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Key domino for Seattle Sonics return falling with Celtics for sale?

Jul 1, 2024, 11:40 AM | Updated: 3:44 pm

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Tony Allen of the Boston Celtics shoots against the Seattle Sonics on Dec. 27, 2007. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The return of the Seattle Sonics to the NBA could be taking yet another step based on news regarding another franchise in the league.

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Just weeks after the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship, the team’s majority ownership group, Boston Basketball Partners LLC, said Monday it intends to sell the majority interest of the franchise in 2024 or early 2025. The group is led by Wyc Grousbeck, but it’s another member of the group that’s of interest here: David Bonderman, who is co-founder/co-majority owner of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken.

Bonderman has long been considered the leading candidate to be majority owner of an expected expansion Seattle NBA franchise, but he would need to sell his ownership stake in the Celtics first. The current Celtics ownership group selling would make that key domino fall.

Not only does Bonderman have NBA ownership experience, but he has local ties that add weight to speculation that he wants to play a part in the league’s return to Seattle. He attended the University of Washington and worked as a security guard at the Space Needle in the 1960s, which is on the same Seattle Center campus that features Climate Pledge Arena – home to the Kraken, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, and presumably an expansion NBA team in the coming years.

In 2018, Bonderman spoke to Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk about the possibility of being a majority owner of a Seattle NBA franchise.

“If there’s a basketball franchise available, we’re going to go after it,” he said.

More recently, Samantha Holloway, who is executive chair of the Kraken and Bonderman’s daughter, has been up front about the Kraken ownership group’s ambitions to bring the NBA back to Seattle.

“It would be an amazing market, and the NBA knows that,” Holloway told Bloomberg last month. “This is an exercise in patience for both us and the fans because we’re all really excited for what could be.”

NBA expansion time for Seattle Sonics?

The NBA is expected to move its attention to a pair of expansion teams once a new television deal is finalized, with Seattle and Las Vegas among the favorites to be awarded franchises.

Bonderman has played an important role in a series of events that many hope will end with a Sonics team replacing the one that was torn out of Seattle and moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.

A state-of-the-art building was needed for the NBA to consider returning to Seattle, but the city required a major pro sports team in line to serve as a primary tenant before breaking ground. That’s where the Oak View Group and the NHL came in, with OVG building Climate Pledge Arena under the iconic Seattle Center Arena roof and securing an expansion hockey franchise, with Bonderman fronting the ownership group along with Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer. All the while, the arena was built not just with hockey in mind but also an NBA franchise, to the point that the building has had areas labeled as NBA locker rooms since it opened in 2021.

Potential Seattle Sonics return may have played role in Kraken change

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