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ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy: Seattle would be ‘top 10 NBA city’ the moment it got a team

The NBA returned to Seattle for KeyArena's final event before a massive renovation. (AP)

By all measures, the NBA’s return to Seattle last Friday for a preseason game between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings was a rousing success.

KeyArena was sold out for its last scheduled event before a massive renovation, the crowd was loud and appreciative to see men’s pro basketball in Seattle again, and one-time Seattle Sonics star Kevin Durant provided what could prove to be one of the more memorable moments in Seattle sports history.

Former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy, now an ESPN color commentator who was on the call for the game, told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk that the reception to the game made quite the impression.

“The game itself was what you’d expect from Seattle basketball fans, which was an overwhelming response. They’d be a top 10 NBA city the moment they got brought another franchise,” Van Gundy said.

In many ways, the game was a celebration of the history of the SuperSonics, which has been dormant since the franchise was moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. But Van Gundy added that it proved not just that Seattle is worthy of being awarded a new team by the league, but that the city is probably more worthy than other cities that currently have NBA teams.

“There’s so many cities that don’t support (their NBA teams). Just look at the bottom 10 of attendance figures in the NBA, and you can figure out really quickly which would be better served having a franchise in Seattle,” he said. “… If you just look at so many of the teams who perpetually don’t draw – I just don’t understand for the life of me why the NBA, when it has a vibrant, proven NBA city like Seattle, wouldn’t have more urgency to get a team back there. It just seems like they’ve been slow-walked this whole time and I just don’t think it’s right.”

Van Gundy believes Seattle would immediately be an attractive landing spot for top coaches in the league, too.

“Anybody who could get a job in Seattle would limit their other opportunities just to have that chance,” he said. “… To have that ability to go back for a preseason game and have it feel like a playoff game in so many other cities makes you remember what you’re missing. Believe me, whenever you get an NBA team, you’ll have like an avalanche of people trying to be their next coach.”

Van Gundy also touched on Durant’s relationship with Seattle fans, how current NBA commissioner Adam Silver differs from his predecessor, David Stern, and whether expansion or relocation is more likely for Seattle. You can listen to the full interview in this podcast from Brock and Salk.

Was NBA’s Seattle return the Sonics’ afterword or a spark to their revival?