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.
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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.”
Chris Hansen: “We’re not building the arena (in SODO) unless we have a team. If we have a team, it did not work at KeyArena for one reason or another. It’s not like we’re gonna build this building and then say, ‘OK, now we’re gonna go bid against them for an NBA team.’ That’s not what’s gonna happen.”
“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.
Chris Hansen and his investment team are taking another shot at getting the city of Seattle to approve measures that could one day lead to a new arena being built in the city’s SoDo neighborhood to woo back the Seattle Supersonics. Hansen sent a letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council asking once again for the city to approve the vacation of a portion of Occidental Avenue inside the proposed arena’s footprint.
Hansen said he has addressed concerns in the deal since their original proposal was rejected in 2016, including: promising no area will be built unless Seattle officially has an NBA team in hand, the arena is now 100 percent privately funded with no taxpayer dollars used, and $1.3 million for improved freight mobility in conjunction with the recently approved Lander Street Overpass.
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.
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.”
“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.
Durant wore a retro Shawn Kemp jersey as his name was called during pregame announcements, much to the delight of the sold-out crowd at KeyArena. Durant also took the microphone before tipoff to relay a message to the fans. “First off, I want to get a shout out to the Seattle Storm for holding it down and winning a championship,” Durant said. “On behalf of myself, the NBA, our organization, my teammates we want to thank you guys for coming out and supporting us. I know it’s been a rough 10 years. NBA is back in Seattle for tonight. Hopefully it’s back forever soon.”
And Durant came out of halftime early and took what seemed like a thousands selfies on the court with old friends and fans. “Every NBA player at this point knows that Seattle needs a basketball team,” Durant said earlier. He added: “I can’t wait to see another team come here and call this city their home.”
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.”
The NBA doesn’t have expansion anywhere on its timeline, and Seattle’s arena developments weren’t discussed for a moment at the fall board of governors meeting two weeks ago, league sources said. Some prospective ownership groups that have met with NBA officials have been told expansion may not happen until 2025 at the earliest, when a new TV deal can be negotiated, sources said.
Other than expansion, the wild card for Seattle would be for a current NBA team to relocate. Several prospective ownership groups are watching the Memphis Grizzlies. The city of Memphis has some protections built into the Grizzlies’ long-term lease with FedEx Forum, however lawyers who have reviewed the lease believe there is a possible window for the team to leave in 2021, multiple league sources said.
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.”
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.”
“That drive across the bridge was always beautiful,” Durant said. “It was rainy a lot, but you could see the water. Then in the springtime, you could see the mountains. Everyone else (on the team) lived downtown. I lived in a good community, I had a house, I was settling down there … I regret buying that house. It was too early.”
“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.
For those following closely, you could sniff out the impending sale. But many were blindsided. “The sale wasn’t on our radar, at least for me or the other players,” Collison said. “I remember I was at a basketball camp in Olympia and some kid came up crying and was like: ‘The team’s moving to Oklahoma?!’ I’m like: ‘What? I didn’t even know what’s going on.’”
There was a media problem, too. Reporters felt access to the players, particularly Durant, the most marketable aspect of the franchise, was being limited. Many theorized that it was intentional, a ploy to quell excitement and slip out of town as unopposed as possible. “Very little interaction with beat reporters or their own TV guys,” Calabro said. “Kevin was always kept at arms length.”
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.”
On Oct. 5, Durant and the Warriors will head to Seattle to face the Kings in a preseason game at Key Arena. “The Sonics to me were a lot like the Warriors here in the Bay — really cool brand, good history and tradition, great colors and an unbelievable fan fase,” Steve Kerr said after practice on Tuesday. “I played there in the Finals in ’96 with the Bulls. It’s a basketball town.”
Steve Kerr: “It’s a real shame — just the fact that the Sonics don’t exist … I think it was a real black mark on the NBA. And I’m hoping that the Sonics will be back at some point in the near future.”
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.
Monte Poole: ‘It was very devastating, how we up and left in the middle of the night.’ -#Warriors F Kevin Durant, reflecting on his season in Seattle before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City. He’s very much looking forward to the Oct. 5 preseason game there.
The city of Seattle is close to finalizing transaction documents for the new privately financed $700 millionArena at Seattle Center, as the future tenant appears to be ready to strengthen their bid to bring an NHL team to the city. On Wednesday, the Oak View Group (OVG) will unveil new local investors for its proposed National Hockey League team.
The Final EIS, as it is called, is required by law, and can be challenged until September 13, 2018. The next day, the Seattle City Council is scheduled to vote on final transaction documents on the 750,000-square-foot redevelopment. OVG says it will be built with the NHL, NBA, and concerts in mind.
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.
Which team do you want? Dwyane Wade: Seattle. I want Seattle’s team, the Sonics, to come back. I think Seattle is a great basketball town. I would love to be a part of that. But I’m open—if you know somebody …
Isaiah Thomas: I was thinking. The @NBA should have one of the summer leagues in Seattle until we get a team back out here...
Chris Mannix: Key graph in that statement is Pera affirms his intention to keep the team in Memphis. Threat of a move to Seattle–which expects to have a refurbished Key Arena by 2020–has generated league-wide chatter.
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.
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.”
Does last week’s Seattle City Council vote to approve renovation of Key Arena, or the NHL’s announcement Thursday that Seattle could apply for an expansion team for an expansion fee of $650 million, do anything to accelerate the return of the NBA to the Emerald City? Short answer: probably not. But it isn’t a step backward either.
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 has been invited to apply for NHL expansion, commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday. The NHL’s price for Seattle’s expansion bid: $650 million.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has inked an agreement with a private developer to renovate KeyArena so the venue could be ready for an NBA or NHL team. Durkan said at a news conference Wednesday that the deal with Los Angeles-based Oak View Group is the best path right now for Seattle to get an NHL team and bring back the SuperSonics. “I think we are here. I think we have the path,” she said.
Dressed in a dark suit and sporting a wide smile, Tim Leiweke — the former AEG exec and longtime L.A. sports power player — pressed pen to paper and delivered a message Seattle fans have been craving. “Ten years ago, you had your heart ripped out,” Leiweke said. “We’re going to get you a team.”
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.”
David Aldridge: The vote puts the Seattle city government squarely behind OVG, headed by longtime sports executive/AEG CEO Tim Leiweke & entertainment manager/mogul Irving Azoff, instead of billionaire Chris Hansen, who has sought to build an arena in the South Downtown section of the city.
Chris Daniels: BREAKING: @SeattleCouncil votes 7-1 to approve $660m #KeyArena MOU package with @OvgSeattle. It clears the way for a NEW Arena at Seattle Center by 2020, and potential #NHL franchise. More details to come on KING5Seattle. #Seattle
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.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the Oak View Group (OVG) have a formal agreement to build a $600 million privately financed arena at Seattle Center, with tens of millions more in transportation mitigation. The deal calls for construction to begin next year and be complete by 2020. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), as it is commonly known, will be formally submitted to the Seattle City Council on Tuesday.
A proposal to remodel KeyArena now has an ambitious timeline that could have it ready to house a professional franchise within three years. The timeline was laid out in a proposed memorandum of understanding between Seattle and Oak View Group. The MOU will be presented to the Seattle City Council on Tuesday but the final version of the agreement won’t be voted on until the first week of December at the earliest.
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.”
An investment group that wants to build a sports arena for professional basketball and possibly hockey has offered to also rebuild KeyArena, the former home of Seattle’s departed NBA franchise. The move Thursday by the group led by investor Chris Hansen is the latest in the long-running debate over building a new arena. Hansen wants to privately build a facility in an area that’s home to venues for the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners.
Not really, at least not quickly. But, when and if the NBA does expand, many of them continue to strongly support Seattle. “I believe Seattle should have the first shot,” one owner said, on condition of anonymity. “I think a move is more likely than expansion, but right now, neither looks likely.”
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.
Spencer Hawes: Our city needs a team!!!#BringBackTheSonics #orjustcreatethemagain
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.”
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.”
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer wants the world to know, again, he’s not moving his basketball team to Seattle, or anywhere else, he told Business Insider. “L.A. Clippers! Stop this we should move them. I’m not moving them,” he laughed. “I love Seattle. Seattle is wonderful. But the Clippers are an L.A. team.”
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.”
Stern also noted the Sonics did not receive the same level of financial commitment in Seattle as the Seahawks or Mariners had gotten for their stadium. “(Johnson) was differently motivated, because there had been huge subsidies from (Seattle) for the baseball team and football team to build their two buildings. Our basketball was the third man in. In Sacramento, this was the game. The city was very proud and had been very supportive.”
Demasio pressed Stern on e-mails that later came out showing Bennett and co-owners Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward had privately intended to move the team to Oklahoma City while publicly stating they wanted to keep it in Seattle. “I don’t remember the specific e-mails,” Stern said. “I was satisfied as commissioner that he was making a good-faith effort, and he would’ve been held to it if he was successful.”
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.
Ray Allen: Seattle has grown so much since I was last here. What a great city! I had some great memories not too far away from the #spaceneedle. I still can’t believe that there is no basketball in Seattle!! This city is too great not to have a hoops squad. Come on everybody we need to rally and bring the NBA back to Seattle. let’s make this happen people!!! The NBA misses traveling to Seattle, I know I certainly do!!!!!
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.’’
Mayor Ed Murray’s office plans to arrange a conference call with the NBA and NHL to talk about the ongoing arena process, but a spokesman says there is no truth his office has tried to avoid the NBA. An NBA source also said the league had no plans to meet with Seattle officials. A spokesman for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Monday he plans to arrange a conference call with the NBA and NHL to discuss the city’s ongoing arena process.
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.’’
An NBA source told The Seattle Times there was absolutely no truth to the post. The source said nobody from the league’s head office planned to meet or talk with any Seattle officials or groups in this city or anyplace else in the near future. A Twitter account run by Joseph, the website’s editor-in-chief, has more than 13,700 followers and the post had gained considerable internet traction by Monday afternoon.
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.
On Thursday, Wilson said he plans to have an ownership stake in the basketball team, should the NBA return to Seattle. “Yeah, I will. Yes, for sure,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be an exciting thing. “I met Chris a few years ago, and we were having a great conversation. … I’ve told you guys I’ve been really authentic about wanting to own a team one day and being a part of something really special and doing that. And even though I’m young, I definitely have a business mindset. And I want to be able to help people and give back and help change this community, continue to change this community for the better.”
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is joining the investment group looking to build a new NBA/NHL arena in Seattle’s stadium district. Lead investor Chris Hansen said Monday that Wilson is “a young, smart and passionate entrepreneur,” and is joining the group as a business partner.
Russell Wilson: The NBA needs that green and gold back. Seattle needs basketball back. And hockey, too. (The Seattle Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917, in case you didn’t know.) So I’m doing what I can to make that happen. I have partnered with the Sonics Arena Group to help bring the NBA and the NHL to Seattle.
Russell Wilson: To me, this is about more than nostalgia. We live in divisive times, and sports have a way of bringing people closer together. They allow us all — children and adults — to use our imaginations and dream. I want kids in Seattle to grow up dreaming of playing basketball or hockey for their hometown team.
Russell Wilson: I became a SuperSonics fan by playing NBA Jam and watching them on SportsCenter and NBA Inside Stuff. I loved their name. I loved their colors. I loved Kemp and Payton, and then in later years, I loved watching Ray Allen swish corner threes with that perfect form. Even though we lived in Virginia, I got a Sonics jersey one Christmas and I used to put it on and go play hoops out in front of the house, pretending I was Gary Payton. I’m not going to lie, though. Some days I’d put on my Bulls jersey and stick my tongue out and pretend I was MJ, too. I was flexible.
A City Hall source has confirmed that the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group, founded in a partnership between Leiweike and entertainment mega-manager Irving Azoff, is interested in developing KeyArena into a multipurpose facility that could handle NBA or NHL teams. A powerful, new Los Angeles-based company headed by sports executive Tim Leiweke and concert kingpin Irving Azoff wants to renovate KeyArena and make it compatible for NBA and NHL use. “We believe in the KeyArena location,” Leiweke, CEO of the 11-month-old Oak View Group, told The Seattle Times in an interview Thursday night. “We believe that the studies have proven — and we will continue to do additional studies as we go through this process — that there is a chance to renovate and make that arena work for music and sports.
Chris Hansen and his investment team on Tuesday offered to forgo public financing to build a new sports arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood. The group also said it would cover the current funding gap to build an overpass over Lander Street, a project long desired by freight and industrial interests concerned about congestion in around the Port of Seattle. The proposal amounts to a stunning and swift turn in the nearly five-year debate over building a new arena and, ultimately, bringing a professional basketball and hockey team to the city.
Chris Hansen, Erik Nordstrom, Pete Nordstrom, Wally Walker: “In a letter to the Mayor and King County Executive — both of whom share our goal of bringing the Sonics and NHL back to Seattle — we described the steps we are willing to take to move the Arena project forward. First, we will direct contributions to a package of additional SODO traffic improvements, which will improve freight mobility through the area. Second, we agreed to commit future payment of compensation for the vacated street to the city’s financing package for the Lander Street Overpass, thereby helping to close the funding gap for that important project. Finally, we have agreed to revising the street vacation petition to eliminate public financing of the Arena. Terminating the MOU would allow the city and county to recoup the $200 million in debt capacity and free-up Arena tax-generated revenue streams. To make this all possible we have asked for approval of a revised conditional street vacation, a waiver of the city’s admissions tax, which has been granted for the other sports venues in Seattle, and an adjustment of the city’s B&O tax for revenue generated out of town.”
Chris Hansen, Erik Nordstrom, Pete Nordstrom, Wally Walker: “We are hopeful these additional steps will address the concerns of the Council so the Arena project can move forward – which remains the critical first step to bringing the NBA and NHL back to Seattle. Go Sonics!”
Seattle was a strong NBA market for many years, going crazy for the Sonics of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, which reached The Finals in 1996. From 1995-99, the Sonics basically sold out Key Arena, and they never averaged less than 14,300 fans from 1991-2007, their next-to-last season in town. The city and surrounding area has a rich tradition of producing NBA talent, including current players Isaiah Thomas, Jamal Crawford, Jason Terry, Marvin Williams, Spencer Hawes, Rodney Stuckey and Aaron Brooks. “Seattle is a far better market than at least 10 NBA cities,” said a very high ranking executive of one of the league’s 29 teams last week.
For Seattle, the only realistic choice is expansion. The reasons for not expanding now are varied, and logical. There’s no reason for owners to split an exploding financial pie further. The NBA is in a boom period, with market size not nearly as important as it used to be. The league does not need to have a team in Seattle, the country’s 14th largest TV market. (The success of the Thunder in Oklahoma City, ironically — and, sadly for Seattle — only magnifies the point.)
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July 18, 2019 | 11:45 am EDT Update
John Meyer: Gersson Rosas speaking about Jarrett Culver as the Wolves introduce their three new rookies (including Jaylen Nowell and Naz Reid, who they announce has signed a multi-year contract): “When your best players are your hardest workers, they set the tone for the program.”
Mark Berman: NBA sources: #Rockets superstar James Harden (@James Harden) has joined the ownership group that controls the @HoustonDynamo & @HoustonDash soccer franchises headed by majority owner Gabriel Brener & includes former boxing great @OscarDeLaHoya. Official announcement coming soon.