This is a weird time for NBA fans in Seattle. I’m writing this at the Rose Garden, where the Oklahoma City Thunder faced the Portland Trail Blazers Monday with plenty of green and gold in the stands. Like all matchups between my former team and my current adopted home team, this is a bizarre reminder of how much things have changed since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City three and a half years ago.
At the same time, in the wake of Sunday’s Seattle Times article looking at the progress of back-channel negotiations that could lead to a new privately funded NBA/NHL building in the Sodo area, there is more reason for optimism about the NBA’s return to Seattle than at any point during that span. And that means confronting the prospect of another relocation.
I cannot possibly stress this enough: The NBA is not expanding any time in the near future. That leaves two possibilities, and only two possibilities. If someone tells you they want a team back, but only via expansion, ignore them. Either Seattle takes a team from another city, or there is no NBA basketball in Seattle. Obviously, I’d never choose the latter alternative. In a pragmatic world, relocation is the better of two flawed options.
There’s a natural response here, and it’s how I could ever want a fan base to go through the same thing we experienced in Seattle. Well, I don’t. I’m supportive of any attempt to keep a team in its long-time home. That goes double for Sacramento, a situation that feels parallel to what happened to the Sonics. There is no questioning the passion of Kings fans. We’re a decade removed from ARCO Arena being the single most difficult place to play in the NBA, and before that Sacramento was notable for turning out in droves to support teams that were often difficult to watch. Like Seattle, Sacramento’s issue is an aging arena and a community that understandably has little stomach for publicly funding a replacement. And, like Sonics fans, Kings fans aren’t letting the team go without a fight.
Here’s the thing, as explained by Tom Ziller on Sactown Royalty: the Kings’ future in Sacramento has nothing to do with Seattle. The stakes are already clear. Either Mayor Kevin Johnson is able to put together a deal for a new arena, or the Kings are moving. Should that be the case, then better Seattle as a destination than Anaheim, a community that has little history of NBA basketball and can already choose between two other local teams. (Yes, traffic is bad in the L.A. area. Still beats driving three hours to Portland.) If a team must relocate, which remains the reality of American professional sports, there is no city that deserves a franchise more than Seattle.
Until we reach the point where a move by Sacramento or any other team is inevitable, there’s no value in picking over the possibilities like a restaurant menu. I’m generally a believer in the Golden Rule, and in this case we know exactly how we wanted to be treated by other cities during the Sonics saga—with respectful support. Let’s offer the same to Kings fans, and anyone else in danger of losing their team.
- Kevin PeltonFeb072012
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