Former NBA commissioner David Stern attempted to answer a question many Seattle fans are pondering Why does Seattle not have an NBA team?
With another NBA season in the books, former league commissioner David Stern joined ex-Seattle Times Sonics reporter Nunyo Demasio on his podcast “Nunyo & Company” to discuss everything from the landscape of the league, politics and Frank Sinatra. But Stern also attempted to answer a question many local fans are pondering: Why does Seattle not have an NBA team?
Addressing the parallels between Seattle and Sacramento in their battles to keep an NBA team in place, Stern said the difference boiled down to city leadership. (You can listen to this segment at the 1:11 mark of the podcast.)
“Mayor Kevin Johnson was out there doing whatever had to be done,” Stern said. “In Seattle, the speaker of the Seattle house said our players should take a cut in pay and put the money into a fund to help build the building. That’s nothing we had to work with. I did the same things in Seattle that I did in Sacramento, but there was a leader in Sacramento, Kevin Johnson, who was intent on keeping that team.”
Stern also noted the Sonics did not receive the same level of financial commitment in Seattle as the Seahawks or Mariners had gotten for their stadium.
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“(Johnson) was differently motivated, because there had been huge subsidies from (Seattle) for the baseball team and football team to build their two buildings. Our basketball was the third man in. In Sacramento, this was the game. The city was very proud and had been very supportive.”
When asked about the team’s transition in ownership from Howard Schultz to Clay Bennett, Stern said Schultz was surprised by how hard it was to sell tickets.
“He’s a great marketer, but he wasn’t selling a lot of tickets in Seattle, and he sold the team. And Clay Bennett bought it; Howard made a good profit.”
And once Bennett had the team, Stern noted “he couldn’t get a building done. He hired lobbyists — he did all kinds of things, and it didn’t work.”
Demasio pressed Stern on e-mails that later came out showing Bennett and co-owners Aubrey McClendon and Tom Ward had privately intended to move the team to Oklahoma City while publicly stating they wanted to keep it in Seattle.
“I don’t remember the specific e-mails,” Stern said. “I was satisfied as commissioner that he was making a good-faith effort, and he would’ve been held to it if he was successful.”
Ultimately, Stern said Seattle “is a town that deserves to have a team — no question about it.”