Amid excitement for an NBA team, empathy for another city

The News TribuneJanuary 11, 2013 

Even some of the Northwest basketball fans most excited about the prospect of once again having an NBA team in Seattle may feel a little guilty about what fans in Sacramento, Calif., are going through.

After losing the Seattle Sonics five years ago, they can empathize with those who stand to lose a team they’ve followed since 1985.

When Oklahoma City was on the verge of taking the Seattle franchise, we here in the Northwest had a lot of choice comments about the fans there who were so eager for a team they didn’t care how they got it. Now we’re in much the same position, and it feels a little strange to steal another city’s team.

But that’s what pro sports are like these days, right? Well, yes, but they’ve always been like that. The Sacramento Kings started out as the Rochester (N.Y.) Royals in 1946. In 1957 the team became the Cincinnati (Ohio) Royals, then became the Kings when it moved in 1972 to the Kansas City (Mo.) and Omaha (Neb.) market before leaving for Sacramento in 1985. If a local investment group is successful in buying the team, Seattle would just be the latest stop of many.

As of this writing, reports are that a group headed by Chris Hansen might be close to a deal, but the team’s current owners have a history of backing out at the last minute. Now they apparently want to retain a percentage in the team – and possibly some say in how it’s run.

Unless a buyer emerges to keep the Kings in Sacramento, the team’s days there probably are numbered even if the Seattle deal doesn’t happen. A recent proposal to move the team to Virginia Beach recently fell though. The current owners are willing to sell, and someday the Kings are likely to leave for greener pastures.

Speaking of green – and gold – Seattle seems like the best place for the team to land, where it can resurrect the Sonics name and rich history. Not to mention bring back hometown phenom Isaiah Thomas.

The Hansen team seems to have deep pockets, and its arena proposal has won the approval of the Seattle and King County councils. Although the plan includes a taxpayer investment of $200 million, the agreement would repay that out of rent and admission taxes. The owners would be on the hook for shortfalls.

That’s a good deal for Seattle, NBA fans and taxpayers. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it happens – with condolences for Sacramento fans if it does.

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