Dear Commissioner Stern:
Let me start by congratulating you on your nearly 30 years of tireless service, commitment and leadership to the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the game that so many of us love. When February 1, 2014 rolls around and you step aside, walk away proud knowing that you are the greatest sports commissioner in history.
Until then, the City of Sacramento and its people need your help yet again. With the news that the Maloof family have agreed to sell their majority ownership (65 percent) in the Sacramento Kings to an investment group consisting of Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer (who plan to relocate our beloved franchise to Seattle) we are counting on you to save our Kings from a tragic end to what has been a wonderful, 30-year partnership.
And we are confident that you can save the day.
See, you love Sacramento almost as much as we do. History tells us this – from publicly stating years ago that Sacramento was a “model small-market franchise for the NBA” to personally helping broker a private/public partnership deal to build a new arena for Sacramento and the Kings last year before the Maloof family walked away.
So no matter how many times Sacramentans hear that the pending sale is all but done, or the decision ultimately will come down to where the NBA Board of Governors wants the team, I believe you Mr. Commissioner hold the cards. Much of the success of the NBA over your tenure has less to do with the owners pulling the strings, but more to do with them trusting your vision to grow and nurture the game and league.
Plus, relocation stinks. Especially when the city whose team is threatened to leave has done nothing but what is expected and has been asked of it to be an NBA city. Sell out 19 of 28 years? Yeah, Sacramento did that. Commit $260 million in public funds to build a new $390 million arena? Yep, we did that too. Launch one of the most powerful and effective fan grassroots campaigns (Here We Stay) in sports history to help keep our team? Check.
When our savior (and your friend) Mayor Kevin Johnson soon delivers on a competing investment group to buy the Kings and build a new arena to ensure the Kings remain in Sacramento, what will you advise your Board of Governors to do? After so many years of supporting our team and your league, will Sacramento get a fair shake? Will the city and fans be rewarded for weathering an ownership group that turned its back on them?
Certainly, we appreciate the encouraging words from you that Sacramento will get a chance to match, but ultimately, we understand that at the end of the day it just may not be enough. While losing the Kings would be a dark day for Sacramento, the loss of the team won’t be because a lack of effort on our part. We didn’t lay down after years of relocation threats and rumors that had the team heading everywhere but Sacramento. It only made us more unified and steadfast in our resolve. I guess that’s what embodies a Sacramentan.
In the end, Sacramento shouldn’t lose it’s only professional sports team, just as Seattle should have never lost the Sonics. There is a way to appease both markets by keeping the Kings where they belong in Sacramento and granting Seattle an expansion team or a franchise that possesses a lackluster fanbase.
I know I am oversimplifying this, but there is a way to make this work for everyone.
I trust you will think of all of this when guiding your Board on this unprecedented decision. I hope you remember the feeling you had when the Sonics were ripped out of Seattle calling it “one of my biggest regrets as Commissioner.” As I said earlier, relocation stinks. It’s bad for the league, its brand, and would set a bad precedent.
This is likely your last major deal to influence and make a difference. Make it count Commissioner.
If you do, we’ll have a front row seat waiting for you next to Mayor Johnson when Sacramento opens its new Entertainment & Sports Arena in 2016.