Seattle's gain, Sacramento's pain?

Bringing joy back to Seattle will mean pain for new batch of fans, Bill Reiter says.

It seems the city of Seattle is about to get NBA justice.

But when it comes to the NBA, and the idea of justice for cities with teams and cities that want or deserve them, the right thing must always come at the expense of someone else.

That’s the Catch-22 of reports that the Maloof family is closing in on a deal to sell the bulk of the Sacramento Kings to a group intending to move the team to Seattle.

That is fantastic news for a fantastic city that lost its team to Oklahoma City. Clay Bennett bought the team in 2006 and took them from Seattle two years later. But it would come at the cost of another fantastic and deserving NBA town, Sacramento, that will lose one of its most cherished institutions.

Unlike with Seattle, if the reports are true, Sacramento is unlikely to see NBA basketball within its borders for a long time, if ever again.

What does this mean? That Seattle should "do the right thing" and refuse to "steal" Sacramento’s team? Of course not. The practice of landing and retaining professional sports teams is a cutthroat business for those cities that decide to wade into the game. But it also lends the understandable hypocrisy to Seattle’s claims that Bennett was a bad guy for taking their team.

It’s just like the sports teams that these cities are competing over: There are no bad guys, just an opposition looking to win.

The deal is not yet done, according to reports, and there may still be a ways to go. It is not news that the Maloof family might try to move, or even sell, the team. But sources in the organization were in the dark Wednesday about the state of things, waiting for word from their owners about what exactly is happening. A source close to ownership, when contacted, would neither confirm nor deny that the report was accurate, choosing instead to decline to comment.

Still, if the team goes to Seattle, there will be a difficult justice in the move. Seattle lost the SuperSonics, now the Thunder, when an out-of-town owner brushed into town, bought the team, quarreled with lawmakers and took them back to his home state, Oklahoma City.

So Seattle gets what it deserves by breaking the heart and hopes of Sacramento. Like Oklahoma City before them, the idea of a bad guy and a righteous actor in such moves depends on the eye of the beholder.

Time will tell if this relocation is in fact a fact. Until then, it’s good for fans everywhere to remember the cliche that athletes use all the time: In the end, despite the love and loyalty and bonds built through professional sports, this is a business.

And in every business you either win or you fail. Seattle knows the bitter end of this better than most. Soon they might heal those wounds at the expense of a city, Sacramento, to whom they will pass the pain.

You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at

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