The Seattle Supersonics will reportedly be back at Seattle's KeyArena for the start of the 2013 - 14 NBA Season. Ticket sales are expected to be solid as basketball fans welcome their former team back.
Media reports indicate that the Sacramento Kings are being sold to an ownership group from Seattle that will return the Seattle SuperSonics to the NBA at their previous home the KeyArena in time for the 2013 - 2014 season.
Originally reported by Yahoo! sports's Adrian Wojnarowski the Sacramento Kings move to Seattle has been finalized and the Seattle Supersonics should be ready to reclaim their home in the KeyArena for the 2013 - 2014 NBA season, with a new arena opening in two years.
Reports are that the Sacramento Kings fetched $525 million, an NBA record. (In 2012 the Golden State Warriors sold for $450 million.) The Maloof family sold the 65% of the Sacramento Kings they control to an investment group from Seattle led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen, Microsoft Chairman Steve Ballmer and the Nordstrom family.
The move restores an iconic franchise to the 15th largest metropolitan area in the United States. It also goes a long way toward assuaging some of the damage done by the highly-controversial move of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Seattle Supersonics played in the NBA's Pacific and Northwest Divisions from 1967 - 2008, winning the NBA Championship in 1979. The Sonics were sold to an Oklahoma City-based ownership group and were moved and rebranded as the Oklahoma City Thunder. At the time relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma drew widespread criticism not only from basketball fans in the Northwest but from fans and non-fans alike across the country.
Sonics Returning to Seattle
Seattle has a long history of basketball, with the SuperSonics winning an NBA Championship in 1979 as well as the conference title in 1978, 1979 and 1996. Plans call for the Sonics to play two seasons at KeyArena (the Sonic's old home) before moving to a new arena. The same Seattle SuperSonics name and logos will reportedly be used on the new team. The new ownership must file for relocation with the NBA before April. In his piece Wojnarowski sites sources maintaining the NBA is committed to help with the transition, and the new ownership group is eager to avoid what would be a lame-duck 2013 - 14 season for the Kings in Sacramento.
The move would create a strange situation for fans of both the Sonics and the Thunder, as one of the stipulations of the move from Seattle to Oklahoma City was that, in the event of another team returning to Seattle under the Sonics moniker, both teams would "share" the franchises history.
The Kings have struggled for years
Times have been tough for the Sacramento Kings in the past decade, as the team hasn't made the playoffs since 2005. Of late the Kings have not been a factor in the NBA and have been among the league's lowest-grossing teams.
The franchise's best season came in 2002 when they rode Chris Webber and Mike Bibby to the Western Conference Championship, where many NBA fans still believe NBA officials robbed them with botched officiating so bad it prompted consumer advocate Ralph Nader to write a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern on behalf of fans. Disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy would later cite the pivotal 2002 Lakers Kings Game 6 as proof that the NBA and commissioner David Stern influenced the game so the series would go seven games.
As ESPN analyst Steven A. Smith wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News: "If there was ever a time for conspiracy theories to be given new life, it’s now. It’s difficult to ignore the Kings’ claim that NBC does not want them in the Finals. Because of [Game 6], many things will be said if the Kings fall. NBC will be a culprit, as will the NBA. Both will be accused of going Hollywood, which is hard to argue with right now."
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who was an NBA All-Star with the Phoenix Suns, reportedly tried desperately to find Sacramento-based buyers for the team, and NBA Commissioner David Stern has allowed him a last ditch effort to find buyers who would keep the team in Sacramento.
The Maloof family took a minority interest in the Sacramento Kings in 1998 and took majority control the next year. Joe and Gavin have been in charge of running the Sacramento Kings. For year's the family maintained they would never sell the team, but in 2011 the Maloof family filed paperwork to move the team to Anaheim. The NBA intervened and convinced the Maloofs to keep the team in Sacramento another season. A deal with the city for a new arena in Sacramento fell apart in the end of 2012. The Maloof's will reportedly maintain a very small percentage of the team but without any real input into team management.
The Maloofs have been in dire financial straits since their decision to build a luxury tower at The Palms Casino prior to the 2007 economic meltdown. The tower has been a money loser ever since, leading the family to sell most fo their stake in the casion, shut down their WNBA team the Sacramento Monarchs as well as sell their New Mexican liquor distributorship. They are reportedly $200 million in debt and the Kings are projected to loose between $6 million and $7 million this season.
"Sonicsgate" The Sonics become the Oklahoma City Thunder
The so-called "hijacking" of the Seattle Supersonics by the Oklahoma City ownership group caused huge public outcry and dragged on for several years. It began when Howard Schultz (of Starbucks-owning fame) and the Basketball Club of Seattle failed to gain approval of a publicly-funded $200 million expansion to KeyArena, so he sold the team to an ownership group from Oklahoma City led by Clay Bennet. In October of 2006 the sale was completed, which required Bennet's group to negotiate in good faith to keep the team in Seattle. Many observers believe Bennet never wanted to keep the team in Seattle, and the ensuing "Sonics-Gate" controversy remains one of the largest stains on Stern's record. The shenanigans cause widespread outrage, which was encapsulated in the Save our Sonics documentary Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team.
Bill Simmons, perhaps the web's most followed sports writer, famously refused to refer to the Oklahoma City team by name, referring to them with names like the "Zombie Sonics" for many years. In February of 2008 he published what was at the time his longest-ever feature with mail from distraught Sonics fans.
As he told the Seattle Times's Steve Kelly: "It was a case of a guy [Clay Bennett] who bought the team and never really wanted to keep it there and stole the team. I love basketball and I felt like Seattle had really good fans. It just didn't seem fair to me that somebody bought this team with no intention of keeping it in Seattle and the rules were in place so that nobody could stop him. I continue to feel bad for the fans."
Oklahoma City Thunder began play for the 2008–2009 basketball season
While the Sonics missed out on seeing one of the superstars of the NBA in Kevin Durant play in Seattle, the Sacramento Kings have Center DeMarcus Cousins, a rising, and potential super, star. For now Seattle is happy to have basketball back in the city, with restoring the team to its former glory a longer-term project. As is normal with new and relocated teams, ticket sales should be solid for the season 2013 - 2014 season.