If this proposed deal to sell and move the Sacramento Kings goes through – today, tomorrow or, knowing the bumbling goofball owners, next year – there will be cheering in Seattle and tears of joy that’ll fall like that city’s raindrops. And that’s exactly when everyone should just check themselves.
A celebration? Really? Ripping one city’s heart out in order to transplant it into another is cause for a parade? Well, any way you look at this particular case, there’s nothing that’s good or noble, even if poetic justice is eventually served to Seattle.
That’s because this is all about a money grab. Not basketball, or fans, or what’s good for a particular city. And screw that whole romantic idea about giving Seattle what it lost five years ago when the Sonics left for Oklahoma City. If the Maloofs were offered a pile of presidents to ship the Kings to Sheboygan, off they go. They couldn’t care less about mending Seattle’s broken sports heart. They want to cut the best deal and line their tiny pockets and satisfy their huge, empty egos.
This is sports ownership at its greediest and most cutthroat, and it’s about to be rewarded because, sooner or later, the Kings will move, and Sacramento must come to grips with that. This is a city where fans and local government have done all they could to keep their only pro team in town and remain big league, and yet they never could overcome the biggest hurdle of all: horrible and desperate ownership.
A decade ago when the Kings were winning and making the Lakers sweat, the Maloof brothers were hailed as a group of Mark Cubans, young mavericks who lived brashly and represented a bold new brand of owners. The party-boy brothers mingled with the players and cornered the young market in Las Vegas with their couture hotel and spicy-hot nightclubs where the pretty people mingled. Under the surface, though, there was trouble, and no one noticed at the time. The Maloofs were too tied into Vegas real estate and their other revenue streams weren’t as strong. When the economy tanked, they collapsed hard. OK, fine. Lots of folks were hurt.
That was the right time for the cash-strapped Maloofs to sell the Kings, if only for the good of the city, collect their cash and move on. But they were too attached to the Kings and perhaps too underwater for that, and therefore they tried to hold out for a big score, while taking the city for a long and emotionally wrenching ride.
Once again, fine. They suddenly wanted to be hard-lined businessmen. Nothing wrong with that. But then they agreed to an arena deal – shook hands and hugged and teared up and professed their love for Sacramento in the process – before backing out and plunging the knife deeper into Kings fans. They went from being somewhat sympathetic figures to scoundrels to rats. And all that talk about doing what’s in the best interest of Sacramento? That was a lie. The Maloofs were always about repairing the considerable hole in their financial portfolios and if possible, making a second fortune in the process.
That’s why they tried to move three times, first to Orange County, then to Virginia Beach and now, in what’s probably their best and final option, Seattle in a transaction that could bless them with $500 million. There’s some Microsoft money to be made and a proposed new arena to be filled and maybe, just maybe, the Maloofs will also get to keep a small stake so they can still call themselves owners if nothing else.
Seattle probably feels vindication is coming its way, because the city lost its team under different circumstances that were just as painful. After being misled by ownership into thinking the team would remain in Seattle, the Sonics landed in the hands of Clay Bennett, an Oklahoma billionaire who soon began counting down the days.
The Kings are all but gone, but then, everyone knew that. They only had the support of sponsors and local businesses through the end of this season. They had to cut a deal with someone. It was just a matter of when they were leaving and where they were headed. If you say at least they’re headed to a city that was ripped off and that’s not such a bad thing, then fine. Seattle should think twice before sending thank-yous to Sacramento, though. Seattle should never forget how it felt to lose the Sonics.
Worst of all, whenever the Kings get around to leaving, the big winners will be the Maloofs. They’ll become rich and a few warped souls in Seattle may even hail them as heroes. In truth, they’re disloyal and cold owners who are about to destroy the sports soul of a city not because Sacramento deserved it, but because the Maloofs couldn’t take care of their business.
Without a new arena, and stuck in a small market, Sacramento is unlikely to see the NBA again. But if there’s any consolation to Kings fans, they haven’t had the NBA in about five years anyway. And ownership was strictly amateur.
So maybe it’s no big loss, after all. Doesn’t it sound like a net gain?