I received the following letter from Cammie Dodson, a Seattle resident:
I’ve watched (and actually paid attention to) probably only one complete game of basketball in my life (go dubs!), but through a serendipitous combination of booze and stuffed-crust pizza, I’ve found myself slowly becoming a casual (albeit, mildly begrudging) basketball fan. Long story short, despite this dearth of actual game-watching, I’ve read and talked a lot about basketball over the last few months. So, of course, I feel superior to the other future bandwagon jumpers of Seattle, who are already blowing up my facebook with their Sonics anticipation. Now you know EVERYONE and their mother here is super jazzed about the prospect of having the Sonics back and, for some reason, no one is simply happy about the prospect of a new sports team in town. OH NO. Everyone has apparently been a die-hard Sonics fan for life – this city is seemingly filled with dormant basketball aficionados. In order to properly scoff at all of these other first-time NBA fans (before I jump right on that bandwagon, obvs), I better get my shit straight.
Yes, you should. You came to the right place. Let’s get started.
Is the Kings thing a done deal? Is it time to buy my hipster-approved limited ed. Sonics hat?
No. Far from a done deal. The only thing we have are rumors (albeit from Adrian Wojnarowksi, one of the league’s most accurate rumor-men). No side has clearly said that they’re talking with the other, and the only numbers thrown around are probably shots in the dark. That said, a number of reports did surface that the Maloofs and the Hansen-Ballmer group — the presumptive owners of a new NBA team in Seattle — were in advanced talks to sell the team for $525 million. That said, nothing should stop you from picking up a hipster-approved limited edition Sonics hat. Sonics swag is among the swagiest swag in the National Swag Association (NSA).
Does this count as Sonics 2.0, or what? Do the last 4 years not exist? I mean, is everyone just going to pretend the Sonics never left, and there isn’t a former team out there in the world?
Ah, the messy trajectory of relocation. Simple answer is that it depends. No team relocates exactly like another, and the end result often is complicated. When the sale of the Sonics was completed in 2008, Bennett claimed ownership of the naming rights and the history of the Sonics, including the team’s colors, name, and records. That is why Basketball Reference lists a fictional history of the Thunder that dates back to the 1968-69 season, aka, the first season of Sonics basketball. However, the City of Seattle and the Bennett-McClendon ownership group signed a binding deal that stated that in the event the NBA returned to Seattle, the OKC owners would have to give up the naming and historical rights to the Seattle SuperSonics. So, for the benefit of this hypothetical, let’s assume (though, again, it is not a given) that an NBA team in Seattle would become the SuperSonics.
Why does this matter? Well, depending on what the franchise actually becomes when it arrives in Seattle depends on what type of history it gets. For example: the New Orleans Hornets, who moved from Charlotte in 2002, retained the history of the Charlotte Hornets because they are the same franchise. When the Bobcats, an expansion team, arrived in Charlotte, they did not take the history of the Hornets, since that organization still exists. Similarly, the New Orleans Hornets have none of the history of the New Orleans Jazz, who became the Utah Jazz in the late 1970s. But the Los Angeles Clippers do claim the history of the Buffalo Braves, since the Braves franchise moved to San Diego, and then was purchased by Donald Sterling and moved to Los Angeles, renamed the Clippers. Confused yet?
So, if the Kings do move to Seattle, and become the Sonics, the Thunder organization will “give” those records, and all of the accolades the Sonics organization achieved from 1967-2008, to that new team. But then, regardless of whether they become the Seattle Sonics, or something else altogether, what do you do with the history of the Kings? Does Chris Webber become a Sonics great? Do you hang Sacramento Kings jerseys in the new Sonics’ arena? Does the departed Sacramento arena become linked to the old Sonics, suddenly? It’s all very confusing.
To avoid this mess, it is likely that Sacramento would arrange a deal similar to Seattle, whereby the city retains the franchise’s historical and naming rights for when a new team arrives. Otherwise, the New Sonics will take on the history of the Old Sonics and the history of the Kansas City Royals/Sacramento Kings. And for the curious: as far as I can tell, no other team has been reanimated through the lifeless corpse of another deceased franchise like the Sonics are aiming to do through the Kings. The closest thing Kevin and I could find is the case of the Washington Senators, who were reborn as the Nationals through the dead cadaver of the Montreal Expos. It’s a little creepy, honestly.
What am I supposed to think about the rest of the Kings’ season now? Do I want them to do poorly? What do I do when DMC punches someone in the face?
Well, it depends on what you’re going for here. If you really want the Kings to become the Sonics, you probably don’t want them to be that great, because if they perform well, it may cause a groundswell of support and goodwill that will convince the Maloofs to sell to local Sacramento owners. A Seattle comparison can be found in the Mariners, who used a miracle season to get Safeco Field built, and escape a seemingly certain move to Tampa Bay. If the Kings continue to struggle, both on the court and in the box office, it will make the argument that “a professional team cannot be supported in Sacramento” — a patently bogus argument — seem more legitimate. So if you’re into stealing teams, pray for the Kings to lose the rest of their games here on out.
Got any tips on what to do if I see Kings swag in Seattle? Standard Seattle passive-aggressive glare, or is that an invitation to THROW DOWN?
I lived in Seattle for a little over four years and I never saw NBA gear, let alone Kings gear. Granted, that’s because the city was steamed that their team was winning tons of games in Oklahoma City, and they didn’t want to give one cent to David Stern and his National Basketball Association. That said, on the off-chance that you do see someone waltzing through Capitol Hill with a vintage Brad Miller #52, or a brand spanking new Isaiah Thomas #22 (which I would think is the most likely Kings jersey you’d see in Seattle), do what the Seattleites do: talk weak shit in barely hushed tones, then look down quickly when that person shoots you a dirty look.
I’ve heard some talk of an expansion team, instead… what’s that?
An expansion team is a brand new team. It has no history. The last expansion team, the Charlotte Bobcats, was created in 2002 to balance out the conferences following the departure of the Hornets to New Orleans (and the Western Conference).
David Stern has said repeatedly that there will be no new expansion in the NBA for the foreseeable future, but as Art Thiel writes here, a healthier NBA, and a CBA that has cut losses for small market teams puts the possibility back on the table. Another team would need to enter with the Sonics so the NBA could adjust its divisions accordingly (currently there are 6 divisions with 5 teams apiece, so the new NBA with an expanded Sonics would have 4 divisions with 8 teams apiece), and there are few other viable markets that could house an NBA team today. So while it’s not completely out of the question that the Sonics will come through expansion, it is decidedly unlikely.
Can we stop pretending to like soccer now?
God, I hope so. Who names their team the X-Box 360s anyways?
Any social/economic impacts I should be aware of (here or back in Sactown)? Or can my Seattlite/activist mind rest at ease?
The Port of Seattle, and the various unions that represent the Port’s workers, have been the staunchest critics of the new arena. They assert that the City of Seattle did not conduct a thorough enough environmental impact assessment around the area where the arena is going to be built, and that the added traffic will complicate transport issues enough to divert boats to nearby ports in Tacoma. Latest reports (from October 2012) indicate that the Port aims to file suits to block efforts to construct a new arena once construction begins. However, construction on a new arena will not begin until Hansen procures an NBA team.
Most importantly, whose pics/FB should I start stalking? Yay giant men!
Give DeMarcus Cousins a peek, especially if you’re into socks and sandals.