David Stern: The thief who is back for more
Just four years ago, David Stern ripped the Sonics and their 41 years of history from Seattle. To make matters worse, we are left to suffer through the 2012 NBA Finals and watch our beloved former team, now the Oklahoma City Thunder, compete for a championship. Talk about pouring salt in our wounds.
Don't get me wrong: Chris Hansen appears to be a gift from the heavens, destined to bring an NBA team back to this city. But I'm still furious. I refuse to get on my hands and knees and beg Stern to bring one of his many flailing franchises to be rescued by the fine citizens of Seattle, only for him to further line his pockets with our hard-earned money.
I know I'm in the minority on this one, and it's a strange position to be in. I loved the Sonics. Several times a year I would buy $10 tickets and have a great night at KeyArena. I also love basketball, especially when played at the highest level. It's been a treat to watch the Finals and be a witness -- sorry for the cheap Nike slogan there -- to some of the game's greatest players.
The NBA is overflowing with star power; its on-court product is arguably at the highest level since the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls. TV ratings are up, and with 23 year-old Kevin Durant and 27-year-old LeBron James leading the charge, it isn't going anywhere.
But that's not enough for me. As a city, we've survived without the NBA, and we will continue to thrive without it. Our identity as a city will not be shaped by whether we have an NBA team.
As a true Seattle sports fan, it feels strange to write this. Many will question my devotion to local sports by taking this position. But what I won't do is blindly forgive and forget what Stern and his minions -- the NBA owners -- did by ripping the Sonics from the clutches of our city. I think it's shortsighted to pretend that a new version of the Sonics will somehow replace the void left by the NBA's thievery.
The same people who allowed this to happen are still at the helm. The Thunder are selling out every game -- when it comes to the relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma City, Stern won.
Now we're supposed to be OK with bailing out one of his left-for-dead franchises and creating a new revenue stream for the same NBA that robbed us blind?
Much of my vitriol toward the idea of bringing the Sonics back is directed at Stern. Maybe if there was a new guard, I wouldn't feel so angry. But even if Stern steps down at the end of next season, Adam Silver, essentially the commissioner-in-waiting and Stern's co-pilot, will likely take over. Additionally, that same group of owners who approved the move in the first place still, for the most part, holds the same positions.
OK, stay with me for a second: Let's say the federal government decided they were going to sell the Space Needle to Oklahoma City -- they have a great site in an unoccupied part of downtown. On paper, it makes perfect sense -- it will attract a brand new set of tourists from all over the Midwest, create new revenues and will instill a sense of pride for the citizens of OKC.
Naturally, the residents of Seattle are furious. An integral part of the city's history was taken, and the people had no say. Worse, there was even a provision in the sale that allowed the new owners to commemorate the 1962 Seattle World's Fair -- talk about rubbing it in.
Fast-forward: That same federal government is offering the city of Seattle a chance to acquire the CN Tower from Toronto -- they would even get to call it the Space Needle! It won't be in the old location, but there is a brand new site in the Sodo District. Don't worry, all of the same history of the Space Needle will still be intact -- it will just look a little different.
Maybe that's a stretch, but you get the idea.
For me, bringing the Sonics back to Seattle isn't just about sports. It's about standing up and letting David Stern and the rest of the greedy professional sports world know that you can't stomp all over us one minute and ask us to bail out one of your failures the next.
And save the argument that we can't be taken seriously as a city without more professional sports teams. We are fortunate to have a burgeoning business culture, pro sports teams, a major university with a great sports history -- who are we trying to impress?
The only opposition I've heard from citizens about bringing the Sonics back is from people who don't care about sports. That's not me; besides my family, it's my greatest passion. But what I'm also passionate about is my pride, especially when it comes to the city I love.
All I ask is that we don't forget how we were robbed of 41 years of precious history only to welcome that same thief back with open arms.