SEATTLE — The NBA is not returning to Seattle tomorrow or next week. But, the lines of communication remain as active and open as they have been in years.
They closed nearly 14 years ago when the league voted to allow the SuperSonics to bolt for the Oklahoma plains. A financial settlement between the then-mayor and the ownership group on July 2, 2008, was the final straw, allowing the team to move and be rechristened under another name.
Ever since, fans and sentimentalists have hung on every morsel of information and statement that could lead to an NBA return, whether it be a land deal, quote, or flirtation with city leadership.
That leads us to this week.
On Monday, Bill Simmons, a longtime columnist, NBA writer, and podcaster suggested he has "intel" that the league is going to expand to Las Vegas and Seattle, at a combined cost of $6.5 to $7 billion expansion fee. Simmons went on to say the league aims to have diverse ownership groups in both cities, with current NBA star LeBron James fronting the franchise in Vegas.
In a statement to KING 5 on Wednesday, a league spokesperson flatly said, "There is no truth to it."
Yet, it is clear that conversations continue and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is actively engaging.
"The odds are high," Mayor Harrell said on Wednesday. "We're very intentional about it. I chase down rumors and I chase down actual people in a position to make that happen. I feel good about our opportunity."
His predecessor, former Mayor Jenny Durkan, said in January 2021 that she'd been in touch with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and was "pretty optimistic" about a team return.
Last fall, while on the campaign trail, Harrell told KING 5 he was in touch with people who were interested in owning a new Sonics franchise in more than one location.
The SODO Arena group, fronted by Chris Hansen, has been accumulating land for a decade now. His group was rebuffed by the NBA in 2013, after a purchase agreement for the Sacramento Kings, and again in 2016 when the Seattle City Council narrowly voted to reject his application for a conditional one-block street vacation. That led the to request for proposals, and eventual construction, of a new sports and entertainment complex at Seattle Center.
Hansen has long suggested that even with the construction of Climate Pledge Arena, he won't sell the land until the Sonics return. Public records show purchases have continued. After buying a pair of parcels in 2019, he bought another in November of 2021. The $1.5 million deal to acquire the Pecos Pit lot on First Avenue now means Hansen, and his investors, now own 13.66 acres between T-Mobile Park on Edgar Martinez Way and the Starbucks Headquarters on Lander Street.
However, now with the city in business with the Oak View Group at Seattle Center, it would suggest the likeliest scenario involves Climate Pledge Arena. Oak View Group said it was built with the NBA in mind and that there is a designated NBA locker room in the building.
"Our work isn't done until that happens," said Seattle Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke about the Sonics scuttlebutt of the last 48 hours.
When asked specifically about Simmons' claim, Leiweke said, "I'm not going to agree or disagree. I'll tell you one thing we're not going to do is to get in front of the commissioner."
In the interim, Leiweke said, he's focused on building a foundation for the Kraken who have been highly successful off the ice but struggled to find wins on it.
"One miracle at the time," he repeated Wednesday. "We just keep dreaming. We're dreaming about bringing the Stanley Cup home, more events in that building, and bringing another team to the building."