David Stern helped strip Seattle of the Sonics five years ago, but now he is trying to put a team back in one of the NBA's best markets before he retires.
The NBA season gets underway in under a week, the fifth year that the league will be played without a team in Seattle. The city was stripped of their SuperSonics in 2008 when Clay Bennett took his team home to Oklahoma City and left one of the best basketball markets in the country without a NBA team. It was a painful time in Seattle, as is to be expected from any passionate city losing its team, but it was made even worse by the empty promises made by Bennett and the NBA that gave the city no chance at keeping their beloved Sonics.
Bennett has always been public enemy No. 1 in the Sonics theft, but right behind him is David Stern, the NBA commissioner who seemingly gave Bennett the green light and greased the wheels for him to take the team to Oklahoma City. Stern would not be welcomed in Seattle right now.
But Stern is apparently working to rectify that. A day after announcing that Stern would retire in February 2014, Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the NBA commissioner is hard at work to put a team back in Seattle and repair his reputation in the Emerald City, as well as with every NBA fan who was heartbroken to see such a great city lose its team.
"Between now and his departure, Stern is determined to get a franchise back into Seattle, league sources said. He has become a strong ally of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's group to bring back the NBA there. Ballmer's group has been trying to get the Maloof family to sell the Sacramento Kings, so that the franchise can eventually play in a new arena in Seattle.
From the league office, pressure on the Maloofs to sell has been growing, sources said – just as hopes for a new Sacramento arena have been fading. Seattle Sonics' fans will never forgive Stern for his complicit role in Clay Bennett's deception to move that franchise to Oklahoma City, but make no mistake: Stern desperately wants to return the NBA to one of its great markets and wants it for his own measure of vindication before he leaves office.
As one source involved in the process said, "Stern has enough time to get a team back to Seattle, but he'll let Silver deal with the crowd [booing] on opening night."
Of course, to put a team back in Seattle will require another city and its fan base losing their team. Expansion is not on the table so some city will have to feel the pain of having its team stripped from them, in this case likely Sacramento.
Still, Seattle never should have lost the Sonics in the first place and while the five years without a team in the city has been tough. If any city is going to get a team, Seattle should, and while nobody will ever forget the underhanded way in which Stern and the NBA shipped the Sonics out, putting a team back in the city would be a nice way for Stern to go out.