Since the Seattle Supersonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008 and became the Thunder, Seattle basketball fans have been waiting for an opportunity to welcome the Sonics back in their city. While the WNBA’s storm has given the city a basketball team to back since 2000, crossover fans haven’t forgotten their lost NBA squad.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver mentioned that future expansion teams aren’t on the league’s agenda. For now, the league has other pursuits to follow up on, from its Top Shot NFT business to its first attempts at VR content with its League Pass project. From a fan perspective, many basketball diehards are also too busy to focus on potential expansion teams.
Still, the current interest in moneylines and prop bets doesn’t mean locals have stopped pushing for Silver to take a second look at Seattle. At the time then-owner Howard Schultz sold the Sonics (and the Storm) to Clay Bennett of Oklahoma City, local fans clamored to find a funding solution to the team’s ongoing arena issue.
In the end, Bennett settled with the City of Seattle on a $45 million payment that would cover the remaining payments on the KeyArena. The city lost one of its most-beloved franchises—but if business-centered reasons are enough to see a franchise move cross-country, then they should be enough to bring them back.
Here are four irrefutable reasons the Sonics should come back to Seattle.
It’s not just fans who want the Sonics to return. In order for a city to welcome a franchise, or welcome one back, in Seattle’s case, they must first demonstrate financial solvency. A businessperson or group must show that they can partly fund a sustainable home arena, as well as peripheral costs from staffing to equipment.
Seattle is currently one of the largest media markets in the US according to News Generation, which translates to huge earnings for sports teams through broadcasting deals.
From a business perspective, it makes financial sense to tap into Seattle’s media market. However, the city’s media basis is based specifically on sports, which means there’s untapped interest from sports fans that an NBA team could leverage.
In addition to having one of the best and most popular WNBA teams, Seattle is home to the MLB’s Mariners, NFL’s Seahawks, the NHL’s new Kraken, the MLS’s Sounders, and the NWSL’s OL Reign. Three of these teams are still considered ‘fringe’ (WNBA, NWSL, MLS), but still draw record-breaking crowds.
The NBA-WNBA Double Punch
As mentioned above, the has been the consolation for NBA fans who were crushed by the 2008 Sonics’ departure. In the meantime, local fans have become diehard supporters of the Storm. The team promotes an exciting environment, while also being one of the most talented squads in the league.
It’s a winning formula that an NBA team would easily fit (back) into. In fact, Seattle could become one of the first cities that share a massive WNBA market with the NBA. For the most part, these markets are heavily tilted toward the men’s league… but that might not be the case in Seattle, where both teams benefit from cross-promotion in a way previously unseen.
The NBA Isn’t Musical Chairs
At the moment, the most likely scenario for a new Sonics team would be as an expansion. Though Silver has mentioned multiple times that the NBA isn’t looking to expand anytime soon, and some have speculated that the New Orleans Pelicans could move to Seattle, the NBA also faces challenges related to relocation.
Overwhelmingly, fans dislike franchise relocations. They’re viewed as business decisions, whereas sports are seen as a type of cultural battleground. Teams belong to cities, and vice versa. However unlikely the decision is, bringing the Sonics back would highlight the NBA’s dedication to revamping its current franchise model.
However, it seems that the league has its sites on greater watermarks of change. Back in 2018, a report dropped hints that the NBA is interested in opening a Mexico City franchise. For the time being, the best way Seattle can work to leverage the NBA would be to complete renovations to the Climate Pledge Arena, where a future NBA team would be housed with the Kraken, Storm, and other major teams.