By Brent Stecker
Age-old adages are the best way to learn from Seattle’s ill-fated attempt to get back into business with the NBA.
For one, Seattle and the group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer found out that two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because the Sonics were stolen by owner Clay Bennett in 2008 while a dedicated fan base was forced to sit and watch doesn’t mean the right move was to repeat the act with the Sacramento Kings.
The NBA made that clear – it made a mess in Seattle, and rather than make another one in Sacramento, it denied the sale of the Kings to Hansen on Wednesday. The NBA proved it learned its lesson from 2008, but – in a cruel twist – did so at the expense of Seattle basketball fans once again.
And that’s where the second adage comes into play: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Seattle has been fooled twice by the NBA, and it’s time the city wipes its hands clean of an organization that, whether intentional or not, has shown it the ultimate disrespect on multiple occasions by excluding it from its elite club.
Now is the time for Seattle to shift its focus away from the NBA in particular and basketball in general. Now is the time for Seattle to put its energy into coaxing an NHL team to move to the Emerald City.
The idea of an NHL team moving to Seattle is nothing new. Rumors of a hockey team moving to Seattle accompanied Hansen’s attempt to secure an NBA team, and the website NHL to Seattle has provided facts and updates along the way, much like the Save Our Sonics movement. Now, more than ever, the NHL looks like an ideal suitor for the city.
The NBA has done something remarkable in its handling of Seattle. It’s made the NHL – not exactly the poster-child for successful sports leagues – look like a more honorable organization. Compared to grudge-holding NBA Commissioner David Stern, who irked Seattle fans by beginning his comments Wednesday with, “This is going to be short for me, I have a game to get to in Oklahoma City,” NHL commish Gary Bettman, who has presided over three labor stoppages in 20 years, looks relatively friendly.
The NBA also looks foolish in business circles after denying a Seattle group with deep pockets to maintain a team in a much smaller market with a hastily-crafted arena deal. It may have been the right decision morally for the people of Sacramento, but it didn’t right a wrong in Seattle, and it didn’t make business sense for the league in the long-term.
That same long-term business sense will apply to NHL. So will the foundation laid by Hansen, Ballmer and Mayor Mike McGinn. Hansen still has land and a great arena proposal in the SoDo district. Originally the idea was to build the arena for an NBA team, and then lure an NHL team afterwards. Why not switch the order?
Get an NHL team and make the NBA see what they’re missing. Create a new legacy instead of dwelling on an old one. But don’t give the NBA the chance to burn Seattle again. After the disrespect it has shown Seattle in the last half-decade, it’s the city’s duty to return the favor.