As it turned out, life went on. At least a modified version of it. I admit it.
Some of us feared that having the Sonics ripped from our midst almost five years ago — after 41 years in the Seattle sports landscape — would tear a rift in our daily lives.
The wounds were only emotional, though, and the bile subsided to a degree.
But there’s no question it put a hole in the winters for a lot of us. Some restaurants on lower Queen Anne shuttered, and some KeyArena employees tried making do working a dozen or so Seattle U. basketball games, and even competitions by the Rat City Rollergirls.
No knock on the competitive fervor of earnest roller derby athletes, but many of us find it somewhat less compelling than 41 nights of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
But word leaked Wednesday that the huge fiscal commitment by investors headed by Chris Hansen was about to ripen into a deal to purchase the Sacramento Kings. The team might be moved to KeyArena as soon as next season, and call it home until the new basketball/hockey arena planned for the SoDo area is finished.
It might have been the only news that could have displaced Seahawks fervor as headline material. Among a group of sportswriters gathered at Seahawks headquarters Wednesday, I heard one comment about the possible NBA return that resonated above all others.
“I’m happy for my kids,” one colleague said. He will be able to once again take his kids to see NBA games. I’m happy for his kids, too.
And pardon me for blatant moral relativism, but I’m not nearly so concerned about the kids in Sacramento who may have their team uprooted by our group of billionaire burghers in Seattle.
I know we viewed Oklahoma City fans as scavenging vultures when the sneaker was on the other foot. They unashamedly embraced their Thunder while we mourned the loss of our Sonics. But if Sacramento fans are angry, it should be at Oklahoma City fans. They started it.
And since the Kings were born in Rochester, N.Y., moved to Cincinnati, Kansas City, Omaha (part time) and then Sacramento, it seemed only a matter of time before they’d show up in Seattle.
Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player, admitted in a news conference Wednesday afternoon that “for the first time, it appears that the Sacramento Kings are for sale.”
He committed to an 11th-hour rally of local investors in an effort to keep the Kings in place. He said the Kings provided 1,000 full- and part-time jobs, and the team’s presence there was a matter of “economic development and quality of life.”
Well, KJ, those are 1,000 full- and part-time jobs we could use in Seattle, too.
Tight money caused the problems for the Sonics in the first place, and there’s valid concern over current fiscal peril, not to mention traffic congestion, infrastructure requirements, and a possible last-ditch salvation by Sacramento.
But there’s a sense of critical mass being built toward the construction of the new arena that would not only bring back the NBA, but also lure an NHL hockey franchise. Two compelling factors:
• Seattle is the largest media market (12th) without an NBA team (and the NBA certainly owes the city a debt).
• This group of investors, which includes Steve Ballmer and members of the Nordstrom family, are highly capitalized, bedrock-solid businessmen who are already deeply committed to making it happen.
Their commitment of a reported $500 million to buy the team, and a further $290 million toward arena construction, also caps public involvement. The $200 million borrowed from the city will be repaid by rent and arena taxes, with Hansen responsible for any shortfall.
Yes, with the Sonics we suffered through a series of botched drafts, dubious trades, slow-footed centers, and faulty European imports. But we also bore witness to the Sonics winning the city’s first championship in a major sport, and later title contention and nightly athletic wonderment created by Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. And, at the end, we watched the first flash of supernova forward Kevin Durant.
Look, I’m a sportswriter. Of course I want the NBA back, and I believe bringing in the NHL will tap into another subsection of eager fans just as Sounders FC has.
But let’s let another resident talk about what a team like the Sonics meant in his life.
After the 1979 Sonics championship, among those wildly celebrating in the streets was a 26-year-old computer entrepreneur.
Paul Allen used some early computer money to buy season tickets. “I thought the NBA was the greatest spectacle in sports,” he wrote in his recent autobiography. And when he became sick with Hodgkins lymphoma “(the Sonics) became my escape … (they) were a godsend in getting me through that difficult time. No matter how rotten I felt, there was always the next game to look forward to.”
And now, it appears there will be more games for all of us to look forward to.