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We got our Sonics back the messy way

But we don't care. Here's why.
Seattle City Council members Mike O'Brien (left), Sally Clark, and Tim Burgess discuss a letter to Chris Hansen.

Seattle City Council members Mike O'Brien (left), Sally Clark, and Tim Burgess discuss a letter to Chris Hansen. Matt Fikse-Verkerk

 

Maybe if I hadn't covered the trial in July 2008 while thousands of fans stood in the courtyard of Seattle's federal courthouse futilely and forlornly chanting, "Sooper! Sonics!" I'd feel different. But pro sports is a nasty business, never more so than when the Sonics were allowed to be sold out of Seattle, leaving behind a slag heap of lies, greed, embarrassments, betrayals and heartache.

Seattle's voters (via the I-91 ballot measure) and politicians told the monopoly extortionists of pro sports to drop dead. But the leagues know how to manipulate the musical chairs to make sure there's always one less chair than players.

It's Sacramento's turn to be left standing, because wealthier Seattle wants back in and the NBA wants the Addams . . . er, Maloof family out.

Yes, I'm glad to hear the NBA is on the verge of returning to Seattle, but it is a guilty pleasure. Particularly when you know that the fans who supported the Kings in Sacramento, on a per-capita basis, were more committed to the franchise there, creating seasonal sellouts in 19 of the team's 27 years.

I traveled to Sac-town in 1996, when the Kings hosted the Sonics in a playoff series. The Sonics won 3-1 and went on to meet the Chicago Bulls in the finals. But I swear that the headache I developed in then-Arco Arena, bursting with maniacal fans and their damn cowbells, only left me about two weeks ago.

But for reasons not of their making, the Kings fans are about to be hosed by the same forces that left Sonics fans wet and shivering. That is until a skinny little kid from Roosevelt High School, who used to wash my dishes after I ate at the Leschi Lake Cafe along Lake Washington Boulevard, showed up with a billion dollars and an inexplicable passion to restore the Sonics.

Chris Hansen's preposterous story is at least as good for Seattle as it is bad for Sacramento. But the franchise-extrication saga has two mitigating differences worth noting.

Pending approval by NBA owners as well as survival of two lawsuits and an environmental impact study over Hansen's proposed arena location in SoDo — none of which are guaranteed, so keep your confetti dry until the opening tip — Hansen is buying the franchise with the express purpose of moving it to Seattle.

None of the prevarications, dissembling and mendacity that accompanied Howard Schultz's 2006 sale of the Sonics to Oklahoman Clay Bennett and his fellow plains pirates will be a part of this deal. No balloons-and-cookies press conferences, no phony trips to potential new-arena locations, no hiring of Lenny Wilkens and Bill Russell as front men. Just a check, a handshake and the beep-beep of moving trucks backing up to the loading doors.

This doesn't heal the hole in the soul of Kings' fans, but compared to Bennett's butcheries, this will be laser surgery. And Kings fans had to know, from the Maloofs' many muddy footprints to the doors in Anaheim and Virginia Beach, VA., that the dirty deed was going to be done.

The other mitigating difference is . . . well, Sacramento, how did YOU get this team?

The same way, it turns out, that Hansen proposes to.

When the Kings were failing in Kansas City — after failing in their original home of Rochester, NY., and later Cincinnati — a group of business people purchased the franchise for $10.5 million in time to call them the Sacramento Kings for the 1985-86 season. Joseph Benvenuti, Frank and Gregg Lukenbill, Bob A. Cook, Frank McCormick and Stephen H. Cippa were the Hansens of their day in the Delta.

The Kings made the playoffs their first year, then not again until that '96 series against Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, et al. The Kings had some great teams and seasons in the early 2000s, with a couple of splendid playoff series with the Lakers, but for the biggest part of its pro basketball life, the franchise has been largely the Seattle Mariners of the NBA. (Though the Kings' hardwood grandfathers, the Rochester Royals, did win the 1951 NBA title. )


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Jan 22, 10:13 a.m. Inappropriate

Another way of saying "mitigating difference" is "rationalization." The good-hearted Sonics fans got robbed by Clay Bennett and the NBA, so it's okay if they rob another community, especially since that community robbed some other town 30 years ago? Three wrongs make a right? It's okay to be part of the whole manipulative and parasitic NBA business model because some fans were sad about a court decision five years ago? It'll be interesting to see if Thiel and other fans still buy these arguments when the Royals/Kings/Sonics get a better deal from some other city and move on in fifteen or twenty years.

Posted Tue, Jan 22, 11:40 a.m. Inappropriate

Yeah, like Seattle really needs another concrete cash cow monolith dedicated to entertaining its overpaid, underqualified, self-absorbed yuppy drones.

Wells

Posted Tue, Jan 22, 7:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Wells- You hate much. Your generalization of a city is uneducated, ignorant at best. You jealous much? Go troll somewhere else, hater.

pboggz

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 3:34 a.m. Inappropriate

It is not "hate", if it is true. Wells is absolutely correct in his statement about a "cash cow monolith", and the "yuppie drones". Only a yuppie drone would defend a yuppie drone, and a yuppie drone is still a mental adolescent. A yuppie drone may never know, how objectionable they are.

jhande

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 9:22 p.m. Inappropriate

If you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all.

Posted Sun, Jan 27, 3:58 a.m. Inappropriate

Sorry, I haven't been taking my Soma lately, or been wearing my blinders. Are we China yet? I know, how can anyone have the temerity to speak the truth about their betters? Or what their betters wish to impose. Oops I mean bestow with much graciousness. I really have to find my Soma before I get in trouble. Crap...now they are at my door...

jhande

Posted Tue, Jan 22, 8:07 p.m. Inappropriate

seattleskeptick: Seattle will never lose a team again. The point here is that Seattle does not need to be apologetic at all. The second point is Seattle was strong armed and lied to during the whole process. You obviously did not follow along how it unfolded in the most unprofessional way and demoralizing way for a community. There is nothing wrong in what is happening in Sacramento. They are being bought to be moved. Chris has be professional and straight forward with everyone. Sacramento had a chance to keep their team for the past four years, but the people and community leaders did not make a deal. Seattle did not have a chance to make a deal, since Clay was gong to move it anyways no matter what and made up hope or "he tried" to stay in the city. Seattle was wronged, Sacramento is not being wronged. The point of them being moved from Rochester to Cincy to Sacramento, and now Seattle is it is business, but each time they were moved....they were told straight up.

pboggz

Posted Wed, Jan 23, 1:06 p.m. Inappropriate

The parallels to the Kings to Seattle move versus Sonics to OKC are hardly identical, as Art detailed in his column. And I think our fanbase has become more clear-eyed, albeit cynical, about the nature of the business of professional sports. I feel for the Sacramento fans at a visceral level; I also don't discount the "unfairness" that the Kings weren't offered to local buyers there by the Maloofs. At least Seattle interests presumably had the opportunity at the time when Howard Schultz was looking to sell the Sonics (and ultimately did to Clay Bennett, et al).

Posted Wed, Jan 23, 7:33 p.m. Inappropriate

Sacramento has blue skies in February. Seattle has ... crocuses, maybe. Seattle needs the Sonics more than Sacramento needs the Kings. A Cold Trade for warm sunshine.

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 4:12 a.m. Inappropriate

The Kings are not the Sonics, and would not be the Sonics even if the Kings were moved here. They would be the Kings, even in Seattle. The Sonics are in oklahoma city. That is the truth of the situation. No changing of names, or pretending will change the truth. It is pathetic, and not worthwhile to call the Kings the Sonics. It is a lie.

jhande

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 8:53 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks to Wells for saying what a lot of people are thinking. I always laugh when anyone who posts anything against corporate sports is then labeled as a "hater" or "ignorant" or whatever else by the corporate sports addicts. More sad to me that so many citizens, often and rightly skeptical of promises made by big business, all of a sudden go limp with joy and become trusting sheep when a billionaire hedge-fund manager claims to be presenting the city with a "gift" and that one of the reasons he's doing so is to help "at-risk kids." If somebody said that on a TV drama, most people would boo or change the station. But in real life, anyone who will bring back "the team" (whatever that is...a name, nothing more) is hailed as a modern hero.

TaylorB1

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 9:21 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't understand this silly term "hater". What I do see are a whole lot of people willing to comment on things they know nothing about.

Posted Sun, Jan 27, 4:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Okay. What is it that is being said that you find objectionable? And why? What specifically is it that people "know nothing about"? I am game. I bet I know more about this arena proposal than you do. Is that enough of a thrown down gauntlet for you?

jhande

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