So Clay Bennett, for $45 million now and possibly another $30 million down the road, gets to move his NBA team to the relative backwater that is Oklahoma City next season, thanks to a settlement agreed upon with Seattle mayor Greg Nickels just before the judge’s decision in the legal battle between the sides was supposed to be handed down.
Seattle gets to keep the Sonics’ name and history in the hope that a replacement team will be created or become available, but that seems dependent upon the Washington state legislature approving millions of dollars for Key Arena renovations in a horrible slump of an economy. So, my guess is, that is the last of professional basketball that Seattle will see for at least a decade, if not more. Bennett can take his lying ass back to his hometown, but this disgusting end to a franchise in a major American city with basketball history — this epic failure of decency — belongs on the head of David Stern. Sure, part of it should be on the head of Starbucks founder and past owner Howard Schultz (who is still suing Bennett for violating the “good faith” agreement of trying to keep the team in the Emerald City), but the ball of failure, as it stands right now, is all Stern’s.
You are exchanging a top 10 media market for a comparative dustbowl with declined media presence based on the idea of the growth possibility. In what corporate marketplace is this allowed to make sense? In one where oil money is enough to offset the possible losses and a compliant legislature in Oklahoma City willing to extend a sales tax increase to fund a revamping of the Ford Center — essentially lying back and declaring to Bennett, “Oh, we’re ready for you,” with a dirty, come-hither tone in the voice.
If karma exists, whatever this Oklahoma City basketball team becomes will lose Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook when their rookie contracts are up, and the OKC city leaders have to lie back and take it without lube when Bennett declares the old but revamped Ford Center is no longer good enough in 10 years.
This is just as bad, comparatively, as the Tim Donaghy scandal for Stern — a black mark on his tenure as commissioner that he cannot erase no matter how much he tries to spin it, nor how many teams he refers to Seattle as “a first-class basketball city.”
Sonics are Oklahoma City-bound [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]