NBA Commissioner David Stern disclosed Thursday that he will retire Feb. 1, 2014 after 30 years in office. Along with Stern's announcement came a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that among Stern's agenda items in his last two years is to ensure that professional basketball is returned to Seattle.
"The NBA is indeed leaning on the Maloofs to sell their franchise so that it could be relocated to Seattle," Wojnarowski reported.
The Maloof family, owners of troubled Sacramento Kings, recently backed out of an agreement on a new arena with the city of Sacramento after it was dissuaded from pursuing a relocation effort to Anaheim. Meanwhile, a group of investors headed by San Francisco hedge fund manager Chris Hansen are in the process of building a new basketball/hockey facility in Seattle's Sodo district.
"Between now and his departure, Stern is determined to get a franchise back into Seattle," league sources told Wojinarowski. "He has become a strong ally of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's group to bring back the NBA there. Ballmer's group has been trying to get the Maloof family to sell the Sacramento Kings, so that the franchise can eventually play in a new arena in Seattle.
"From the league office, pressure on the Maloofs to sell has been growing . . . just as hopes for a new Sacramento arena have been fading. Seattle Sonics fans will never forgive Stern for his complicit role in Clay Bennett's deception to move that franchise to Oklahoma City, but make no mistake: Stern desperately wants to return the NBA to one of its great markets and wants it for his own measure of vindication before he leaves office.
"As one source involved in the process said, 'Stern has enough time to get a team back to Seattle, but he'll let Silver deal with the crowd (booing) on opening night.'"
Adam Silver is Stern's hand-picked choice to become the commissioner after Stern leaves office.A reporter asked Stern Thursday if he had any regrets about his 30-year stint as commissioner. He did not specifically mention the former Sonics, but in a 2011 interview on an ESPN.com podcast, Stern mentioned the SuperSonics’ departure as one of his regrets.“My regrets are that we didn’t do a – weren’t able to do a better job of getting a building moved along so that we could have kept a team there," Stern said. “I have regrets about both Vancouver and Seattle,” Stern said. “I think Seattle is a very prime city for an NBA franchise.”