As of right this moment, the Sacramento Kings will not move to Seattle and become the second incarnation of the SuperSonics next season. Unofficially, things are not looking good for Kings fans. After Sacto mayor Kevin Johnson and investors Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov put together a plan to give the city new hope, David Stern claimed that they all had to step up their offer to tip the scales in their favor. It looks like the odds are against them, and that Stern and the NBA's owners want Seattle regardless of Sacramento's level of commitment.
Nevertheless, there's enough support for keeping the Kings in Sacramento that the prospective Seattle ownership group needs to make some moves simply to contend in the court of public opinion. So, in order to demonstrate the Emerald City's existing fan base, lead investor Chris Hansen has announced a ticket waitlist (via SLAM):
We are excited to announce that we’re launching a Priority Ticket Waitlist for future Sonics tickets.
In addition to helping us understand and prioritize the demand for tickets, registering your interest will be a critical step in demonstrating to the NBA and basketball fans around the country the unbelievable passion that exists in the Emerald City to BRING BACK OUR SONICS! [...]
It’s also important that we reiterate that no inference should be drawn between our establishment of the Priority Ticket Waitlist and our efforts to close our acquisition of the Sacramento Kings. We are in the midst of working through the approval and relocation process with the NBA, and we would expect a determination to be made at the Board of Governors meeting in mid-April.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons for the Looming Sonics to establish a ticket list, and Hansen explicitly states that the goal is not to look like a superior option to Sacramento. However, it'd be incredibly naive to think that he's not aware that the Kings established their own ticket list to prove their worthiness of their cause, and also that Stern effectively said the Sacramento plan will be judged in direct comparison to the Seattle offer. If two offers are said to be in competition, and one side introduces something that already exists in the other's plan, then it's pretty obvious that people will compare their relative quality. Hansen presumably never would have announced this list if he didn't think that Seattle could compete with Sacramento on these grounds.
There's always been something a little icky about Hansen's attempt to pry away the Kings — specifically, that a sale arguably more backwards than the one that turned the original Sonics into the Oklahoma City Thunder is taking place as part of a "Save Our Sonics" movement founded on the idea that Seattle was done wrong. With this ticket list, the investment group is further embracing the concept that one city can be more worthy of an NBA franchise than another based on bank accounts and careful exploitation of circumstances.
This battle has relatively little to do with passion, community, and the various other positive values that get trotted out in discussions of a city's connection to its sports teams. As usual, it's about money, and the ability to apply that advantage by any means available.
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