Shawn Kemp, the former Sonics star, says he thinks expansion is the best way for Seattle to get another NBA team.

Share story

Sometime Wednesday night, after leaving his Queen Anne restaurant just down the street from KeyArena, Shawn Kemp said he planned on calling former teammate Gary Payton.

The two had talked before the NBA Board of Governors gathered in Dallas on Wednesday and voted to keep the Kings in Sacramento, and Kemp said neither he nor Payton were surprised by the outcome. All along, the two stars who headlined an era in Seattle basketball thought expansion was the only true path to getting the Sonics back.

“It’s the waiting game now,” Kemp said.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

And that might be the most unsettling part of Sonics fans hoping for a conclusive statement from the NBA on the issue. Expansion isn’t out of the equation, and commissioner-to-be Adam Silver strongly indicated that the league would look at that avenue in the future.

But how soon can expansion reasonably happen? A year? Two years? Five? Standing inside Oskar’s Kitchen, Kemp tried his best to put a positive spin on the situation, despite admitting he was “very sad about the news.”

“My hat goes off to the people who were fighting for the game of basketball here,” Kemp said. “I think our fight still continues. We’ve got some bumps in the road, but we have to be optimistic about the situation and just hope for the best luck in the future.

“Sometimes the NBA won’t come out and say exactly what they’re going to do, but with us having at least eight votes, I think in the future we have room to grow.”

That doesn’t mean Kemp was thrilled with the way the Kings saga played out. Kemp said he thought the NBA exploited the Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer to rally investors in Sacramento.

“It seems like we were used a little bit as leverage here in Seattle,” Kemp said, “and it feels that way, too.”

He also took issue with NBA commissioner David Stern’s opening comment at his news conference in Dallas. Stern, widely viewed as a villain among Seattle fans after the Sonics left for Oklahoma City, said, “This is going to be short for me. I have a game to get to in Oklahoma City.”

Kemp said he never had a problem with Stern as a player, but that statement raised his eyebrows.

“I felt like David kind of stuck it to us today,” he said. “I thought that was disrespectful for the city of Seattle to see, and for a commissioner that runs the NBA, that was very disrespectful.

“In my eyes, it just told me what we’re dealing with.”

Stern is scheduled to retire on Feb. 1, after 30 years, and Kemp is hopeful that something will fall in Seattle’s favor in the near future.

“I think the numbers Mr. Hansen and his group put up there, you never know,” he said. “I think we should keep our fingers crossed and be optimistic about the situation and hope for the best luck in the future.”

Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.