Steve Ballmer may soon own an NBA team, but his hometown of Seattle deserves one—The Monday Morning Realist


Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the latest sports news in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @AkiemBailum.

It was a major day in the NBA when a joker in LA was pushed away.

Starting off the week with a rhyme. Hopefully this is an omen.

Last week, it was announced that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had won the bid to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers from Donald Sterling. Ballmer bid $2 billion for the team and is worth a grand total of $20 billion.

So $2 billion to this guy is nothing. He probably walks around every day in his Armani suit with $2 billion with a B in his back pocket.

This ending to Donald Sterling having anything to do with the NBA seems to be more bittersweet than anything else. Realists, it is great that the Sterling era of the Clippers is soon to come to an end. Tomorrow, the NBA’s Board of Governors will meet and decide on whether or not it will follow through on Commissioner Adam Silver’s edict to banish Sterling for life from the league.

Sterling, though, has pledged that he will sue the NBA for $1 billion.

The Clippers have been a complete mess under Sterling and are only good today because they drafted Blake Griffin, and because they traded for Chris Paul in a deal where CP3 originally was said to go to another notable NBA team in the City of Angels (Lakers, anyone?). Also, head coach Doc Rivers is only there because of the fact that he was recruited by Paul to leave Boston and coach Lob City since his surroundings in Boston had deteriorated from them winning a championship with Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo in 2008.

A Ballmer ownership theoretically will mean that the Clippers will have plenty of money to play with in terms of signing free agents, and the value of the rest of the teams in the league will increase thanks to Ballmer and his big, bad, billions.

Unfortunately, especially for basketball fans in Seattle, it stinks because Ballmer pledged to the NBA that his purchase of the Clippers would not include a plan to move them to the Emerald City, as he attempted to do on two previous occasions.

Actually, that previous graf shouldn’t include the “in Seattle” part because most fans (and the league) know and understand that the NBA is less of an NBA without professional hoopsters in the 206.

Ever since the Seattle SuperSonics were unceremoniously stolen and shipped to Oklahoma City in a big blue, yellow, and orange delivery box, Seattleites have been yearning for an NBA team to return to their beloved city. Yes, they still have the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and they play in the same arena that once called the Sonics home—Key Arena. But, there was something special about the Sonics which gave Seattle its first professional sports championship back in 1979.

By the way, if you haven’t watched the documentary “SonicsGate” that tells the story of the sleaziness that led to the Sonics being moved to Oklahoma City, it is a must see. In this Realist’s opinion, it is one of the best sports documentaries in history—better than all of the ESPN 30 for 30’s.

Steve Ballmer was recently part of an ownership group that included Chris Hansen and the Nordstrom Family to bring the Sonics back to Seattle and build a new Arena in the city that would presumably be close to Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field. It looked like Hansen, Ballmer, and the Nordstroms were successful when they completed a deal with the Maloof Family (owners of the Sacramento Kings) to purchase that team and move them to the Emerald City.

But Commissioner David Stern behaved as though he maintained the biggest fetish in the world for Sacramento when he swayed owners (who probably favored the buy and the move) to vote 22-8 against the proposal. Why would owners be in favor of the move? Because the Seattle investment group was ponying up $625 million for the Kings—a team that has not been relevant since the days of Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and the flopping escapades of Vlade Divac.

Instead, they were sold to Vivek Ranadive, whose proposal included the Kings remaining to Sacto and the planned building of a new arena.

Ever since then, Hansen was found to have donated money to force a vote on Sacramento’s arena project—a major hit on his reputation that has seemingly since been lessened today. Also, the NHL has been notably more aggressive in its plans for expanding to Seattle than has the NBA. They want Hansen to build his arena, but Hansen has to urge local officials in Seattle and King County, Washington to amend a “memorandum of understanding”, that states that an NBA team will be the first tenant of Hansen’s new palace in Seattle, for allowing hockey to take basketball’s place.

Their MOU expires in 2017.

As for Ballmer, it has been said in the press in Seattle that his passion for the NBA and his desire to own a team runs so deep that he was willing to do it even if it meant that he’d own a team in another city. He stayed with Hansen’s group to once again put forth another bid—this time for the Milwaukee Bucks (who are going through their own arena issues) to move them to the 206, but was also unsuccessful.

Ballmer’s wallet may be in Los Angeles, but we all know his heart is in his hometown of Seattle. It has to pain him somewhat that his desire to move his soon-to-be-new team in LA to the Pacific Northwest is taking a back seat to financial ramifications. After all, this guy did not become a billionaire by being an idiot.

What should pain the league more is that there is a huge Emerald City-shaped hole in the middle of the NBA’s logo (or at least there should be).

Let’s be honest—the Oklahoma City Thunder shouldn’t even exist.

There is no doubt that OKC has great fans. This has been proven time and time again. It was proven during the short period of time after Hurricane Katrina when the former New Orleans Hornets played half of its games in Oklahoma City. It was proven even a few days ago when Thunder fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena cheered their beloved team for another great season even though they were eliminated from the Western Conference Finals by the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 by a final score of 112-107 in overtime.

It’s great that Oklahoma has a team—but they have the wrong team.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver ought to know that Seattle supported the NBA for 40 years. The Emerald City is a great basketball city as well as a great sports city overall. We know how much of a football city it is now, and is one of the best soccer cities (if not the best soccer city) in the country.

Realists, I still reminisce every day about the 1990s and the days of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp and when the Sonics competed for NBA championships. Even when they were led by Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis (both currently hooping for the Miami Heat) as recently as 2005, they were good. Also, remember, Kevin Durant was not drafted by the Thunder. Kevin Durant was drafted out of Texas by the Seattle SuperSonics.

For the NBA to constantly pass over a city that supported the league for nearly half a century, is home to a multitude of Fortune 500’s and has been either the site of filming or setting for numerous television shows and movies, shows that they need to wake up and smell the coffee.

In 2013, during the “Kings vs. Sonics” saga, ESPN polled fans on its website asking of the Kings should stay put in Sacramento or move to Seattle. All 50 states (including California) said they should move to Seattle.
NBA fans get it.

This league is about to bestow a basketball franchise to Steve Ballmer. Next on the list ought to be a franchise for Ballmer’s hometown.