It’s sleepless in Seattle and the city is hurting without their own NBA team since 2008. After packing up and moving more than half way across the country to Oklahoma City, the city has never been more hungrier for an NBA team.
Seattle’s identity was born with the Supersonics moniker, named after the planned Boeing 2707 developed in the city. The plane was intended to be larger and faster than the Concorde jet.
The 2707 plane was cancelled before it even got off the ground sharing a similar fate to that of the NBA team. It was scrapped amid environment concerns and government funding cuts.
The Sonics were born in 1967 following an expansion of the NBA. In 1983 the Sonics were sold by it’s original owner Sam Schulman to Barry Ackerley.
In 2001 it was sold to the Basketball Club of Seattle and then finally sold to Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett in 2006, the beginning of the end.
After a 41-year run in the NBA as Seattle’s most successful sports franchise their final game was played on April 13, 2008. It was a sad year, Kevin Durant’s rookie year the only highlight in a franchise worst 20-62 (.244) season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder debuted the following season. Thunder owner Clay Bennett had agreed to leave the Supersonics name, logo and colors in Seattle for a possible future franchise in the city.
The lack of a suitable NBA standard arena in the city and the failure to obtain state funding for an upgrade to Seattle’s KeyArena was a major reason for relocation.
There still remains an appetite for an NBA team with the Seattle-Tacoma region having the 12th largest media market in America.
Seattle’s love for sports and presence of the Seahawks, Mariners and the Sounders across three of America’s major professional sports leagues offers an energetic sports markets for a future team.
There’s no better proof for Seattle’s love for sports than in 2013 when fans of the Seahawks celebrated so hard that they registered a then record of 137.6 decibels.
It even registered as an earthquake measuring between 1-2 in the region on the Richter scale. It’s also the equivalent of the a jet engine taking off when standing 82 feet (25 metres) away from it.
In Major Soccer League the Seattle Sounders have set the benchmark for soccer match day experiences in North America, replicating those in Europe. The Sounders have dominated attendance averages blowing away other franchises pushing 40,000+.
The likelihood of NBA expansion isn’t likely until at least 2025 when a newly negotiated TV rights deal will take place, the current deal worth $24 billion over nine-years with ESPN and Turner Sports.
Another obstacle for Seattle getting a franchise is the long list of candidates. Although a Supersonics return is favored the NBA have been exploring games in lucrative international markets such as in Mexico City and Vancouver.
Other strong candidates for expansion are Louisville, Kansas City, Austin, San Diego and Las Vegas.
Relocating an existing team seems the most likely route for Seattle and they came close recently. The Sacramento Kings were seemingly destined to relocate to Seattle however in 2013 NBA owners voted 22-8 in favor of rejecting the move and ending any relocation from Sacramento.
The New Orleans Pelicans are one of the more likely routes of a potential relocation with the region the 51st largest media market in America making a move to the 12th ranked Seattle-Tacoma appetizing.
Long gone are the glory days of the Supersonics who were crowned NBA Champions in the 1978-79 season. As recent as 1993-94 the Sonics went 63-19 but became the first ever #1 seed to lose a playoff series to a #8 seed.
Names like Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf are synonymous with the Supersonics brand and their heyday.
What is promising for a return to the NBA is the $850 million renovations of KeyArena in preparation for an NHL expansion team to begin playing in the city in 2021.
The isolation of Seattle in the north-west of America makes the city a national afterthought, too far away to make any headlines on the East Coast.
So long as the city remains passionate for sports, the Supersonics brand is way too strong for it not to return. Hopefully, for the better of the NBA, sooner rather than later.
Shout out to all of those at #sportstalk. Originally posted at Wolf Gang Sports. I curate sports content on basketball, soccer, American football and more. Avid collector of sports jerseys, trading cards and streetwear paying homage to special moments in sports history. Check out the full blog and sign up to the newsletter to be the first to receive our sporting content that aims to provoke, thought, inspire and entertain.