena would still require Seattle’s City Council to sell him part of Occidental Avenue.

You can see it, if you’ll pay the $21.95 it costs to visit MOHAI, Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. Amid exhibits there about Seattle’s founding — and a surprisingly upbeat mostly-musical look at the great fire of 1889 — there’s a display case featuring the Sonics’ 1979 NBA championship trophy. It’s notable that the hardware stayed here, reflective of the division between the Sonics and the Thunder, a line that rarely blurs. In 2014, when NBA uniforms featured gold neck patches denoting past championships, the Thunder declined to wear one. The Sonics had won a title. The Oklahoma City franchise was — and still is — seeking its first.

In October, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on the Stephen A. Smith Show that while Seattle “was a great destination and there’s some storied teams that played there, we’re just not in expansion mode at the moment.” But come here and you will find that no matter the city’s feelings about the team that left, it loves the game that was left behind. “Seattle’s been synonymous with basketball for a long time,” Phillips says. “I know the city really wants basketball. It’s really big here. It just needs to make its way back.”

Chris Hansen and Wally Walker stressed that having an alternative arena option, or an “insurance policy for the city” as it was termed in the letter to Durkan, gives Seattle the best chance to sway the NBA to grant the city a new franchise. “We just want a team back in Seattle,” Hansen said. “If there’s a team playing at KeyArena, I will have my courtside tickets or third row tickets or whatever I have, and I’ll be the first one in line to buy them, and I’ll be here in my Sonic jersey cheering on the team.”

“I think there’s certain people that are spreading that in the local market,” Hansen said about the idea that the NBA has a problem with him. “I would just position this slightly differently. From the best of my knowledge, the NBA has absolutely no issue with us and I think (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver has said so publicly. So I would just take his comments at face value. Wally and I certainly have interactions with other NBA owners that we know fairly well, and I just don’t think there’s any evidence of that.

Splash one arena deal. Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams and Councilwomen Laura Pastor and Debra Stark have asked for a postponement of this afternoon’s City Council vote on whether to spend $150 million upgrading the Suns arena. This, because the deal will go down in defeat if it’s put to a vote. Whether they get a continuance or not could mark the beginning of a showdown between the city and Suns owner Robert Sarver, who is telling some council members that he will take the team to Seattle or Las Vegas.

The Phoenix City Council is expected to delay a vote on a $230 million Talking Stick Resort Arena renovation following backlash from the community. The council was slated to vote on the deal, which could keep the Phoenix Suns in downtown until 2042, Wednesday afternoon. But the council will now likely vote to delay the final vote until Jan. 23, allowing Mayor Thelda Williams to host two additional community meetings to solicit feedback before the council decision, according to city sources. The Suns have been asking the city for a new or significantly updated arena for years, but have been unable to get the council to publicly consider a deal until now.
1 year ago via ESPN

Golden State Warriors superstar Kevin Durant says he would like to own an NBA team when his playing career is finished, and he admits it would be a ‘great story’ if the team he ran brought the NBA back to Seattle. “Hell yeah,” Durant told ESPN following Wednesday night’s 129-105 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. “Of course I would. No matter if it’s Seattle or any team, just to help young men grow. Or help men in the next phase of their lives as basketball players. Why not? Especially somebody who’s gone through it and been through just about everything as an NBA player, outside of getting traded, I’ve been through pretty much everything. I would love to give back to an organization, the knowledge that I’ve gained. So hell yeah I’d be interested.”
1 year ago via ESPN

“It’s just the fact that I played there and I get so much love there,” Durant said. “More than any city in the league probably. Look, it would be a great story. But it would be a lot of hard work, it won’t be easy because it’s Seattle. After the press release and the first couple of weeks it’s straight to work. I know people want to tie me into Seattle a lot, and I love being part of that, but I’m not just waiting for that opportunity. Any opportunity that comes around where I could become [part of] an ownership group or a front office or anywhere I could just help the team as of right now in my life I would go for it, but who knows what will happen at the end of my career?”

After talking to multiple sources around the NBA about Seattle, there is no plan for NBA expansion on the table. The NBA’s owners are not even considering it. Nobody expects them to take up expansion the near future — meaning five or seven years — either. Maybe, at best, it could be part of the next television package discussions in 2025, but the market will be so different by then nobody is making predictions.

An NBA source said Tuesday the league has no interest at all in the Blazers relocating to Seattle, shooting down one of the early rumors that surfaced after Allen died Monday of non-Hodgkins lymphoma at age 65. The Blazers’ lease with the City of Portland at the Moda Center runs through at least 2025, the team is making money — unlike struggling franchises in Memphis and New Orleans — and the league also is uninterested in repairing its image in Seattle by hurting another Northwest city.

So don’t call this a referendum, or a test. What transpired at KeyArena on Friday — 48 minutes of frenzy and deep-seated nostalgia, the release of pent-up NBA frustration during a supremely meaningless exhibition game between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings — was more like a reminder. Or a wake-up call. “There’s an awakening, so to speak, but people here have been fans for a long time,’’ said Lenny Wilkens. “They just haven’t had a place to channel it.”
2 years ago via ESPN

However, Grizzlies owner Robert Pera would have to sell the team in order to move it under the terms of the lease, and Pera has given no indication he plans to do so. Quite the opposite, actually. Earlier this year, Pera agreed to buy out some of his minority owners at a price that valued the team at nearly $1.3 billion, league sources said. At the time, Pera told season-ticket holders in a statement that “I am committed to Memphis as an NBA market and as the home of the Grizzlies.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Oak View is planning an ambitious engineering feat, which Leiweke is quick to point out is not a renovation but a new structure. The issue is that the arena’s iconic roof has been designated a national historic landmark and can’t be altered. The arena is also built into the side of a hill in a neighborhood that has turned more residential in the past decade with more than 40 former parking and vacant lots turned into housing as it sits near Amazon’s world headquarters. So to expand the outdated arena, Oak View is planning to dig down and around the roof and several exterior glass walls to gut and expand the building’s footprint. First pegged as a $600 million project, Leiweke told ESPN the price tag is now projected at $750 million.

He was a kid at the time, all of 19 years old, about to conclude his first NBA season. He stood on the court in green and gold, waving his arms up and down, asking for more noise from the home crowd begging for another chance to see the home team play. That was more than 10 years ago. Kevin Durant was that kid. The Seattle SuperSonics were his team. “Just that culture of the Sonics was really, really deep and so many people all around the world or all around the country enjoyed the Sonics,” Durant said recently. “It was pretty crazy, man, now that I think about it the time we spent there, the little time we spent there and how much we could have impacted the city if we stayed.”

He fell in love with Seattle, only to see it ripped away after less than a year. “I was anticipating the move obviously but it happened so quickly. That’s the nature of the business,” Durant said. “It was devastating for the fans and I was still getting used to the city as well. I was kind of confused emotionally on how to think about that but as time went on and you see the excitement for Thunder basketball in Oklahoma City, you tend to wonder. It was me and Nick (Collison) and Jeff (Green) at the time. Once we started having some success, we were the only guys that played on the Seattle team. We were just thinking about how crazy it would have been being in the playoffs, going to the finals in Seattle. It was still great in Oklahoma City as well.”

“Somehow, by 2002, when Schultz had increased his rhetoric about public funding for a re-do of the stadium, people were wondering: How can this be state of the art and five years later be obsolete?” Thiel said. “They’re coming back for a second helping in a decade.” Key Arena’s main problem is its size. The 1995 renovation bumped its capacity from around 14,000 to just over 17,000, the smallest in the league at that time. Even worse, its footprint is significantly smaller than average NBA buildings. That cramps the loading and management of events and severely limits the number of restaurants and accompanying entertainments options you can add to the game-night experience, reducing the revenue ceiling.

Local radio personalities complained. The interview opportunities they got in the past with players and coaches had been stripped away, leading to less positive, basketball-related Sonics talk. “In hindsight, it turned out to be another way to make a point when litigation commenced that the fan base had lost interest in the Sonics, so why keep a wounded team where people didn’t want it?” Thiel said. “So a small thing they could do, like keeping their players unavailable for interviews, would be another way to help the alienation along.”

Cool, Durant thought. He’d gone from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia as a high school junior to Montrose Christian near Washington, D.C. as a senior to Texas for his freshman year of college to Seattle for his rookie year in the NBA. This would be his fifth different city in five years. “I was excited going to Oklahoma City because it was close to Texas,” Durant said. “I’m like, I’m down to move because I’ve done bounced around so many places anyway, so why not?” A decade older, that news hits him a bit differently today. “Thinking back on it, you start to realize what that means to fans,” Durant said. “You see the Chargers move and the Raiders thinking about moving, even us moving right across the bridge, you realize how much a franchise means to a community. Now that I got older, I understand what fans went through.”

The Seattle City Council put an end to a debate spanning more than a decade by approving a $700 million makeover of the KeyArena. It is part of what will – likely – be a more than $1.4 billion private investment in the city where an NHL team can call home. The vote was unanimous. … Bonderman, a minority owner of the NBA’s Boston Celtics, has also not ruled out spending more to bring the Sonics back. His group is also pitching in millions more for transportation, YouthCare, and affordable housing.

Some around the league see expansion as inevitable, no matter how many times Silver says there are no looming plans for adding teams, since the expansion fee involved would almost certainly cross the $1 billion threshold given current franchise values and the way league revenue, TV ratings and various other metrics tied to general interest in the N.B.A. all continue to trend upward. But maintaining a 30-team league and moving a struggling franchise to Seattle within the next decade might prove to be the easier course.

The Clippers are a vanity project under Steve Ballmer as they were under Donald Sterling. They don’t belong to a fan base as much as an owner. You know what fans expect. What owners want, or are capable of, varies. Only Donald would have brought the Clippers here from San Diego to show he wouldn’t fail on the same level if they were closer to home. With less competitive, more hospitable sites like Seattle yearning for teams, only Ballmer may keep them here to show they’re worth that $2 billion he paid.
2 years ago via ESPN

The ownership group that applied to bring the NHL to Seattle is optimistic as it begins a season-ticket drive Thursday. It is also leaving the door open for another feat: bringing an NBA franchise back to the city. “The answer is absolutely,” investment banker David Bonderman told ESPN. “If there is a franchise to be had from the NBA, we want to be up there fighting for it for Seattle.” Bonderman joins longtime sports executive Tim Leiweke and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer as leads for the Oak View Group, which is hoping to found the NHL’s 32nd team. Earlier this month, the OVG submitted paperwork and a $10 million down payment to the league. The NHL is likely to accept the bid pending the results of the season-ticket drive.

Durant on the Seattle SuperSonics’ relocation to Oklahoma City in 2008 – “I’m going to be real. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but I could get where the fans were coming from. It was tough. I loved being in Seattle. The love there was amazing, and to play in front of those fans, it would have been cool to grow up there as a player. But that was out of my hands. I had no control over that. But I get the business side, and that’s the bad part of this. You’re taking a great team, a great culture away from a city like Seattle. I can’t wait until another team goes back.”

The NHL confirmed what had been rumored for months at its Board of Governors meeting — Seattle is a definite target for hockey, which has 31 teams and needs a 32nd to balance out both its conferences and its schedules. The NHL will allow members of the Oak View Group, which successfully lobbied the Seattle City Council to approve its plan to spend $660 million to renovate both the Arena and the nearby Seattle Center, to begin a season ticket drive for the potential expansion team. Hockey’s timetable for expansion is thus clearly and substantially ahead of the NBA’s.

Though NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this year that he believes expansion is “inevitable,” there is no indication among league owners and other sources that there’s any current appetite among NBA owners to add one or two new teams. The obvious reason why is there is no appetite among them to further split the $24 billion from the new national TV deal, which runs through 2024. (As ever, in the interests of full disclosure: Turner Sports, one of the NBA’s national television partners along with ESPN/ABC, runs NBA.com.) “I don’t see expansion,” one owner said this weekend. “A move is the only way.”

However, longtime Seattle sport columnist Art Thiel wrote last week that a source “with knowledge of the league’s long-range thinking” believes the NBA could expand when the current TV deal expires, meaning 2025 at the absolute earliest. Several owners told me a few weeks ago: that while there is strong support for Seattle, there’s just no desire to expand. Thiel’s source said that Seattle and Mexico City were the two current favorites among owners, and the league has done nothing to dissuade the idea that it’s zeroed in on Mexico City as a potential expansion target.

But another said Sunday that talk of adding anyone to the current 30-team mix is premature. Owners remain unenthusiastic when there are still several teams who are losing money in their current markets, even with significant increases in revenues, a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that ensures labor peace through at least 2023 (2024 if neither the players nor owners opt out) and enhanced revenue sharing. “We haven’t discussed expansion,” the owner said. “However, Seattle is a market that I believe the majority of owners would want to be in.”

Seattle wants the Sonics back. And the chances of that happening have never been higher. Last summer, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told The Players Tribune that Seattle would be on the short list for an expansion franchise. “I don’t want to put a precise timeline on it,” Silver said. “But it’s inevitable at some point we’ll start looking at growth of franchises. That’s always been the case in this league, and Seattle will no doubt be on a short list of cities we’ll look at.”

Relocation is possible, too. The Grizzlies are owned by a Silicon Valley billionaire who is bleeding money in Memphis. The Pelicans routinely rank in the bottom third of the NBA in attendance and are — at best — a fringe playoff contender. While former NBA commissioner David Stern was often stubbornly opposed to relocation, several high-ranking team officials told Yahoo Sports they believe Silver will take a more pragmatic approach. “I think Adam wants the NBA to be in the best, most viable markets,” said one high-ranking team executive familiar with the league’s thinking. “He’s not looking to move anybody. But David was totally against [relocation]. Adam, I don’t think, is quite as rigid.”

All of it adds up to the kind of uncertainty — on the court and off — that can be difficult for a franchise to overcome, especially one in a smaller market like Memphis. Seattle has been getting more aggressive in trying to address its arena situation to get a team to return to the city vacated when the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City. But the Grizzlies lease at the FedEx Forum has strong protections through 2021 and the Commercial-Appeal reported that the subset of local owners in the group would be given the chance to buy the team if Pera, or any other owner, were to try to move the Grizzlies before 2027.

In an exclusive hour-long interview with Q13 News’ Bill Wixey, the 60-year-old with a decades-long history in sports said a few things that might make Seattle fans cringe. There’s no magic fix to Key Arena gridlock. A new arena won’t automatically bring back the Sonics, especially in the next three years. Still, Leiweke adamantly believes a rebuilt Key Arena is the best way to get one – if not two – professional sports teams to Seattle. He also believes his Seattle ties, his friendship with Adam Silver, and his vast experience in sports entertainment are Seattle’s best shot at seeing professional basketball again.

There have been questions raised about whether OVG, as a third-party vendor, could attract NBA and NHL teams and make it financially viable for the franchise owners. Leiweke said those doubts should be eliminated with Bonderman’s participation and that the argument is “100 percent not true.” Noble said his office had done its due diligence and “at this stage, we are satisfied” that it will not be a problem. As far as the leagues are concerned, NBA Spokesman Mike Bass said: “The NBA is not involved in the ongoing Seattle arena process, and we have no plans to expand at this time.”

A second owner said Seattle “ is a great market, especially for the NBA,” but echoed Silver’s sentiments. “I agree with you there are some markets that would be great addition to the NBA but in terms of expansion, I think we need 30 solid teams first,” the second owner said. “If there are teams that are repeatedly losing money every year even after revenue sharing, we must consider moving existing teams to those markets first. Then, once all teams are healthy and making a profit, we can perhaps discuss expansion — but not until then.”

Silver was reluctant to put a specific timeline on potential expansion for the NBA or Seattle, but said it was inevitable. Via The Players’ Tribune: I think it’s just a question of when the right time is to seriously start thinking about expansion. Think about the state we’re in the league right now where [it is] amazing to me that, coming off of these Finals, you have some fans saying, “There’s only one good team in the league” And I’m thinking, well, if people really believe that even though we have 450 of the best players in the world, and 450 players can only form one really good team, probably doesn’t make sense to expand in terms of dilution of talent. Now I don’t really believe that, and I think these things correct themselves. And I don’t want to put a precise timeline on it, but it’s inevitable at some point we’ll start looking at growth of franchises, that’s always been the case in this league, and Seattle will no doubt be on a short list of cities we’ll look at.

Adam Silver: “And I’m thinking, well, if people really believe that even though we have 450 of the best players in the world, and 450 players can only form one really good team, probably doesn’t make sense to expand in terms of dilution of talent. Now I don’t really believe that, and I think these things correct themselves. And I don’t want to put a precise timeline on it, but it’s inevitable at some point we’ll start looking at growth of franchises, that’s always been the case in this league, and Seattle will no doubt be on a short list of cities we’ll look at.”

Addressing the parallels between Seattle and Sacramento in their battles to keep an NBA team in place, Stern said the difference boiled down to city leadership. (You can listen to this segment at the 1:11 mark of the podcast.) “Mayor Kevin Johnson was out there doing whatever had to be done,” Stern said. “In Seattle, the speaker of the Seattle house said our players should take a cut in pay and put the money into a fund to help build the building. That’s nothing we had to work with. I did the same things in Seattle that I did in Sacramento, but there was a leader in Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, who was intent on keeping that team.”

The music world was stunned when news broke early Thursday that Chris Cornell, the singer for Soundgarden, Audioslave as well as the owner of a solid solo career, had died after performing in Detroit Wednesday night. Here’s a video from a concert in 2011 in which he appears to spot a fan in a Seattle Supersonics jersey and goes off on the team being taken away from the city and moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. We said it above, but, again: WARNING: Lots of NSFW language ahead.

More than five years into efforts to get a new arena built in Seattle, Chris Hansen remains confident that his goal of being the facilitator for getting the NBA and NHL to Seattle will ultimately be realized. Even if that means dipping even deeper into his pocket to offer up a privately financed facility. “We view that as a civic obligation to protect that and ensure that we do our part in bringing a team back,” Hansen said. “It was with that mindset, we’re not a for-profit enterprise that is attempting to generate a certain level of return on capital as we look at this project to justify it. We’re like, ‘What can we do just to make this work for the city and hopefully if we do that part, in the really long term it will work out for us.’ ”

Investor Chris Hansen stressed patience and optimism Thursday in his ongoing effort to build an arena to house a possible NBA or NHL franchise in Seattle’s stadium district. Hansen’s interview with The Associated Press represented his first public comments in nearly two years about the efforts. Hansen acknowledged his investment group was surprised by the City Council’s decision last May to deny a proposed street closure that would have moved the project forward with some public investment.

There are other questions, too. Can a building that’s more than 200,000 square feet smaller than the smallest arena in the NBA be renovated to meet modern standards? If the NBA does eventually expand, is there an ownership group that would bring a team to KeyArena? And given that nobody knows if or when the KeyArena roof will be declared a historic landmark, can a definitive proposal be written? As of now, the city asks that potential developers present a Plan A and Plan B based on whether the roof will be preserved, but considering that could mean the difference between tearing the building down or not, it’s sort of like writing a song not knowing if it’s going to be for Adele or Eminem. That’s a lot of uncertainty.

Benton Strong, a spokesman for Murray, emphatically denied a widely circulated online basketball website posting Monday that stated Murray had been “ducking” calls from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver over much of the past year. “There is absolutely no truth to that whatsoever,’’ said Strong, who, with Murray, was en route to a mayors’ conference in Washington, D.C. when informed of the post. “If anything, we are trying to get together on a call with both commissioners to keep the lines of communication open.’’

Strong emphatically denied a widely circulated online basketball website posting Monday that stated Murray had been “ducking” calls from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver over much of the past year. “There is absolutely no truth to that whatsoever,’’ said Strong, who, with Murray, was en route to a mayors’ conference in Washington, D.C. when informed of the post. “If anything, we are trying to get together on a call with both commissioners to keep the lines of communication open.’’

The city of Seattle on Wednesday released a new request for proposals (RFP) for the redevelopment of KeyArena in Seattle Center, and the document says tearing down the 55-year-old venue is a possibility. The RFP’s release is the latest news in a long-running conservation over the potential siting of a new arena in Seattle. At the heart of the debate is the possibility of bringing an NBA team back to the city. The Sonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008. The RFP seeks “qualified parties interested in redeveloping and operating KeyArena at Seattle Center as a world-class civic arena presenting music, entertainment, and sports events, including the potential for NBA and NHL events.”

The RFP notes that the MOU doesn’t expire until Dec. 3. It says Seattle remains committed to the terms of the MOU “and is supportive of ArenaCo’s efforts to return NBA basketball and attract NHL hockey to Seattle.” It says, “However, the city must also consider the future of KeyArena, which is a City property that is part of an important city-owned campus, and make contingency plans for its future.” The RFP says the city hopes to negotiate a redevelopment agreement and a long-term lease with the proposer it selects.
More HoopsHype Rumors
May 26, 2020 | 5:47 pm EDT Update
In Cuban’s proposal, the top 10 teams from both conferences would qualify for the postseason and be re-seeded based on record. There would be two play-in matchups — either single games or a best-of-three series — pitting seeds 17 vs. 20 and 18 vs. 19. The winners would advance to play the 15th and 16th seeds for the final spots in the playoff bracket. The playoffs would then proceed with best-of-seven series.
A point Cuban emphasizes is that all but two teams — the exceptions being the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors — would have a mathematical possibility of qualifying for the postseason under his proposal. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks, the teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, are four games behind the 10th-place Charlotte Hornets. “It’s fair. It’s entertaining,” Cuban told ESPN.
May 26, 2020 | 3:25 pm EDT Update
That all changed in 2006. A couple of days before Bryant would score 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, Colangelo invited him to his office in Phoenix. The Lakers were in town to face the Suns, but Colangelo had something else on his mind: He wanted Bryant to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympics. “I knew in advance that he really wanted to be a part of U.S.A. Basketball,” said Colangelo, who had taken over as managing director of the men’s national team after its disastrous third-place finish at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens — a far cry from the standard of excellence set by Michael Jordan and the so-called Dream Team that won gold in 1992. “It was on his list of things that he wanted to accomplish, because he had never played for U.S.A. Basketball. No junior teams or anything like that. So it was important to him, and his commitment was huge.”
“I think Kobe challenged everybody,” said Jim Boeheim, one of the team’s assistants and the head coach of men’s basketball at Syracuse. “He was like, ‘I’m going to defend the toughest guy on every team, I’m going to push everyone, so just come along with me.’ And he did that from Day 1.” For Colangelo, it was a window into greatness. The foundation for all of Bryant’s feats — the 81-point game, the scoring titles, the series-clinching jump shots, the three championships he had already won with the Lakers — was his work ethic and desire. The spectacular was rooted in the mundane, in the monotony of hard labor.
At the Olympics, Bryant helped lead the way in the gold-medal final against Spain — and did it with flair. With just over three minutes remaining in a tight game, Bryant effectively sealed the win with a 4-point play. He raised an index finger to his lips to silence the Spanish fans in the crowd. A few minutes later, as the Americans celebrated on the court, Colangelo embraced the player he had once dreamed of drafting. The wait, in some ways, was worth it. “How often does someone have an objective, a goal, and have it perfectly executed?” Colangelo asked. “It was just so special.”
Storyline: USA Basketball
We spoke with Ken Goldin who tells us the previous record for the most expensive MJ game-used threads was $173k for Michael’s 1984 Team USA jersey. The uniform is pretty sick … a size 46 jersey made by Champion, with a black base and red pinstripes. It’s pretty sweet. And, get this … Goldin Auctions also tells TMZ Sports a game-used Lebron James jersey also sold recently … for $371,200!!!
During our conversation, I asked Wilt, “Since we’re in Cleveland, would you mind if I asked you a few questions about the time you almost became a Cavalier?” The 7-foot-1 Chamberlain paused, then let out a huge laugh and said, “You remember that, huh?” Wilt didn’t want to talk specifics, but confirmed the team did indeed want him to come out of retirement and play for it in November 1979. “The Cavs did want me (to return to the NBA), but they weren’t the only ones,” he said. “They weren’t the first team, nor the last, to talk to me (about playing again).” “Bulls, Cavaliers, Nets, Knicks twice, Sixers twice, Mavericks, Suns, Clippers — those are all the teams who tried to get me in the last decade,” Chamberlain said before accepting the Living Legend Award from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association at its annual dinner in 1991.
While his contractual obligations with the Lakers prevented Chamberlain from playing for the Conquistadors in the ABA in 1974, they were no longer a roadblock to him returning to the NBA with the Cavaliers in 1979. Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss said his team would not ask Cleveland for compensation for signing Chamberlain, should it take place. “I think it would be great for the NBA if Wilt were to play and I do not want to put anything in the way of this happening,” Buss told the Associated Press on Nov. 20, 1979. “I would enjoy seeing him play again, so I am sure would thousands of basketball fans.”
“Cavs GM Ron Hrovat, a basketball neophyte, was entrusted with the responsibility of hand-delivering the contract to Chamberlain’s palatial home in Bel Air,” the Hall of Famer wrote. “Nobody was there when Hrovat arrived, so he stuck the contract in the gate. By the time Chamberlain showed up, the papers were strewn around his yard.” Which did not sit well with Wilt. “Chamberlain immediately got Albeck on the phone,” Vecsey wrote. “‘Forget it, Little Man,’ he said, using his endearing nickname for Albeck. “I can’t play for a team that handles its business like that.” Albeck lamented how the Cavaliers’ pursuit of Chamberlain concluded. “He was this close to coming back,” he told Vecsey, holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart.
May 26, 2020 | 3:13 pm EDT Update
Based on the final standings within each group, eight teams would advance out of pool play into a bracket meant to mimic the league’s normal postseason structure, sources told ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Several current postseason teams were not initially enthusiastic about that proposal, sources told Lowe. A slump in group play could result in what is currently a solid playoff team — even one slated for home-court advantage in the first round of a normal postseason — failing to advance into the eight-team tournament, while a present-day lottery team might get hot and make the final eight.
Storyline: Season Resuming?
Nets center Jarrett Allen returned to the team’s recently reopened practice facility in Brooklyn on Tuesday wearing a face mask. The team opened its facility for voluntary workouts followingGov. Andrew Cuomo’s Sunday announcement that said New York sports teams can hold in-state training camps. “I believe sports that can come back without people in the stadium, without having people in the arena, do it. Do it,” Cuomo said. “Work out the economics if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports to the extent people are still staying home. It gives people something to do.”
ESPN’s recently aired documentary series “The Last Dance,” chronicling Michael Jordan’s final championship season with the Chicago Bulls, rekindled interest in Jordan’s long-running feud with Isiah Thomas, including how the Pistons’ star was left off the 1992 Dream Team that won Olympic gold in Barcelona. Author Jack McCallum addressed the controversy in the most recent episode of his “The Dream Team Tapes” podcast series. McCallum said Jordan brought up the issue of Thomas himself in a 2011 interview. “When they called me and asked me to play — Rod Thorn called me. I said ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ He assured me. He said, ‘Chuck doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team,’” Jordan said on the recording that McCallum played during the podcast.
May 26, 2020 | 12:13 pm EDT Update
During the years of basketball supplier talks, during which Spalding for a time was for sale, the NBA even considered buying a stake in the company. “Anything and everything was on the table. We talked about all of those things. Joint ventures, different models. Throughout the span of the last few years, we just couldn’t agree on what they looked like,” LaRocca said. There’s no bad blood, he added. “We had been exploring all of those and exploring different ways our partnership could be structured, to help grow sports,” LaRocca said. “It was never any animosity. We just had a difference of opinion.”
Wilson also will supply balls for the WNBA, NBA G League, NBA 2K League and Basketball Africa League. The NBA and Wilson haven’t disclosed the terms of the deal other than to say it’s multiyear, but it’s believed to be 10 years. The NBA’s relationship with Wilson isn’t a new one. The company provided NBA game balls from 1946, when the NBA launched as the Basketball Association of America, until Spalding took over the contract in 1983. “We didn’t spend a lot of time having to get to know them or know what they’ve done throughout the course of this history and brand,” LaRocca said.
ShotTracker and other companies are trying to land an eventual deal to have the NBA and NCAA and other leagues use their motion-tracking technology in balls and to put such sensors on players. The goal is to create customized next-gen metrics for coaching, players, medical staff, media, fans and gamblers. “Over the last several years we have worked with both Wilson and Spalding chipped balls. Wilson makes an incredible and imperceptible chipped basketball. At this time, I don’t know how this switch impacts the process for the NBA,” Ross said via email.
Storyline: Official Ball
May 26, 2020 | 11:59 am EDT Update
Groups could then be randomly drawn, with one team from each tier going into each group. The NBA is working on approaches to fairly balance the groupings, such as limiting each group to only three Western Conference teams, according to multiple front office sources. Drawings for the group stage could be televised, league sources say. The NBA draft lottery has yielded between 2.4 million and 4.4 million viewers the past 10 years on ESPN; a live drawing of the groups, even with Silver and a representative from every team broadcasting from their own homes, would do major numbers. Here’s one draw of the groups based on a random number generator:
One concern raised by team executives is the possibility of a “group of death”—a term used by soccer fans to describe groups that are far stronger than others, making it unfair for the top contenders. For example, if groups are randomly drawn, there is an unlikely-but-possible scenario that the Bucks could end up in a group with the Celtics, Rockets, Mavericks, and Pelicans—arguably the four best teams in Tiers 2 through 5. As an alternative to having groups randomly selected, multiple league sources say the league has considered allowing Tier 1 teams—the Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers—to draft their own groups. Now that would make for some drama during a selection show.
But Eastern Conference teams have already pushed back at the league for the group stage suggestion, according to league sources. The East is weaker than the West, and teams wouldn’t want to give up leverage in future discussions to reseed the postseason or remove conferences entirely. It’s a fair point, but conferences aren’t going away any time soon due to challenges and concerns with coast-to-coast travel, even under normal circumstances. In my opinion, the groups are balanced almost every single way you distribute teams from each tier. All teams in Tier 2 and 3 are relatively even, and with the exception of the Mavericks, the same can be said for Tiers 4 and 5. Any minor kinks could be ironed out if the league and the NBPA agree to fully explore this scenario.
Storyline: Season Resuming?
It’s unclear how these games would count toward existing contracts with regional sports networks (RSN) and national television stations (ESPN, TNT, and ABC). NBA teams have deals with RSNs for regular-season games; once teams hit roughly 70 games aired on their RSN, the league retains 100 percent of the revenue from those contracts. The NBA also has national deals to air a decided number of games on each network. So it’s unknown how group stage games would financially fulfill either of those contracts. But conversations with sources on both the league side and television side believe an agreement can easily be reached because of the potentially massive ratings that could follow. Group-stage games could realistically air “side by side” on both a team’s regional sports network and on national television, just like most first-round games already do.
May 26, 2020 | 11:46 am EDT Update

Damian Lillard to sit if Blazers don't have shot at playoffs

If the NBA resumes the 2019-20 season by electing to play a handful of games with all teams just to reach 70 games to fulfill regional television deals, Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard knows his next move. “If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team. But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday morning via phone.
This rumor is part of a storyline: 254 more rumors
“If we come back and I don’t have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I’ll be at practice and I’ll be with my team. I’m going to do all that [expletive] and then I’m going to be sitting right on that bench during the games,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “If they come back and say it’s something like a tournament, play-in style, between the No. 7 and No. 12 seeds, if we’re playing for playoff spots, then I think that’s perfect.”
A potential Los Angeles Lakers-Trail Blazers matchup likely would be the most anticipated series of the first round. “I just feel like that would be the matchup people want to see,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports. “And not to say nobody wants to see Memphis, because they’re in the eighth and they’ve been in the eighth spot for a while. They’ve earned that. You can’t take anything away from Memphis. They play hard, they’re exciting and they’ve got a lot of young talent. The Lakers would have their hands full playing against them. Memphis beat the Lakers this year. Memphis would have nothing to lose. I feel like both series could be a little bit hectic for the Lakers, but I think more so us, because of the experience and where we are in our careers. Not too long ago, we played them in L.A. and obviously I had a great game and we won a close one, and in the playoffs, I’m sure they would come up with some type of game plan to not allow that to happen. But I want to compete. That’s what we want.”
May 26, 2020 | 10:53 am EDT Update
Mixed into the congratulatory comments — “nice kill brother” and “glad to see some hunting content back on your page” — are people calling him “cruel,” “disgusting” and telling him to “shoot baskets not animals.” “I don’t really pay that no attention,” Hill says. “Most people that always have something against hunting are the same ones that go out to a restaurant to eat a steak or order a burger. So I always say, if you really see all those animals [get] to your plate, you’d probably think differently about hunters. “If you’re hunting just to kill s—, you have a problem.”
Hill, 34 and envisioning life after basketball, is pouring his time away from the court into learning more about animal care, overseeing projects — expanding a lake and building a “barndominium” are currently underway — and watching over his vast, 850-acre ranch and its exotic residents. In August 2017, he purchased the massive plot of land here in Texas Hill Country, a 35-minute drive north of his family’s offseason home in San Antonio. Over time, the property has been bulldozed, sculpted and preened into a sprawling ranch.
Hill says he purchases his animals from Texas-based licensed specialty breeders. According to Lonesome Bull Ranch — an exotic wildlife breeder in Corpus Christi — zebras run anywhere from $3,950 to $5,750. The most expensive animals on Hill’s property are the female sable antelope and kudu, which cost $20,000 to $25,000 apiece. He only keeps herbivores that can nibble on the grass, roots and shrubs. Just a few have names. A baby zebra born last summer is named Suki after the Bucks’ strength and conditioning coach, Suki Hobson, who visited the ranch days after it was born. Zayden named one of the kangaroos “Hoppy.”
In Texas, owning exotic animals such as zebras and kangaroos is legal. Texas residents, according to the state health and safety codes, need a permit for “dangerous wild animals,” such as lions, tigers, cougars, leopards and cheetahs, among others. The Texas Animal Health Commission, in an email to ESPN, explained that there are only regulations for moving zebras into Texas from another state, requiring the zebras to have a certificate of veterinary inspection and a permit.
Nic credits everything his dad taught him for his ability to navigate his first NBA season, which was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nic agreed that with his father’s experiences to learn from, he has approached his career in the NBA differently than he might have otherwise. “He just told me, ‘It’s just a business and you need to be ready for whatever,’ ” Nic said. “People aren’t going to just hand you anything, that’s just life, sports, basketball.”
May 26, 2020 | 8:26 am EDT Update
In team-by-team virtual calls with players this week, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said the “overwhelming” sentiment has been that “they really want to play” and resume the 2019-20 NBA season, most likely in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida. “It’s time. It’s time,” Roberts told ESPN. “It’s been two and a half months of, ‘What if?’ My players need some level of certainty. I think everybody does.”
Storyline: Season Resuming?