Author and basketball nut Sherman Alexie pondered recently what it would it mean for the city's psyche to bring back an NBA franchise. "The thing is, if we get a team," he wrote on Sonicsgate, the official site of the 2009 documentary on how Seattle lost its team, "it's going to be somebody else's team. It's not going to be a new franchise. I keep up, so I know who's in trouble. We could get New Orleans, Milwaukee, Indiana, Memphis, Sacramento." Alexie continued:
"To get a team I'm going to have to break the hearts of people just like me. Who will then have to go in front of cameras and talk about their pain like this. And that's the only way we're going to get a team."
Mayor Mike McGinn appears unconcerned about the collateral damage yanking a team from an existing, albeit struggling, franchise and bringing it here might yield. For the past eight months, he's been working a full-court press--though far removed from the spotlight--for a Sonics redux as early as next fall and building a new arena.
The Seattle Times ran an extensive story Sunday on His Honor's wheeling and dealings with a largely unknown hedge-fund manager, 44-year-old Seattle native Christopher Hansen. Four seasons removed from when the Sonics left for Oklahoma, Hansen has approached the city, telling him he wants to buy an NBA team and build a new arena south of Safeco Field.
As the Times reports:
Thanks for spending the time today guys," Hansen wrote in a June 16 email to Julie McCoy, chief of staff to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, and Ethan Raup, the mayor's director of policy and operations.
"I really appreciate it and look forward to making this happen in Seattle," wrote Hansen, a multimillionaire who built a fortune in the private investment world. "I genuinely mean that and am confident that with a little effort and creativity we can find a solution that meets our needs and the City's /State's desire to get a team back to Seattle without a large public outlay."
As mentioned, McGinn, a hard-core baskeball fan, has been at this awhile. Last July he hired New Jersey arena consultant Carl Hirsch to advise the city on the development of a new state-of-the-art facility that might lure an NBA team back to the city. City Council members were not informed of the $19,500-per-month contract and expressed unhappiness.
Times sports columnist Steve Kelley wrote Sunday that the possibility of the NBA returning "feels more real than ever."
Rapid recent progress has been made. Mayor Mike McGinn has been among those championing the idea.
And once the plans for construction of a new arena near Safeco Field are finalized, I believe the NBA will return to Seattle. The financially strapped Sacramento Kings could become the Seattle Sonics as early as the 2012-2013 season.
This is more than mere wishful thinking. And it could turn out to be more than the NBA.
McGinn has been struggling for some time to gain some semblance of positive footing among Seattle voters. Being seen as the man who returned a professional basketball team to the city "would obviously be a feather in his cap, and there are not a lot of feathers out there," said longtime political consultant Blair Butterworth.
"There have been smarter politicians than him who've used distractions," said Butterworth, who just a few months ago called McGinn a "dead man walking," so toxic was his performance evaluation.
"The NBA is shark-filled tapioca; you're dealing with egomaniacs of the first order. Stern is an unreliable partner. Extraordinarily rich people say they want to do things without public money, but one of the reasons extraordinarily rich people are extraordinarily rich is they pay for as little as they can. The devil is in the details in stuff like that, so there's danger. On the other hand, no one really feels he's going to be mayor in 2014, so why not roll some dice. After all, he's Irish."
And, as you'll see, not a bad hoopster in his own right.