SEATTLE — The NBA is making its return to Seattle for a preseason game at Climate Pledge Arena this October, officials announced at a press conference Wednesday.
The Portland Trail Blazers will face the Los Angeles Clippers at Climate Pledge on Oct. 3, marking the first time the NBA has played a game in Seattle since 2018 at KeyArena.
Tickets will be on sale for the game billed as the "Rain City Showcase" starting July 6.
“Just the buzz, the energy, the excitement, the unifying element in this city," said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. "This kind of revitalization if you will. This kind of noise brings our city back.”
Clippers executive Gillian Zucker said the idea for the game started with a brainstorming session between Clippers head coach Ty Lue and Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups.
Lue simply wanted to face off against his former NBA counterpart, she said.
“We are absolutely thrilled to bring back NBA basketball to Seattle with this game,” Zucker said.
Former Supersonic Lenny Wilkens said he was "kicking and screaming" when he was traded to Seattle before the 1968-69 season.
Wilkens spent four seasons with the SuperSonics before beginning a legendary NBA coaching career. He is currently the NBA's third-winningest coach in league history with 1,332 wins.
“But I’m still here," Wilkens said. "I grew to love this area, the people, the community. There’s nothing like it in the world and I’ve had an opportunity to be everywhere.”
Former Rainier Beach high school star Jamal Crawford said he used to work at the old Key Arena as a kid, bringing pretzels to vendors. Crawford said he'd often make what was supposed to be a 10-minute trip into 30 minutes, allowing him to watch NBA games up close.
He'd later ascend from local basketball star to NBA player with a lengthy 20-year career.
“I would look out there and just dream," Crawford said. "When I was a kid, the Sonics were everything to me.”
Crawford said the league showcasing Damian Lillard and Kawhi Leonard in a preseason game hosted in Seattle will inspire another generation of kids dreaming to rise to the NBA.
"It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this, who need to be able to dream and know this is real," Crawford said.
Nearby businesses are ready to see the action. Matt Storm, owner of The Masonry in Lower Queen Anne, is excited to have the NBA back.
"The neighborhood definitely feels alive when there are events going on at the arena. In a way it hasn't felt in a long time," Storm said. "At least when the arena has an event you know what to plan for and emotionally you know what to plan for."
What are the chances Seattle gets a NBA team again?
That's the elephant in the room after this announcement.
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.
The franchise left 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.
"The odds are high," Harrell said on March 2. "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."
Harrell's predecessor, former Mayor Jenny Durkan, said in January 2021 that she'd been in touch with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and she was "pretty optimistic" about the team returning to Seattle.
The SuperSonics spent 41 seasons in Seattle spanning from 1968 to 2008. Seattle defeated the Washington Bullets to claim its first NBA championship in the 1978-79 season.