Seattle needs an NBA team now

Seattle is currently the fastest growing big city in the U.S., yet it still lacks a basketball team

Hayden Evans, Staff Reporter
Originally published December 1, 2017


When the Seattle Supersonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008, basketball fans across Washington were utterly heartbroken. There is nothing worse for a sports fan than having a home team taken away, and that’s exactly what happened to the NBA in Seattle, with no warning.

Ever since then, Seattle basketball fans have been desperately hoping for a way to get the NBA to return to the Emerald City. In 2013, rumors circulated about a Seattle group purchasing the Sacramento Kings and relocating the team to Seattle. The Seattle city council even approved a new arena deal, which would have built a $550 million Arena in the SODO district of Seattle. The NBA Board of Governors held a vote and decided to not allow the Kings to relocate to Seattle on the basis that Sacramento had no other professional sports teams, while Seattle already had the Seahawks, Mariners, and Sounders.

Multiple other attempts at relocating various NBA teams to Seattle have occurred, but so far none have been successful.

It’s now been nine years since the Sonics last played a game in Key Arena. It doesn’t make any sense for Seattle to not have an NBA team. In 2016, Seattle was the fastest growing big city in the United States, according to the 2016 population census. Seattle’s population increased by over 20,000 people in 2016 alone.

With a population of just over 700,000, Seattle is the 18th largest city in the United States and the tenth most densely populated, with approximately 8400 inhabitants per square mile. So why does Salt Lake City, with a population of just 193,000, get to hold onto their NBA team while Seattle doesn’t?

NBA owners want to take their team to a city where they can maximize profits. They look for cities with a large population, high average income, and few existing professional sports teams. Seattle is the perfect city for an NBA team. The average income in Seattle is $80,000 per year, which is nearly double that of Salt Lake City. Seattle is growing at three times the rate of Salt Lake City, and Seattle currently has almost four times as many people as Salt Lake City.

So why has it been so difficult for Seattle to get an NBA team? One issue is that the NBA currently has 30 teams, which makes scheduling games very easy because it has two divisions with 15 teams. If the NBA expanded to add a new team in Seattle, scheduling games with 31 teams would be a nightmare. The only way this could happen was if the NBA added two teams to maintain an even balance between the two divisions.

Seattle is considered by many to be an excellent city for NBA expansion, but a second city has not been identified yet. San Diego and St. Louis are both viewed as possibilities, but neither city has an arena that is big enough to support an NBA team.

Another reason Seattle still doesn’t have an NBA team is that Seattle politicians cannot decide between remodeling Key Arena or building a new Arena in SODO. Politicians such as formal mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver don’t support a new arena in SODO because it would destroy one of Seattle’s biggest industrial areas and take away many maritime jobs.

Former Mayoral candidate Jason Roberts supports the SODO arena plan because it would be much easier for parking and traffic than Key Arena. Building a new Arena could also make it possible for an NHL team to exist in Seattle, because the arena would be designed to work for an ice rink and a basketball court.

Head boys basketball coach Michael Broom grew up in Seattle and remembers going to Sonics games when he was in high school. Broom has found that since the Sonics left Seattle, he’s rooted for individual players and coaches rather than one particular team, but he admits that he doesn’t really follow the NBA until the playoffs start. He would like to see an NBA team in Seattle, but it’s not a huge priority for him. “If we had an NBA team I’d pay attention and go to a few games a year, but I’m not losing any sleep over it,” Broom said.

Broom also said that having an NBA team in Seattle wouldn’t have a huge effect on the city’s youth basketball scene. He believes that NBA players who grew up in Seattle such as Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford fill the void that was left by the Sonics as role models for young Seattle basketball players. “Even without an NBA team, we have one of the best high school leagues on the West Coast and we produce high level talent every single year,” Broom said.