NBA to City Hall?

A former Sonic is running on his experience as a team player. Get it?!?!?

Is the City Council, once a haven for former journalists and neighborhood activists, now a favored resting place for retired athletes? Bruce Harrell, a former UW football star, won his spot last year. And now, former Sonic center James Donaldson is gearing up for a 2009 run.Donaldson, who stands over seven feet tall, says the skills he gained in his 15-year NBA career would make him a good councilman. "I was a team leader, a locker room stabilizer," he says. "I negotiated and worked to resolve conflicts between people. We worked on our goals as a team."It's uncertain whether the City Council needs any more team players, but Donaldson does appear to have the charisma and service bona fides to be a contender. He's spent the past decade participating in community organizations, and sits on about a dozen boards today, including the Washington State Mentors, Snohomish-King County Youth Club, Central Area Senior Center, Boy Scouts of America, and Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.A Magnolia resident, Donaldson bought his house in 1981, a year after his first season with the Sonics, and despite subsequent stints in L.A., Dallas, New York, and Utah, says he always called Seattle home. "It's been gently used," Donaldson says of the "vintage" early-'80s furniture that still inhabits the place. "It's just me, basically."Clad in a pinstriped dress shirt and black slacks while seated at the downtown sushi joint Nijo (one of his favorite restaurants), Donaldson describes himself as "a happy-go-lucky guy." That is, until you ask him about the Celtics winning the championship this year. "We never won a game, any team I was on, in [Boston] Garden," he says.Already getting a knack for the political realm, Donaldson's not promising much when it comes to specifics. And in truth, it's early—he still has months before he'll have to say which seat he's campaigning for, though it will likely be an open one, what with Jan Drago, Nick Licata, Richard Conlin, and Richard McIver rumored to be considering either retirement or higher office. The only other known council aspirants are Jordan Royer, the son of former mayor Charles Royer, and Robert Sondheim, who lost a 2007 primary against Jean Godden and Joe Szwaja.But Donaldson does have a couple of pet issues. As the owner of fitness centers in Seattle, Mill Creek, and Mukilteo, he says Seattle could be less expensive and more responsive to the needs of small businesses. And he says the city shouldn't forget about basketball. "It's going to be some time before we can get a team back. We're not in the good graces of the NBA, but if the NBA realizes that there are elected officials at the table who are interested, that should help."

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