Sacramento Kings fans show love for their team at this season's final game (Rocky Widner/ Getty).
After a messy, drawn-out saga involving several potential moves, the long-term future of the Sacramento Kings looks near a resolution. As first reported by Sam Amick of USA Today and announced shortly thereafter by NBA commissioner David Stern and his successor Adam Silver in a press conference, the NBA's Board of Governors has voted not to authorize Joe and Gavin Maloof's pending sale of the Kings to a Seattle-based ownership group headed by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Initial reports state that the final vote came in 22-8 in favor of keeping the Kings in Sacramento.
While the Sacto-averse Maloofs have expressed little interest of selling the team to a local owner, it's expected that the Kings will stay in the city they've called home since 1985. In the press conference, Stern said that he believes the Maloofs will start talks with the local ownership group headed by tech entrepreneur and current Golden State Warriors minority owner Vivek Ranadive and organized by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. It's possible that the Maloofs were simply posturing in their earlier statements, as they've done several times throughout this process, or perhaps they were promised new perks to make the sale to Ranadvie and Co. more acceptable.
This is obviously great news for Kings advocates in Sacramento, who have worked extremely hard over the past few months to put together a deal to keep the Kings in town. Mayor Johnson sought out local owners, settled on a comprehensive arena plan, and made a special point of working with the league office to ensure that the city did whatever it could to put forth the best possible case for why they deserve to keep the franchise. While there are open questions as to how much new arenas paid for with public funds actually local economies, there's no argument that the Kings are a source of civic pride for Sacramento. In this case, the city came together in pursuit of a common goal, and it looks like they'll end up successful.
It's unclear where this vote puts Seattle. Since the first terms of this sale were reported in January, Hansen and Ballmer have added to the offer to make it almost irresponsibly good, with a valuation of $625 million for the franchise and the promise that the new Sonics would pay into the NBA's revenue sharing fund on a permanent basis (apparently regardless of their revenue). In addition, the Maloofs apparently have a backup offer with the Seattle group that would allow them to purchase 20 percent of the franchise in what's pretty clearly a backdoor move to eventually put the team in Seattle. Yet, while Stern made the stupid misstep of starting his press conference by saying he didn't have much time to talk because he has to get to Oklahoma City — where the Sonics moved under fairly devious circumstances in 2008 — he and Silver also stated that Hansen and Ballmer did everything right in this sale. In other words, the NBA would probably like this group to own a team in Seattle.
It's just unclear how that might happen. Stern claimed that any talks of expansion would only begin after discussion of the next TV contract (which will probably begin this offseason) and only the Milwaukee Bucks would appear to be a currently for-sale franchise that could also feasibly be moved. (On the other hand, owner Herb Kohl, who represented Wisconsin in U.S. Senate for 24 years, might not want to sell to a group that would relocate.) It's also not clear if Hansen and Ballmer would be willing to go through this ordeal again, although they were certainly very motivated to bring the Kings to Seattle by any means necessary.
All of which is to say that the after-effects of this vote will be felt both immediately and for years to come. While this verdict and the league's comments suggest that the Kings will stay in Sacramento for some time, we still don't know what the Maloofs will choose (or be forced) to do in a new sale, how the Seattle group will respond to the news, and whether the NBA will try to avoid similar attempts at relocation in the future.
At this point, all we really know is that two cities have proven themselves to be viable homes for NBA franchises. That's a positive, in a way, but this particular vote is unfortunately a zero-sum game. It's great news for Sacramento and big disappointment for Seattle.
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