Reports emerged Monday that an agreement has been reached between the Maloof family – majority owners of the Sacramento Kings organization – and a group of Seattle investors that would see the Kings up sticks and head for the Pacific Northwest.
The future of the Kings organization – recently valued at $525 million – has been in limbo for years now. The team’s home arena, the newly rebranded Sleep Train Arena, is outdated and the Maloofs have failed to reach a deal with the city to build a new facility.
Lack of a new arena deal had the Kings as prime candidates to move to Anaheim as recently as last summer, but after Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson – formerly of the Phoenix Suns – rallied to have the team remain in the city, no agreement was made for a move to Orange County.
Now it looks like Johnson’s efforts, and all of those that have tried to thwart the move, may have been in vain.
Pending authorization from the league, the Seattle group, led by Chris Hanson and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, will look to move the Kings to the Emerald City as early as next season.
Seattle – considered by many to be one of the best basketball cities in the world – has been without a team since the SuperSonics moved on to Oklahoma City following the 2007-2008 season. That move left a bad taste in the mouth of fans who were clear about wanting the team to stay.
Now the question remains, will those fans want the Kings?
The Kings franchise is one of the league’s most well-travelled. The franchise opened in 1948 in the old BAA as the Rochester Royals. The Royals would join the NBA in its 1949 and remained in Upstate New York until 1957.
In 1957, the side moved to Cincinnati where it played 14 seasons, before moving on again in 1971.
The side’s next move took it to Kansas City, Miss., and Omaha, Neb., where it changed its nickname to the Kings – to avoid confusion with the Kansas City Royals baseball club – and split its home games between the two cities. The team would move permanently to Kansas City in the 1975 offseason, spending 10 seasons in the City of Fountains.
In 1985, the team would move to Sacramento. The Kings’ tenure in River City began with a playoff appearance, despite a losing season. The following 13 seasons proved to be losing affairs, but the arrival of Rick Adelman as head coach to go alongside the likes of Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, and Peja Stojakavic saw the side become one of the Western Conference’s best.
The franchise’s first winning season in Sacramento came during the 1998-99 campaign, and was followed by eight straight winning seasons, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2002, a trip that came one game short of a visit to the NBA Finals. During that period, the Kings’ fans were known for being the noisiest in the league, and the team was the toast of the town.
Six straight losing season since have made the Kings a bit of a laughing stock. This season hasn’t proven much better, as the Kings (16-25) have seen their odds of winning the NBA title fall from 250/1 during the preseason to 1000/1 today.
The Kings’ all-time record since moving to Sacramento is 956-1251 (.433) in regular season play and 33-37 (.471) during the playoffs.
If the sale goes through and the new ownership group files for relocation before Mar. 1, it would mark the second straight season an NBA franchise has relocated, following the Nets’ move to Brooklyn last summer.
It has been reported that the Kings would play at Key Arena – the former home of the Sonics – until a new arena is constructed.
The move towards securing a basketball team means that the city would also be one step closer to securing a hockey team also. Stipulations set out by the city of Seattle state that any new facility must meet NHL requirements also, in the hope of luring a professional hockey franchise to the city.
During the heart of the recent NHL lockout, the Edmonton Oilers’ brass was invited to Seattle to begin discussions around relocating, sparking instant questions as to whether the historic franchise would head south of the border. As recently as two months ago, odds of the Oilers doing exactly that stood at 10/1.
It’s unlikely that the Oilers – five times winners of the Stanley Cup – would make the move, but then again, it was unlikely that Wayne Gretzky would leave the team back in 1988. Regardless, the make-up of the league at the moment has several teams that might be candidates to move to the northwestern corner of the United States.
One of those teams is no longer the New York Islanders, who will move to the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn ahead of the 2015-16 season, following lack of renovation to Nassau Coliseum, and no signs of a new building of its own.
For now, Seattle remains on the verge of regaining its basketball city status, and that comes ahead of any more talk about hockey.
Whilst the next few weeks and months could prove to be huge in terms of the landscape of the NBA, fans in Seattle may get their hopes up a little, but they won’t fully believe the news until it’s all okayed by David Stern and Co., if it is confirmed at all.
Major Franchise Relocations (Since 1990)
1993 (NHL) Minnesota North Stars – Dallas Stars
1994 (NFL) Los Angeles Rams – St. Louis Rams
1995 (NFL) Los Angeles Raiders – Oakland Raiders
1995 (NHL) Quebec Nordiques – Colorado Avalanche
1996 (NFL) Cleveland Browns – Baltimore Ravens*
1996 (NHL) Winnipeg Jets – Phoenix Coyotes
1997 (NFL) Houston Oilers – Tennessee Titans
1997 (NHL) Hartford Whalers – Carolina Hurricanes
2001 (NBA) Vancouver Grizzlies – Memphis Grizzlies
2002 (NBA) Charlotte Hornets – New Orleans Hornets
2005 (MLB) Montreal Expos – Washington Nationals
2008 (NBA) Seattle Supersonics – Oklahoma City Thunder
2011 (NHL) Atlanta Thrashers – Winnipeg Jets
2012 (NBA) New Jersey Nets – Brooklyn Nets
*The history of the Cleveland Browns did not transfer alongside the relocating football team. Instead, the history was adopted by the expansion Cleveland Browns team when it arrived in town in 1999.