SEATTLE - It was a big blow.
But late Monday, Seattle Arena Investor Chris Hansen suggested he's ready to throw a counter-punch.
Hansen, quoting boxer Muhammad Ali, said in a prepared statement "Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."
This after the NBA's relocation committee voted unanimously Monday to recommend that owners reject the application for the Sacramento Kings to relocate to Seattle.
The committee, made up of 12 league owners, made the decision over a conference call and forwarded its recommendation to the NBA Board of Governors. The board, which consists of all 30 owners, will convene during the week of May 13 to vote on the matter. Observers widely believe the full group of owners will follow the committee recommendation.
Moments after the league announced the committee's recommendation, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnston wrote on Twitter: "That's what I'm talking about SACRAMENTO!!!!! WE DID IT!!!!!”
Hansen said in his statement that it's not over.
"While we are disappointed with the relocation committee’s recommendation, we just wanted to let you all know that we remain fully committed to seeing this transaction through. As you are all well aware, we have a binding transaction to purchase the Kings for what would be a record price for an NBA franchise, have one of the best ownership groups ever assembled to purchase a professional sports team in the US, have clearly demonstrated that we have a much more solid Arena plan, have offered a much higher price than the yet to be finalized Sacramento Group, and have placed all of the funds to close the transaction into escrow. As such, we plan to unequivocally state our case for both relocation and our plan to move forward with the transaction to the league and owners at the upcoming Board of Governor’s Meeting in Mid-May.
When we started this process everyone thought it was impossible. While this represents yet another obstacle to achieving our goal, I just wanted to reassure all of you that we have numerous options at our disposal and have absolutely no plans to give up. Impossible is nothing but a state of mind."
It's not immediately clear what those options may be. NBA TV contributor and University of New Hampshire Sports Law and Entertainment Institute director Michael McCann says he doesn't think a legal challenge makes sense.
"It's a little hard to play out in reality, especially because antitrust litigation takes a long time," says McCann.
He admitted to being surprised by the committee's recommendation, and says it is tough to read today's outcome.
There were 12 NBA owners on the conference call of the league's combined relocation and finance committee. But only the relocation committee ruled. The finance committee did not issue a ruling.
Reaction from Seattle supporters was understandably not as exuberant.
"I'm shocked and I am disappointed in the NBA!" said former Seattle Sonics head coach and Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn tweeted, "We're going to stay focused on job: making sure Seattle remains in position to get team when opportunity presents itself."
The recommendation doesn't guarantee the Kings will stay in California's capital city. But at this point, it's difficult to imagine how they don't.
The Maloof family that owns the Kings reached an agreement in January to sell a 65 percent controlling interest in the team to a group led by investor Hansen at the total franchise valuation of $525 million, topping the NBA-record $450 million that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber bought the Golden State Warriors for in 2010. Then Hansen increased his offer to $550 million, which implies selling the 65 percent stake for about $357 million.
Hansen planned to move the team to Seattle and rename it the SuperSonics, who moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. Instead, those plans are now on hold.
Under a Memorandum of Understanding between Hansen and local elected leaders, construction on a new arena in Seattle cannot begin until Hansen has secured an NBA franchise.
It's unclear what the next step is for the Maloof family, which is not bound to sell the team to a Sacramento group Johnson has put together. In a letter sent to the relocation and finance committees, the Maloofs said they preferred to sell to the Seattle group and expressed discontent with Sacramento's latest bid.
Led by Johnson, Sacramento fought back to make the sale and relocation of the Kings tough for the league to recommend. He pushed a non-binding financing plan for a $447 million downtown arena through the Sacramento City Council -- complete with a $258 million public subsidy -- and lined up an ownership group to try to compete with the powerful Seattle contingent.
The potential Sacramento ownership group is led by TIBCO software chairman Vivek Ranadive, who would sell his minority share of the Warriors if successful. Others who have joined the bid include 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, former Facebook senior executive Chris Kelly and the Jacobs family that owns communications giant Qualcomm.
"I've never been prouder of this city," Johnson tweeted. "I thank the ownership group, city leaders, but most of all the BEST FANS IN THE NBA!!!
The mayor also commended Seattle for its effort and wrote that the Pacific Northwest city "no doubt deserves a team in the future.”