The NBA’s relationship with the city of Seattle is a little rocky, to say the least, even though some of the most memorable players, past and present, have suited up to play in front of the Emerald City faithful. The first heartbreak came as the team was sold to an ownership group that may (or may not) have wanted to relocate the team to Oklahoma City for significantly longer than they originally appeared. This is a nice way to say that co-owners Aubrey McClendon, Clay Bennett, and Tom Ward did not appear to be particularly enthusiastic about keeping the team in the Pacific Northwest.
The second? That one’s trickier to navigate. Back in 2013, the Sacramento Kings were for sale. There were serious talks about a Seattle-based ownership group buying up the NorCal franchise and once again returning basketball to the city that saw its team leave prior to the 2008–09 season. Ultimately (and rightly, to be honest) the Kings stayed in SacTown. While they continued on as the Kings we know and love (dysfunctional, awful, and so forth), it was karmically pleasant to see the NBA reverse course and keep a team in the community. Pleasant for everyone who wasn’t a Sonics fan, of course.
Once the Kings officially stayed, the road to an NBA team in Seattle hit a dead end. The league’s popularity (and revenue) is booming right now. Relocation of an established franchise seems unfavorable to the league office, ownership, and fans. This leaves expansion as the only real route forward, which seems like a pipe dream, because how often does the NBA expand? Once in a blue moon?
The answer might quickly become “soon,” as a noted but not particularly reported-upon clause in the NBA’s TV deal (announced in 2014) included language discussing expansion. In short: The TV deal increases (more money for the league) if the size of the league grows. And what city, do you suppose, would be on the list ahead of Seattle?
In a great piece for SBNation’s Sonics blog, SonicsRising, Kevin Nesgoda researched the idea. Namely, he messaged folks who could be in the know to ask if expansion was on the table as the league and players come ever-closer to solidifying the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. (Three cheers for no lock out in 2017!) The replies? Mostly positive, with a list of potential cities. Let’s break them down, and look at how expansion might change the NBA landscape as soon as 2018.