David Stern is all about leverage. (Credit)
I’ve never been to Sacramento. I’ve never been further north in California than San Diego. I have no beef with the city; I’ve never even met anyone from it. I just know that Sacramento shouldn’t have an NBA team.
If they did, they might also have an NFL or MLB team. Hell, an NHL team would suffice. There’s a reason no other league will touch it with a 50-foot pole. Why put a team in the nation’s 20th biggest media market when No. 6 is less than 100 miles away? It’s common sense. The modern NBA would never stick a team in San Diego with two already in L.A. (note, this killed Anaheim’s bid for the Kings and any future bids they make).
The Kings were dead last in NBA in attendance. They were 15th in the best year in franchise history (2002). They couldn’t sell 80% of their seats with the threat of moving looming in a league where teams routinely top 100% through standing room only tickets. How much more evidence do we need to prove that Sacramento can’t support an NBA team?
And don’t pull the history card on me, either. They’ve never won a championship. No Hall of Famer has ever worn purple and black. They stole the team from Kansas City in 1985, who stole the team from Cincinnati in 1972, who stole the team from Rochester in 1957.
Seattle has history. They have a championship and a few Hall of Famers, and more importantly, a fanbase dying for basketball. They never should have lost their team to begin with.
But they did, because King David saw no interest in protecting it.
I don’t think it’s any secret that I despise David Stern. I think he blatantly disregards the league’s fans in favor of the owners to such a loathsome degree that he would actually tamper with officials to ensure profitable matchups. The NBA isn’t the National Basketball Association, it’s the New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami Basketball Association with a few other cities sprinkled in.
The league saw an opportunity in Sacramento to steal a new arena. Kevin Johnson has practically built his political career around it. But whatever, it’s not like California’s dreadful school system or crumbling economy could have used those funds or the attention of its capital’s mayor.
But Seattle was going to build the Kings a new arena too, right? Exactly. That’s the point.
This Seattle group isn’t going away. They have the financing in place, they have a stadium site, and they have a city full of people who want the Sonics back. The NBA is -- unfortunately -- not short on teams in danger.
The Pacers need a new arena. So do the Bucks. I’m almost positive the Bobcats won’t be in Charlotte a decade from now. I don’t think the Hawks or Timberwolves are safe, either.
That’s one sixth of the league. One sixth of the league is going to go to their cities and states and ask for new arenas, and when they don’t get them, they’ll shake their heads and say “no problem, we’re heading to Seattle.”
It’s never been about getting a team in Seattle. It’s about leverage. It’s about the NBA bullying other cities into caving to their demands. It’s the same reason Los Angeles doesn’t have an NFL team. The NBA already had Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Anaheim and Las Vegas desperately pushing for teams, but Seattle was the crown jewel, the jilted ex who made any relocation threat a reality because we’ve all been a part of that reality. Just go on Google and search Seattle Supersonics. They were a real team with a real history.
The NBA doesn’t care about selling tickets anymore. At least not on the league level. They care about two things: media rights and state-of-the-art stadiums. It’s not about profiting on a year-to-year basis. It’s about increasing franchise value. And it’s working.
The Sacramento Kings aren’t a particularly valuable franchise. They play in a small market to partially empty arenas. Yet they just sold for $535 million, a new record. It seems like that record just continues to be broken with every new sale.
The NBA knew they could get Kevin Johnson to play their game, so they teased the city with the prospect of Seattle just to get the ball rolling. You know who they don’t have such leverage with? Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Atlanta and Charlotte. That’s where the Seattle carrot becomes so valuable to the league. It was never about this sale, but the next one.
You see the ethical problem with this, right? They’re going to put the city of Seattle through this every few years with no real intention of giving them a team. Why would the NBA do it? They’d rather have leverage for 30 teams than profitability for one.
Only Seattle is too desperate for a team to notice. Let me ask you this: why was Clay Bennett allowed to buy the Sonics with the full intention of moving them to Oklahoma City when Chris Hansen wasn’t allowed to do the same with the Kings and Seattle? Why didn’t any owners attempt to block the first move?
Because it was in the league’s best interests to create the Seattle opening. That’s what this has always been about, and why the NBA is the most disingenuous of the four major American sports leagues.
Major League Baseball wouldn’t pull this crap. Other than the 2005 move of the Expos from Montreal to Washington (which was SORELY needed), they haven’t moved a team since 1972 and really haven’t come close. The NFL has six moves in that timeframe, but half of them involve Los Angeles, which is a major issue in itself.
The NBA? 10, with the threat hanging over several teams at a given time. If a city isn’t working, they ditch it. Just ask the Grizzlies, who played exactly six seasons in Vancouver before bailing for Memphis. In other leagues, once you’re entrenched in a city, you’re entrenched. There isn’t a game of hot potato where cities are strung along and fanbases are devastated.
The inherent problems with the Sacramento market aren’t going away. They aren’t suddenly going to be able to fill their arena or sign marquee free agents. I predict that, within a decade, Vivik Ranadive will want to sell the team because they’re underperforming.
And where will Seattle be in a decade? Still fighting for a team they’ll never get. It is the will of King David, so it will be done.
By: Sam Quinn