Seattle is obviously mentioned when talk of NBA expansion surfaces, and the city’s mayor has fresh optimism about landing a team.
Last month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver suggested the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed him time to more strongly consider expansion for the league. While it may not be happening especially soon, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan has some fresh optimism about the city getting an NBA team back.
In a conversation with Seattle television station KING5, Durkan said she spoke with Silver just before Christmas and is “pretty optimistic” about a return of the NBA to the city.
“He knows Seattle wants to be at the front of the line. We’re where the team should be. But we will be respecting them as they move forward to their ownership because the (owners), you know, has to approve it.”
Is Seattle first in line for an NBA expansion team?
With a new team fee reportedly lined up to be $2.5 billion, expansion would be a way for the NBA to refill financial coffers that have been depleted by playing in empty arenas, etc. Expansion may still be years out, and the last time it happened the Charlotte Bobcats were awarded a franchise two years before they began play.
Seattle lost the NBA in 2008 when the SuperSonics left to become the Oklahoma City Thunder. Arena concerns were at the root of the move, as is common in those situations. But with Climate Pledge Arena, on the site of the old Key Arena, being ready by late summer for the NHL expansion Seattle Kraken and the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, Seattle has built an arena with an NBA team in mind.
Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke, whose firm won the right to build the privately-financed arena, confirmed the intention to accommodate an NBA team. Leiweke told KING5 that $50 million was spent on changes to the arena’s original design to include an NBA tenant.
“This isn’t a new market,” Leiweke said. “This is a marketplace that has led the league in attendance.”
As for who might take ownership stake in the new Seattle NBA team, which would surely take back the SuperSonics’ nickname and colors, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos stand out. Amazon has the naming rights to the new arena, so Bezos stepping to the forefront as the primary owner feels like a logical step. Another possibility is Kraken majority owner David Bonderman, who is a University of Washington grad and a minority owner of the Boston Celtics. He has said he is willing to take a financial position in a Seattle NBA franchise.
In any case, there is realistic momentum regarding the NBA’s return to Seattle. It’s really a matter of when the SuperSonics are back, not if.