This town is home to some of the best grassroots basketball in the country, and without a pro franchise, well, it just feels incomplete.
If you’re an NBA fan in Seattle, you’re probably speechless right now, so let me help with the word you’re looking for: Ouch.
Actually, if you’re an NBA fan in Seattle, there is a slew of other four-letter words you’ve spewed since the city council’s vote Monday, but the primary emotion here is pain.
In “The Shawshank Redempton,” Andy Dufresne claimed that hope was a good thing — “maybe best of things” — but it seems to have backfired here. This was supposed to be a slam-dunk vote toward inching closer to an NBA arena. Instead, the Sonics faithful just got slammed.
“The city’s past actions contributed to the Sonics leaving Seattle,” Seattle mayor Ed Murray said Monday. “Today’s council vote makes it less likely that the NBA will return.”
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Those words sear deeper than most because — let’s face it — the mayor is right. Eight years after morphing into the Thunder and moving to Oklahoma City, the Sonics’ return seems hopeless.
Maybe it always was, but that didn’t affect the optimism around here. To the most ardent fans, the Supes have long been the ex they were sure would come back one day. But in terms of reality setting in, Monday was like seeing the ex wearing another dude’s ring.
In case you haven’t been following, the Seattle City Council blocked an initiative to vacate Occidental Avenue, by a vote of 5-4.
The vacation was viewed as the last major hurdle needed for developer Chris Hansen to obtain a master permit and build a shovel-ready arena in the Sodo District.
Whether this would have eventually lured an NBA team to Seattle is an enormous question mark (NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said he has no immediate plans for expansion). But given how the motion was denied altogether, the Emerald City appears as likely to get a cricket team before it does a professional basketball squad.
As a result of this setback, fiery fans are running out of fingers for which to point the blame. Some condemn the Port of Seattle — the chief opposition to a Sodo arena — which feels such a building would threaten its workers’ livelihood. Others are bashing what they feel is an incompetent city council, whose impediments are robbing Seattle of immeasurable civic pride.
The frustration is certainly understandable in a town as basketball-starved as this one. But is it possible that the council represents the city’s sentiments more than Sonics fans want to believe?
I spent three years in San Diego, where Chargers fans seemed willing to sacrifice body parts to get a stadium built. However, when I stepped away from my typical surroundings, I saw a population adamant about keeping public money away from sports complexes.
Seattle citizens demonstrated that same unwillingness with the NBA 10 years ago. Do we really think the general public’s views have changed much since?
Of course, you never know for certain why local politicians vote the way they do. Perhaps the council’s decision speaks less to its concern for the port workers as it does to its relationship with Hansen.
You also never know for certain if an initiative is really dead. If Hansen buys a team next year and comes back with the same proposal, maybe his fortune changes.
Personally, I was disappointed on Monday. I wasn’t necessarily angry with anybody, but I was disappointed.
The prospect of Seattle landing an NBA team is part of the reason I moved up here. This town is home to some of the best grassroots basketball in the country, and without a pro franchise, well, it just feels incomplete.
I don’t know what the answer is, and I’m not sure anyone else does, either. Sonics fans got a taste of hope on Monday that turned sour on their tongues.
It looked as though the NBA would move closer to one of its most passionate markets. Now, it seems as far away as ever.