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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Stale Post 2- This is the Business We've Chosen

There's been alot written about the reception NBA Commissioner David Stern received when he visited Phoenix to announce that the 2009 All Star Game will be at US Airlines Arena. Stern is catching hell from both the media and general fandom for his handling of the suspensions during last year's playoff and his perceived double standard regarding the finding that more than half NBA referees had been violating league rules by visiting casinos.

However that's not why Stern is ticking me off.

Back in 1995, the City of Seattle completely redeveloped what is now Key Arena making it into essentially a brand new venue for the hometown SuperSonics. By 2001 a new ownership group for the Sonics, led by Starbucks maven Howard Schultz, considered Key to be economically obsolete and pressed for a new publicaly funded venue. After several years of acrimonious debate between the Sonics and local government officials, the team was sold last year to a new group led by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett.

Mr. Bennett not only kept the new arena drum beating but added the threat of relocation, presumably either to his home town or to Kansas City, if he wasn't built a new arena estimated to cost upwards of $450 million. He has also rejected an offer by the City of Seattle to share in the costs of renovating Key Arena and redoing the lease in order to provide more arena revenue to the Sonics. Last week, Bennett's deadline passed and he announced his intent to move the Sonics from Seattle where they have been located and well supported for the past 40 years.

Stern has piled in and announced that if the Sonics do leave, presumably for Bennett's hometown of Oklahoma City which has far less revenue potential than Seattle, then Seattle probably won't ever get another team.

1) You have a team, the Sonics, that turned on an 6-year old arena and called it economically obsolete and wanted a new one while presumably the original venue probably still had some of that "new arena smell."

2) The team was then sold to an outside businessman who then claimed he got a raw deal in terms of Key Arena. I am not sure how Mr. Bennett made his money, but typically you don't invest money into a venture and then turn around complain about how you are losing your shirt on it...

3) The new owner then rejects an offer to completely re-do a 12-year old arena, at mostly public expense, and instead wants the taxpayer to build him a brand-new venue at more than twice the price of the renovation offer.

If you think that it is crazy, then David Stern says not only don't you deserve the Sonics but you don't deserve the NBA period.

Notice the story line. Outsider from a city hungry for an NBA team buys franchise, doesn't have to promise to keep team in town, immediately threatens to move team if he doesn't get a massive taxpayer-paid arena, and rejects anything short of close to a half a billion dollar deal.

Get the feeling the fix was in? That the moment the team was sold to Bennett, that he was looking for moving vans? He didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle and everyone including Stern knows it.

So why is Stern playing the heavy here? Threatening Seattle with a life-time banishment from the league if they don't cough up a king's ransom (and what exactly does a $450 million arena look like?) when he knows Seattle is a dead man walking? My guess is for the next city that doesn't want to fork over a few hundred million in corporate welfare to an NBA owner, Stern will drag out the pictures of the job he did on Seattle and ask the local powers-that-be if they want to sleep with the NBA fish as well.

Orlando beware....