Friday, April 18, 2008

My last Sonics post, maybe

Kudos to David Goldstein of, who recently related a story he heard about a top National Basketball Association executive. While some second-hand stories can be a little off-the-wall, sometimes they're probably true.
According to Goldy, a friend of his mentioned to the NBA big-wig that he couldn't believe the league would abandon Seattle, the 12th ranked media market in the country for the 45th, sometimes refered to as that ``hell-hole'' Oklahoma City. The NBA guy said his owners aren't thrilled with the move, but Commissioner David Stern says Seattle needs to be made an example of; a city where politicians had the termerity to ignore what the league wanted in favor of what most of their constituency wanted.
For the unitiated, Howard ``Starbucks'' Schultz, the previous owner, wanted a new arena even though Seattle's Key Arena was rebuilt in 1998. However, City Council president Nick Licata and even Mayor Greg Nickels, who never met a downtown development deal he didn't like, knew which way the wind was blowing; voters were still smarting about the Mariners getting a new stadium even when it was voted down.
Stern then helped broker a deal between Schultz and Oklahoma City's Clay Bennett to buy the Sonics. Local newspapers are now publishing e-mails they acquired between Stern and Bennett that will likely say that Bennett and his cowboy buddies never planned to keep the team in Seattle.
However, Seattle has made some last-minute overtures about getting the Sonics to stay. When Microsoft exec Steve Ballmer said he'd throw $150 million into the pot to help upgrade Key Arena, Stern called it a ``publicity stunt.''
Just like George W. Bush reached a point where he was going to invade Iraq regardless of anything the Iraqis said or did, Stern and company are pulling out of Seattle. Never mind KJR's Sonics Day (in the spirit of full disclosure, I did get a free ticket to the Sonics-Trailblazers game that day); the Save Our Sonics group (well no, they're not our Sonics, they're Clay Bennett's Sonics) or former Seattle superstar Freddie Brown wanted to build the first indoor basketball arena with a retractable roof, the Sonics are pulling up stakes.
Recently Oklahoma City voters passed by a 60-40 margin plans to upgrade the downtown arena to prepare it for an NBA franchise. For a vote like that to pass by that big a margin was unheard of. Plans to build sports venues usually don't go to the ballot box for one simple reason - they usually get voted down. I was in Oklahoma once in the late `80's, and even then noticed the opulent high school football stadiums and softball complexes with their multiple fields and sunbaked red clay infields. All of these venues surrounded by people living in poverty.
There was one post on Goldy's blog that may have summed things up. While OK residents are being told that this is their chance to become major league, one respondant noted, ``I'd be prouder to say I'm from the city that stood up to the extortion attempt of the NBA than to say I'm from a city with an NBA team.''