You've gotta love the naivete of this comment on the Seattle Times sports forum, about the sale of the Seattle SuperSonics and the WNBA's Seattle Storm basketball teams:
"I can't believe anyone would take away the Sonics. How dare they!! How can someone do that to people. And how dare Schultz. The Key was built 10 years ago! You don't become team owners to make a profit, you do it for the love of the game. I call for an immediate boycott of Starbucks."
The love of the game. That's why people play pickup basketball games, or maybe why they play in neighborhood leagues. Pro ball is money, a lot of it. Did you catch the sale price, in the announcement of the Basketball Club of Seattle (led by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz, hence the coffee-house reference) transfer to the Professional Basketball Club LLC of Oklahoma? It was $350 million. This is big business. Love of the game may have lured (probably did) some of these business people into the arena, but it is hardly the key factor.
The sales terms apparently provide that the Sonics and Storm will stay at Seattle for a year under present conditions. During that time, negotiations will presumably be undertaken for financing of a new arena. If those efforts fall through, the new owners will be at liberty to move the team to Oklahoma. (The official site did, however, indicate an intention to maintain present agreements until 2010.)
All this will, of course, throw the heat back on state and local officials: How many hundreds of millions of public money will they be willing to throw the way of the new owners to keep the teams at Seattle?
On this point, an AP story in the Sporting News said: "Until then, Seattle, come support your teams!" Easy for them to say - it's not their tax bucks on the line.
The sale may cut both ways. On one hand, the new owners probably have no particular incentive other than financial to keep the teams in the Northwest, so their presumptive threats of a move would hardly be empty. On the other hand - these guys have no native loyalty to Seattle anyway.
Business properties change hands regularly these days. Anyone who invests too much in a really long-term dependance on a business relationship is running a fool's errand, and that is most likely the conclusion we'll all reach a year from now. That and an answer to this question: Can a pro basketball team make money based out of Seattle? If the answer to that business question is yes - as we suspect it is - then Seattle probably will have a pro basketball team around, whether it's called the SuperSonics and owned by a pack of Sooner dudes, or not.