Well, Seattle lost yet again. David Stern did things his way and painted it so we were the bad guys, yet again. I wish the national media would pick up on this more. Sure there are mentions here and there about Seattle being treated poorly, sure there are outsiders who feel Seattle deserves the NBA. What I would like are some hard hitting questions from large national media sources on why we lost our team and why we were unable to regain one. Here is the history from a Seattle perspective.
Seattle lost its team in 2008 to a group of owners from Oklahoma City who were unable to get an arena built in Seattle. This is the story told by most when the relocation issues makes its way into national articles. This grossly overlooks and pushes aside the true events. The issue begins in the early 90s. Seattle, Sonics owner Barry Ackerly, and NBA commissioner David Stern all approved, built and praised the construction and opening of Key Arena in Seattle in 1995. The original arena, Seattle Center Coliseum, was all but entirely demolished to make way for the new Key Arena. The only pieces of the original arena that were saved were 4 giant support columns and an outer skeleton for the exterior walls. Recycling these pieces is why the arena was deemed a renovation and not a new arena.
This was a huge project. The Sonics played in the Tacoma Dome for the 1994-1995 season while Key Arena was built. Seattle paid $75 million of the just over $100 million project and agreed to terms with the Sonics for a 15 years lease.
Howard Schultz and his group of owners bought the Sonics from the previous owners in 2002. By 2005 Howard Schultz demanded $200 million to go towards a $220 million arena project. Local politicians said no because it was an unfair deal and we were still paying off the previous arena built just a decade earlier. Schultz became upset and sold the team to Clay Bennett in 2006 under the guise that they would "work in good faith to build an arena in Seattle." It turns out good faith was a $500 million arena in a suburb lacking the infrastructure to support the arena with the team owners declining to commit any money towards the project. He gave us 1 year to accept this proposal then he filed for relocation. In short, it was designed to fail and it did. The Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.
Towards the end of the final season in Seattle Steve Ballmer and Greg Nickels reached an agreement for a $300 million renovation of Key Arena, which was just reconstructed for $100 million. $150 million came from Ballmer, $75 million from the city and $75 million from the state. The proposal was not voted on at the state level but state politicians drafted a letter to the NBA that they will fully review a plan in the next legislative session. We had $225 million of the $300 million needed for a renovation of Key Arena and a promise to review the final $75 million. David Stern said it was all "too little, too late" and helped Clay Bennett relocate the franchise. This is shocking considering the breaks and effort he gave to Sacramento in a similar situation. The NBA demanded we let the Sonics break their lease 2 years early and that if we didn't we would never see a team again. Seattle bowed out graciously from a lawsuit to hold them to the lease the final 2 years in order to leave the door open to the NBA in the future.
This is where Seattle fans are irate. We built an arena to the NBA's praise in 1995 and all but lost our team in 2006 because of it. We had money and efforts to keep the team here but David Stern made sure they were all silenced and stifled. When the Sacramento Kings were on the verge of relocating to Seattle this spring he did the complete opposite for Sacramento. He wavered on NBA time lines and processes, he gave advice and he helped locate potential owners so Sacramento could keep their team. In every way he dissuaded Seattle from trying to keep the Sonics he helped Sacramento to keep the Kings. Our efforts in 2008 were deemed "too little, too late" and Sacramento's efforts were deemed enough to keep their franchise.
What did Seattle do to deserve the ire of David Stern? What did Seattle do to lose the team in 2008 and be shut out again from regaining a team in 2013? We lost our team because the arena we build to the specs and praise of the NBA was deemed inadequate just a decade later? How does this fly in any market?
The NBA likes to paint it as Seattle didn't do what was needed to keep its team in 2008 and Sacramento did this spring. This is complete spin to David Stern's narrative. David Stern stifled all of our efforts in 2008 and boosted all of Sacramento's efforts this spring. Why didn't we receive this help in 2008? Or why didn't he squelch their efforts this spring? The fact that the Sonics left Seattle and the fact that we were unable to regain the Sonics this spring lands entirely on David Stern's shoulders. This is not the way a commissioner is supposed to operate. He has too much power and too little sense. He has too much ego and too little heart. I don't understand why this isn't picked up on more by the national media. I'm afraid that also goes back to the narrative put forth by the one and only David Stern. So Stern controls the narrative of the NBA, where is the national media to ask some real questions to the contrary?