NBA returning to Seattle thanks to Steve Ballmer

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this year. (Microsoft photo)

We heard two weeks ago that the NBA might be back in Seattle. Now we have some confirmation and assurance.

Several legitimate sources, including ESPN, Yahoo! Sports and The Seattle Times, were all out with stories late Sunday night that reported a done deal between the Maloof family and a Seattle investment group that is led by investor Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

For a valued $525 million, the Seattle group will purchase 65 percent of the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof family. ESPN reported that there has been a “purchase agreement” signed and the news could be formally announced as early as Monday.

The deal is not completely done. The NBA Board of Directors still needs to approve the agreement in April and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson is making a last-second attempt to put together an ownership group to keep the Kings in his city.

But this certainly looks good for hoops fans in Emerald City. The Seattle investors plan to have the team play two seasons at Key Arena beginning next October and then relocating to the proposed new $490 million arena in the SoDo district before the 2015-16 season. Plans to build arena were approved by the City Council and the King County Council last October.

Some say that the sheer amount of money Hansen and Ballmer are paying improves the chance of an NHL team also coming to Seattle. Hansen and Co. would receive $145 million dollars in public financing if only an NBA team plays in the new arena; he gets $200 million if both an NBA and NHL team play there.

Reports came out in June that Ballmer was part of the investment group led by Hansen. It’s not surprising: Ballmer was a regular at Sonics games before the team departed for Oklahoma City in 2008 and also was part of another investment group that tried to keep the team here. Seattle has been without a team since then.

The group also includes Erik and Peter Nordstrom, part of a family that owned the Seahawks from 1976-1988.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen also has NBA ties, as he’s owned the Portland Trail Blazers since 1988. Allen also owns the Seattle Seahawks and is a minority owner of the Seattle Sounders. Another tech company — Nintendo of America — owns the Seattle Mariners.

If the Kings indeed do move to Seattle for the 2013-14 season, they’ll keep the “SuperSonics” nickname. Reports are out that legendary coach Phil Jackson will sit in the Sonics’ front office.

Here’s a good roundup of what this means for everyone affected by the deal.

Previously on GeekWire: Prediction guru Nate Silver: The Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl

  • Guest

    This is fantastic news! Thank you, Steve, for bringing basketball back to Seattle.

    • guest

      Yes, fantastic. Now please, Steve, go get involved in it full time before you destroy MS completely.

  • http://twitter.com/alwaysbshipping Tom Leung

    Great news but can’t help but wonder how awesome it would be if Ballmer & the state of WA (not to mention our other local billionaires) invested $800M in the Seattle startup ecosystem :-)

  • guest

    Microsoft and its alumni have done nothing for for this city #sarcasm

  • BillG

    I had to secretly invest thru Hansen. Only way I could get Steve out of MS and into something he knows! I hope he doesn’t find this comment. I once saw him typing ‘Geakwire’ looking for local tech news!

    • Mark

      Are you twelve years old or do you just play one on Geekwire?