More than a decade after the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics moved to the Midwest to become the Oklahoma City Thunder, basketball fans in the Emerald City continue to hold out hope that the club will return in a new iteration. On Thursday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan lent credence to the notion that her town will be on top of the association’s list if and when it expands.
As relayed by ESPN‘s Brian Windhorst, Durkan has spoken with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and is currently feeling “pretty optimistic” about the possibility of being considered for a new franchise. Silver had told reporters in December that expansion talks had been revived amid the league-wide financial shortfall experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is very good news for the city of Seattle that they are thinking of an expansion team,” Durkan told television station KING 5 in Seattle. “And I was honest with him. He knows Seattle wants to be at the front of the line. We’re where the team should be. But we will be respecting them as they move forward to their ownership because the [owners], you know, [have] to approve it.”
Windhorst noted, as league officials have done previously, that expansion of any kind is likely years away. The league has expanded competition just twice in the last 25 years, most recently in 2004 with the addition of the Charlotte Bobcats (now the second iteration of the Charlotte Hornets, which similarly relocated in the 2000s).
However, the world’s premier basketball organization stands to gain substantially by admitting its 31st franchise. Per ESPN‘s sources, decision-makers have set a price target in the area of $2.5 billion as a possible expansion fee.
Durkan believes the economics of such a move have become a strong motivating factor for owners.
“The ownership for the first time itself is being very public that they think [expansion] is probably a good idea for basketball,” she said. “Part of that is the COVID economics. Part of it is the economics of sports.”
Before Clay Bennett purchased and eventually relocated the team, the SuperSonics could be counted among the vanguard of franchises in the association. The Sonics won a league title in 1979, made three trips to the NBA Finals and were six-time divisional champions.
History aside, though, Seattle is an attractive potential destination given the fact that it’s a major media market with a built-in fanbase and a renovated Climate Pledge Arena expected to open this year.
As relayed by The Inquisitr in November, Seattle was considered a possible temporary home for the Toronto Raptors, who aren’t currently playing in Canada due to the pandemic.