The NBA semi-finals garnered more attention than the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs over the past few weeks. Now that the NBA Finals is in full swing with two teams boasting perennial superstars (LeBron James and Kevin Durant), much attention across the U.S. is on this series. LeBron James could be one of the most criticized basketball players which is a driving reason many people want the Thunder to take the title this year. However, not many people know the history of how the Oklahoma City Thunder developed from the Seattle SuperSonics.
Back in 2008, the Seattle SuperSonics was in their 41st year of existence and held one championship title from 1979. The owner of the team was Howard Schultz, who also happened to own the globally ubiquitous coffee shop, Starbucks. After 41 years of playing in the same arena, Schultz wanted to build a new arena with luxury boxes, updated locker rooms, and all the accouterments you could possibly imagine. The only problem was that it cost $300 million and it would be paid for by the taxpayers of Seattle. Despite there being a love for the SuperSonics, Seattle’s taxpayers preferred to spend their money on public programs rather than a seemingly overpriced arena. In response to the taxpayers, Schultz made (with approval from the NBA) the decision to sell the Sonics to Oklahoma City billionaires, Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon.
The decision was quite rash by Schultz to sell a team because its fans would not support a project that is extremely costly. However, four years later, we see Oklahoma City on the cusp of its first championship and Seattle considering a $500 million complex for a hockey team and basketball team. This time around, private investor, Chris Hansen will be funding $300 million from his group. So who would be in this arena? Great question! The plans are conditional of Seattle acquiring a professional basketball team. Hansen would prefer both an NHL and NBA team but the project could move forward with just an NBA team. If only an NBA team were acquired, public spending would be capped at $120 million, however, if Seattle acquires an NBA and NHL team, public spending would amount to $200 million.
In the long run, was it worth moving the Sonics? For Oklahoma City, absolutely…For Seattle, I’m sure they will be looking forward to someone besides Howard Schultz running their sports teams.
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