If you're from Seattle, you're not going to want to read this. You're not going to want to read that the city's oldest professional sports franchise is as good as gone. You're not going to want to read that your efforts to keep the team, while valiant, are a case of too little, too late. You're not going to want to read that the NBA considers the lawsuit you filed to try and force the Sonics to honor their lease at KeyArena (which runs through the 2009-10 season) little more than a nuisance. You're not going to want to read that you're not going to win, that hitching your wagon to a series of leaked e-mails that may or may not prove that Sonics owner (and Oklahoma City native)
You're not going to want to hear any of that. But unfortunately, all of it is true.
Monday's ruling by a New York federal court judge that NBA commissioner
It's unfortunate that it has come to this. Seattle is a city rich in basketball tradition and many Sonics fans have witnessed a 1967 expansion team grow up and win an NBA championship in 1979 and come within two games of winning another in '96. This isn't the Hornets moving out of Charlotte or the Grizzlies escaping Vancouver. This is an entrenched NBA franchise about to start anew.
It's sad. I think everyone will agree with that. But it's over.
The NBA knows its over. Earlier this month the Board of Governors approved the relocation by a 28-2 vote. No one in the NBA's Olympic Tower offices is concerned that the two lawsuits, one filed by the city and one filed by former Sonics owner
"If you follow the arc of this, you see that [Bennett's group] went to the state legislature with a viable plan," Stern told SI.com last weekend. "They spent money on an architect, got an option on land; and as we stand here to date there's still no plan. There's just an attempt [by the city] to be as difficult as they can, which I understand, and an attempt by the group that sold to them to save face. It's not a pretty picture, but it will be what it will be. I think that at a certain point it will be demonstrated that they did use their best efforts and at a certain point when -- actually I was going to say when it becomes impossible, but even when it became impossible to get through what they wanted to get through, I think that Clay Bennett continued to meet with parties to say come on, give me your best shot. Is there a private thing? Can we work with the Indian tribes? The private developers? And [can] the mayor do something else? Is there some other proposal? And it just didn't appear that it was to be.''
Sure, there is plenty of mudslinging to be done. Blame Bennett for perhaps not operating completely honest, as his April 2007 e-mail exchange with minority owners
Blame the city or the state, both of which have inexplicably refused to put forth any proposal that includes significant public financing for a new arena. The day before Bennett's now infamous e-mail, the Washington Legislature declined to vote on a $500 million, publicly subsidized arena plan. Bennett, who offered to put up $100 million of his own money, was asking the state of Washington to authorize King County tax dollars to pay for $278 million of the building. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City voters approved a sales-tax extension to fund $121.6 million in improvements to a downtown arena and build a practice facility. Granted, Seattle's elected officials are still reeling from signing off on tax dollars to build Safeco Field for the Mariners and Qwest Field for the Seahawks. But sometimes that's just the price you pay to have professional sports.
You can even blame Stern, though I would be careful how harshly you criticize. Officials from the mayors and governors offices have been overwhelmingly critical of Stern in recent months. But Stern, who has a $10 million per year contract and hasn't dropped even a
"In my mind, subject to all lawful orders of the court, the Sonics are moving to Oklahoma City whether at the end of this season, the end of next season or the end of the season after that," said Stern. "Could I imagine circumstances without precedent where some court does something? It would be hard to imagine that there would be any circumstances legally that would preclude the Sonics from moving at the end of their lease, whether the court decrees that to be this season with two more seasons to be played, or after two seasons with the requirement that they play it out. I think that ultimately, despite the novel and face-saving attempts to construct causes of action, that the Sonics are moving to Oklahoma City."
So get angry, Sonics fans. Get frustrated. It's only natural. Throw out your Sonics mugs and skip over the team every time you're watching NBATV. But the time has come to accept reality. The Sonics are gone. And they are not coming back.