Sports

For some, it’s not about the NHL coming to Seattle, but the return of the NBA. We’re calling foul

Kris “Sonic Guy” Brannon holds up a sign in support of adding an NBA team following the announcement of a new NHL hockey team in Seattle, at a celebratory party Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Kris “Sonic Guy” Brannon holds up a sign in support of adding an NBA team following the announcement of a new NHL hockey team in Seattle, at a celebratory party Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

The announcement on Tuesday that the NHL Board of Governors had approved Seattle’s expansion bid was not even hours old before David Bonderman, one of the new team’s owners, was asked about the possibility of adding an NBA team.

His reply was “one miracle at a time.”

The NBA and Seattle also was on the lips of Kevin Durant, the once-and-future Sonic. Durant has spoken of his desire to get into management, and when asked Wednesday by ESPN if he would be interested in running an NBA team in Seattle, he was quick with a response.

“Hell yeah,” he said. “Of course I would.”

He did add that it wasn’t just Seattle, but he would be interested in being part of the operation of any NBA team.

And then there was Kris “Sonic Guy” Brannon – you know the guy who’s always decked out in Sonics gear? He was spotted Tuesday at a watch party in a Seattle bar holding a sign with an NHL logo paired with Now! and an NBA logo paired with Next!

Apparently, pro hockey is the gateway drug to pro basketball. This area’s obsession with the NBA’s return is now ramping up faster than you can say the Seattle Kraken.

(Side note: The ownership group for Seattle’s NHL team needs to get the team name right. I know Kraken is one of the names being floated around, but it violates the first rule of good sports team names: No singular plurals. And it sort of violates the second rule, too, of being a trendy name that may not wear well in 10 years. For examples, see Raptors, Predators and Wild, which nails both.)

Let’s be clear: Seattle is getting an NHL team. Hockey. Not basketball; the NBA has no plans to expand and probably still mocks anyone living in Washington for actually thinking they were going to allow the Sacramento Kings to move here back in 2013.

Usually, I’m a more-sports-the-better type a guy. Give me the all-you-can-watch buffet of sports, not the a la carte menu. But don’t make area sports fans choose between NHL and NBA, even if you’ve got a sparkling refurbished arena to house the two.

I’m a strong believer that if hockey is to work in Seattle, it needs to be the only game in town during the winter sports season. There’s already an overlap with the Seahawks in the fall and the Mariners in the spring, so an NBA team would only further dilute the interest in the NHL.

Fans eyes and dollars only go so far. And in the NHL, that’s 82 games, plus playoffs, and one of the more expensive tickets around.

The NHL does not get as much revenue from TV as the other major sports, so it makes it up in ticket prices. Last year, SeatGeek – an online ticketing agency – found that NHL tickets sold off its site cost $91, second only to the NFL ($166). By comparison NBA games were $88 and MLB games $45.

Expect those prices to go up by the time the puck drops in Seattle in October of 2021.

I’ve seen the reports about how fans absolutely lost their ice over the thought of attending NHL games. Last spring’s season-ticket drive had 10,000 signing up in the first 12 minutes and 25,000 in the first hour.

That is amazing. Just imagine what those numbers would be for an NBA team coming to Seattle.

Basketball is part of the sports fabric of this area and the Sonics were a huge part of that. They were the first pro team from Washington and they won an NBA title in 1979 that long-time fans still get misty-eyed about.

But it’s time to take of the green-and-gold glasses. That’s ancient history. The Sonics have been gone for 10 years, and even under the best of circumstances, an NBA team wouldn’t call Seattle home for almost that long.

But for some, this will not matter. It’s the NBA they want and no hockey team will do. They’re willing to wait and pine away for a team that plays on hardwood.

A lot can change in seven or eight years. Maybe the NHL will have taken root to the point that the NBA would not be a threat to its long-term success in Seattle.

Maybe, just maybe, fans will move on from their bring-back-the-Sonics obsession. They’ll opt to root for the Kraken or Sockeyes (personal favorite) or whatever they’re going to call Seattle’s NHL team, and be all-in on hockey and forget about the NBA.

And that would be a real miracle.

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