It’s been seven years since the Seattle SuperSonics relocated and became the Oklahoma City Thunder, and many in the Seattle area are waiting for the NBA to return to the city. Seattle has proven to be a vibrant sports town, showing arguably the best fan support with the NFL’s Seahawks and MLS’ Sounders, but fans might be waiting a while before they have a professional basketball team.
Since the SuperSonics moved, the Brooklyn Nets are the only NBA team that has changed cities, moving from nearby New Jersey. According to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, the league is not currently looking to move a current team or add a 31st team.
“There are no plans to expand at this time,” Silver told International Business Times on Saturday, following his All-Star Weekend press conference at Barclays Center.
“There is no discussion of any teams relocating right now.”
The SuperSonics joined the NBA in 1967 and spent 41 years in Seattle, winning the 1979 NBA Finals. Silver isn’t against bringing professional basketball back to the city, but the current landscape of the NBA doesn’t provide the league with the opportunity to do so.
“I’ve said it on so many occasions. We love our fans in Seattle,” Silver said. “We are very appreciative of the fact that they continue to follow NBA basketball. I wish we had a team to give them. We just don’t.”
A few teams stand out as potential candidates for relocation, but none are headed to Seattle, for a number of reasons. The Minnesota Timberwolves have the lowest average attendance in the NBA, and while owner Glen Taylor has explored selling the team, he has since given up that pursuit. Silver has made it clear that the Milwaukee Bucks need a new arena, but plans are in the works to give the team a new home. The Atlanta Hawks are for sale, but NBA spokesman Mike Bass told The Atlanta Journal Constitution in January that the team won’t move to another market. The Los Angeles Clippers are also staying put.
With no teams ready to relocate at this time, it could be a while before the NBA has a chance to return to Seattle. The league hasn’t expanded in over a decade, when the Charlotte Bobcats came into existence in 2004, following the Charlotte Hornets move to New Orleans in 2002. Expansion is also problematic since many basketball fans have expressed concern that it would dilute the talent pool.
Even though Seattle might not get a team in the immediate future, a few men are making efforts to bring another pro sports team to the city sometime down the road. Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen worked on purchasing the Sacramento Kings and moving them to Seattle, though he was unsuccessful in his attempt. Now, there is a glimmer of hope for Seattle basketball fans, as he and two other brokers try to construct a new arena in the city.
The SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City when the team was sold and funding wasn’t provided to give the team a new arena, though new ownership may have intended to move the team from the start. According to the Seattle Times, Minnesota Wild vice chairman Jac Sperling and New York investment banker Ray Bartoszek are trying to give Seattle a professional hockey or basketball team. Seattle is more likely to get an NHL team first, but an NBA team could join them once the city adds a new arena.
Bringing a sports franchise to Seattle wouldn’t be a first for Sperling. He was a part of Minnesota getting the Wild, and he helped broker the sale of the New Orleans Hornets in 2012. Bartoszek was involved in the attempted purchase of the Arizona Coyotes in 2013, though the team didn’t end up relocating.
Bobby Ilich contributed to this report.