How Would We Deal With Taking a Team From Sacramento's Fans?

Duff McKagan is the founding bassist of Guns N' Roses and the leader of Seattle's Loaded. His column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
If we do indeed get a new NBA team, let me just say that I may very well be the first in line for tickets. There is no one more excited than me or my friends and family. I went to a 1978 championship game. I bought season tickets in 1996, and insisted that my-soon-to-be wife, Susan, become a Sonics fan. My dog had a Gary Payton jersey. I had Freddy Brown, Slick Watts, and Shawn Kemp jerseys. My basement still has the remains of Sonics fandom in every corner.

Man. When we heard the news last week that talks were progressing much further than anyone had thought of the sale of the Sacramento Kings to the Hansen/Ballmer/Seattle contingent, we were all pretty damn stoked. But the business of the NBA has set in, and it gives us some pause for further thought.

I hate stopping to think when it comes to sports. No. Sports is something for us all to get away from the reality of the more mundane things in life (like work, heartache, traffic, politics, and further conflicts around the world, just to name a few). Thinking about how a team will come back here and be the Seattle SuperSonics can be a buzz-kill.

Chris Hansen is a damn superstar in Seattle these days. He has come back home to champion a new arena financed largely by a pool of private funds. Hansen's main intent is to bring the Sonics back to Seattle come hell or high water. He has had to fight local politics by bending to interest groups that are using the new arena--in many respects--to fulfill old promises made by some old mayor or City Council. Hansen appears to take all of this old bickering in stride.

If you are over the age of, say, 12, and grew up in the Seattle area, then a lot of you also grew up as fans of the Sonics. In the 2000s, we began the hard path of losing our team to big-money power plays . . . that many of us just couldn't get a grip on or really understand. It was simple to us. We just loved our team, and never really thought that we could ever lose our team. That would be preposterous!

And then it happened. We lost our team.

The Sacramento Kings' fan base has been going through this same losing-their-team scenario for the past seven years. The family Maloof (majority owners of the Kings), have bumbled their way through their tenure, and have seemingly shafted the fans of the Kings with the same "Well, you know . . . we need a new arena" scare that we got up here from 2005 to 2008(ish). It's almost exactly what we heard, and that fan base must feel almost exactly how we did.

Let's say for a minute that the sale goes through, and Seattle has a team again. How are we supposed to manage just where our team came from? Where are we supposed to put this in our collective mind's eye? And how would we honor the Sacramento faithful if that happened? Or do we just move on, and put our blinders on if and when Sacramento fans cry foul?

For the most part, we here in Seattle just sort of assumed that the number of Sacramentoans who still followed their NBA team had waned in a big way. Had our fanship for the Sonics lessened just before we lost them? Well, yes . . . kind of.

We had a few seasons in a row of hopeless basketball. Our ownership group was obviously jettisoning payroll, and hence big-time players. We felt used, and in large part, we began to stay away from games. Sacramento may find that somewhat familiar.

But were we, or are they, any less of a fan of their team? The Kings have had some hellacious teams since its inception in 1985, and the Sonics earned Seattle its only world championship. We had the Reign Man and the Glove. They had Chris Webber and Vlade Divac. The memories are the thing here that hurt the most--even if ownership is trying to disrespect our love for our Sonics then or their Kings now.

And now, Seattle, it is time to get in line with what the NBA has become. We are big kids now, and have learned the very hard lesson of what a market the size of Seattle can be in danger of: losing a team because of a supposed "outdated" arena and, more likely, losing a team because we were sold to a bidder who had no intention of keeping the team here . . . a high-bidder who was also part of some sort of good-ol'-boy network with the commissioner of the NBA.

I guess at the very least, Chris Hansen has not even proposed to keep the Kings in Sacramento if his offer goes through. He is our good guy and has played this whole thing with confidence and calm. The Maloofs are Sacramento's bad guys, and have long ago given up on a kickass product for their city. This may very well play out like some twisted made-for-TV drama.

Put your blinders on, Seattle, and don't look in the rear-view mirror.

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