SEATTLE — After nearly four months spent awaiting a decision on the return of professional basketball, Seattle was left Wednesday feeling jilted again.
And wondering when, and if, the NBA will ever reappear.
The NBA Board of Governors rejected the prospective relocation of the Sacramento Kings, voting 22-8 in Dallas to deny the move of the franchise and with no promise of a future team for fans in the Puget Sound region.
That led to angry and frustrated reactions from NBA fans in Seattle who spent several months thinking they might see the return of the SuperSonics with investor Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as owners.
Hansen presented before the Board of Governors in Dallas, but disappeared from view after the decision was announced by NBA Commissioner David Stern. A few hours after the announcement, Hansen posted a statement to his SonicsArena.com website thanking fans for their support and saying, “Our day will come…and when it does it will just be that much sweeter for the struggle.”
“While we are obviously extremely disappointed with today’s relocation vote and truly believe we put forth both a significantly better offer and Arena plan, we do thank the league and the owners for their time and consideration and look forward to hearing back on our agreement to join the Maloofs as Limited Partners in the Kings,” Hansen’s statement read.
The reference to the limited partnership with the Maloof family would seem unlikely and came as part of an aggressive pitch Hansen put forth in the final days before the vote. They raised the valuation of the Kings to $625 million, or $406 million for the Maloofs interest in the franchise, and offered up a $115 million relocation fee. The Seattle group also negotiated a backup plan involving a minority stake in the Kings with the Maloofs retaining majority ownership and keeping the team in Sacramento.
It’s unclear if the backup plan is still feasible with Stern indicating that negations between the Maloofs, the league and the Sacramento investment group led by Vivek Ranadive would be escalating over the next few days.
“I share the disappointment of Sonics fans about today’s vote. But we are in this for the long haul,” Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said. “The memorandum of understanding we have with Chris Hansen is for five years, and we will continue working to bring the NBA back to Seattle.”
Fans of the league and supporters of Hansen’s efforts believed this was the best opportunity to bring the NBA back. Political and public support was at its peak since the messy departure of the Sonics for Oklahoma City following the 2008 season.
Now all that support is thrown back into limbo with little clarity about a future path toward acquiring another franchise.
Mick McHugh, owner of FX McRory’s a few blocks from the proposed site for Seattle’s new arena, pulled out a giant bottle of champagne prior to the announcement. It was turned on its side and headed back for storage following news the Kings would remain in Sacramento, to be saved for a future team.
If there is hope for Seattle fans, it came from NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, who indicated that expansion was discussed for the future.
The league is beginning the process of negotiations for its next national television contract and Silver indicated that once the league has an idea of what revenue could be coming from that future deal, expansion could be back in the picture.
“We’ve never wavered in our desire to return to the Seattle market at some point,” Silver said. “… Expansion was discussed at least as a possibility down the road. We want to wait and see what happens in our next national television negotiation, but we’re very appreciative of the fans in Seattle, and we’ve regretted having to leave the market the last time and we fully expect we’ll return there one day.”