Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Above the Rim: Outrage and Ecstasy

Over the past few weeks, there have been stories that Maloof family are going to sell the Sacramento Kings franchise to a Seattle-based ownership group. This group would then relocate the Kings to Seattle and the team could conceivably play next season in the Sonic’s former home, Key Arena. A new arena would subsequently go under construction with the goal of being completed in time for the 2015-16 NBA season. It appears that the framework of the deal that was reported a week or two ago as “close to complete” has now become official . Basketball fans in the Seattle area are rejoicing, while Kings fans in Northern California still hold out a small sliver of hope.   

When the Seattle Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 after being there for 41 years, fans were devastated. A team with such rich basketball tradition didn’t deserve to leave so abruptly. If any fan base in the country deserves another NBA franchise, it’s Seattle. After five years of having no NBA team to call their own, Sonics fans can cautiously celebrate knowing they’ll probably have a team to root for again very soon. But at what cost? Sonics fans of all people know the heartbreak and sense of loss that comes with losing a team that’s stayed in a city for so long. Surely they have empathy for Kings fans that will lose a team as beloved to them as the Sonics were to their fans. But what other options are there? It’s highly unlikely the NBA will expand the league and create another team. Any new team in Seattle would almost certainly come at the expense of another city losing their team. Sonics fans get what they’ve wanted for five years, but Kings fans are left in the same situation as Seattle in 2008. Where do they go from here? It’s a vicious cycle, something basketball fans have had to deal with far too much in recent years. There are fan bases with far less support than the Kings who may be in better situations to relocate, but those small, passionate groups of fans will still lose their beloved teams. The impact may not be as deep, but it would still be devastating. It’s no fun to be on either end of this dilemma, but it’s a reality that needs to be faced with the small chance that the NBA will expand and create more teams.

Although the financial deal between the Maloofs and Chris Hansen/Steve Ballmer-led group is in place, the deal still needs to be approved by the NBA's board of governors and relocation committee before the Kings can move to Seattle. Many feel this step is a formality, as there often isn’t any pushback from the league once talks have gotten this far between a buyer and owner. However, NBA commissioner David Stern has given Sacramento mayor (and former NBA guard) Kevin Johnson some time to find investors that could make a counteroffer to the league so that the Kings could stay in Sacramento. Whether that plan has a high chance of success is debatable, as the city of Sacramento and the Maloofs have searched and fought for two years to avoid selling/moving the team. The Maloofs almost sold the team to an owner who would move them to Anaheim just last year. However, it’s still possible that Johnson and others loyal to Sacramento could step forward and present a legitimate offer to keep the Kings where they are. At this point, that’s all that Kings fans can really hope for. Right now, the Kings are still playing basketball in Sacramento. Players on the team still have to play every night, knowing the possibility that they might be playing in a different city next year. Kings fans should cherish these final months of the season, because unfortunately, that might be all the time they have left.


  1. Personally, I will cheer the day NBA basketball returns to Seattle. The way that franchise's fans were cheated by the OKC ownership group was a crime (just ask Dave Zirin!)

  2. At what cost though, just keep breaking fans' hearts and crushing their spirits..