Even though the Sonics were nearly three years dead in Seattle, David Stern felt compelled this past May to dig up the body just to throw it off a nearby ledge.
Meeting with reporters in Sacramento to explain his decision to grant the Kings a one-year stay of execution rather than move the team to Anaheim, the NBA commissioner was asked to explain why he didn’t do the same in Seattle. The Sonics in 2008 not only had two more years remaining on a valid lease with the city, but a pending offer from Steve Ballmer and other wealthies to remodel KeyArena to the latest NBA standards.
“In Seattle, there was a hostility by the mayor (Greg Nickels), who was interested in doing nothing as opposed to the way Mayor [Kevin] Johnson has put himself out on this for the people of Sacramento,” Stern said, referring to the former NBA star-turned-politician. “The Speaker of the House [Frank Chopp] was hostile to the NBA and its players, was not the least bit interested in moving any legislation even that just authorized King County to do what which it might have done to help support the arena.
“To call it night and day, it was an absolutely an incredible difference and it is night and day.”
Now, it seems, the Kings again are staring at their expiration date in Sacramento, at least to according to the breathless reporting from the California capital on the struggle to find public financing for a new arena. Apparently, it is night, too, in Sacramento, even if the mayor is an ex-baller.
Suddenly Seattle has emerged into daylight as a candidate for the relocation of the Kings. A mysterious hedge fund manager who went to Seattle’s Roosevelt High School is ready with hundreds of millions of dollars to build a privately financed arena, according to Nickels’ successor, Mike McGinn.
Stern, staring at a dead franchise walking shortly after sweating through a lockout to get a new collective bargaining agreement that is supposedly an improvement for owners, now says he is, ahem, open to discussing Seattle again.
Before we get too far along in this rekindling between ex-es, I’d like to take the liberty of asking something of Stern:
An apology for his comments nine months ago.
His unwarranted, unprovoked diatribe against Seattle completely mis-characterized the local political situation, which approximates the Sacramento situation in that municipal and state governments are flat out of money to help prop up his little hoops operation. Fergawdsakes, Sacramento has been proposing to rob its own parking meters to pay for its new arena.
I’m not attempting to defend Nickels and Chopp. They’re big boys capable of doing that themselves. But they were playing with a pair of deuces and had no chance to win the pot.
What I’m offering is the point that Stern, three years after the fact, chose, in front of the people of Sacramento he is about to hose, to again denigrate our politicians without taking a lick of responsibility for the demise of the Sonics. The sequence of events that crippled the franchise began with the 1999 lockout and is yet to be repaired despite another lockout in 2011. Stern’s remarks were demagoguery, pure and simple.
Neither Seattle nor Sacramento deserves such rhetorical dreck.
My friend at the Seattle Times, Steve Kelley, wrote Sunday that Seattle sports fans need to forgive Stern and forget, as if some sort of public capitulation will speed the process. I beg to differ.
It is Stern’s obligation, not Seattle’s, to mend fences for the good of all parties.
But before the point gets muddled with sentiment, let’s also recognize this not a romance. It’s a business deal.
The politicians, business leaders, and fans who’ve been through the ugliness of the Howard Schultz sellout and the Clay Bennett duplicity can never lose sight of the fact that Stern and NBA owners are a ruthless business cartel well experienced in manipulating public sports passion to their advantage.
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