NBA back in Seattle? Handful of players are pushing for it
Ray Allen is trying to hold a charity game in Seattle
The hope it that it proves that Seattle's a viable market
In doing so, it may also get Gary Payton's jersey retired
Since Seattle lost its NBA team in 2008, a handful of players are determined to bring pro basketball back to the Emerald City. A charity game, spearheaded by Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen and embraced by a litany of other players with ties to Seattle and the now-defunct SuperSonics, is in the works for this summer.
"I thought it was appropriate to do something for the city, to thank the fans for more than 40 years of support, and to show the NBA that Seattle is still a viable market for the NBA," Allen said.
Allen and former Sonics forward Detlef Schrempf have reached out to a number of players with ties to the Sonics and Seattle to enlist their help in putting on a competitive and entertaining game.
Among those set to appear are Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford, Brandon Roy, Aaron Brooks, while Terry he hopes Hall of Fame coach Lenny Wilkens and either Paul Silas or Fred Brown will serve as coaches.
"I talked to Detlef about it," said the Mavericks guard, who, along with Brooks, went to Franklin High School in Seattle. "It is pretty much going to happen. We just have to get a date. But I am definitely going to go out and play. It'll be fun. The city of Seattle is going to come out; it might sell out just from the fact that we miss basketball up there. The closest I come every year is when we go play Portland. That is fun for me, but it's not the same."
Terry said the game would have to be played at KeyArena -- the centerpiece of the NBA's argument that a team in Seattle could not make it financially because the building did not possess enough money-making opportunities.
The game, and more importantly its location, will bring more than sheer entertainment value to Seattle: It may help Gary Payton's chances of getting his jersey retired, something that was previously impossible because of the franchise's move to Oklahoma City '08.
Even though the Thunder have the rights to the Sonics' history, and Payton, is in their media guide for holding numerous team records, the nine-time All-Star has steadfastly maintained that he will not have his jersey retired in Oklahoma City because he has no ties to that town or that franchise. In fact, all the retired numbers of Sonics players -- Brown, Spencer Haywood, Wilkens, Gus Williams and Nate McMillan -- are in the Museum of History and Industry near the University of Washington.
But Matthew Wade of Athletes Foundations, who helps organize charitable foundations for several Seattle area athletes, said he has spoken in the past with Payton's agent, Aaron Goodwin, about honoring Payton in an event exactly like the one that is being planned.
"It would give Sonics fans some closure with respect to one of the most-popular players to ever wear a Seattle uniform," said Wade. "The game, combined with retiring Gary's number, would be something that the community would definitely embrace."
Wade said he has had preliminary discussions about some of the hurdles that must be overcome for the event to happen. First, because it would involve NBA players, the game must be sanctioned by the league, which would require a $50,000 down payment that would be earmarked for one or multiple charities.
Then the game would require sponsors in a market that still feels some anger toward a league that it feels stole their team despite widespread and consistent support.
And, finally, it would require media partners.
The last item should not be difficult to find. Kevin Calabro was the Sonics' long-time play-by-play announcer who declined to move to Oklahoma City with the franchise because the Northwest had become his home. He has become the de facto voice of support for the strength of the city as an NBA destination, something he regularly articulates on his afternoon radio program. He said he would gladly support the game.
"I think it would be a great event," Calabro said. "I'd be happy to get involved in any way I can. Promote it. Emcee it. Announce it. Whatever it takes. I definitely think Seattle is an NBA town."
The league actually feels the same way, acknowledging that Seattle is a stronger market than many of its current markets, including Sacramento. But a source said Seattle is not going to land a new team until it addresses its arena situation. While the city is vibrant and its support remains strong, KeyArena is an albatross and having it would prohibit any team from ever recouping its $30-million relocation fee because it does not offer enough revenue-generating opportunities.
The idea was recently floated that the league should consider waiving its relocation fee, which is distributed evenly to the other owners, because, in the end, it would make the NBA product stronger. Memphis owner Michael Heisley said he suggested that very thing at the Board of Governors meeting when the Sonics were about to move to Oklahoma City.
"Small market teams have a very difficult time, and to put a $30 million fee on them makes it very hard," Heisley said. "Even though I got $1 million, I was against charging New Orleans. And I was against charging Oklahoma City. But I am only one guy. It never went anywhere."
And so for now, the city of Seattle must connect with the NBA through efforts like a charity game.
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