Sonics update: Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson outlines plan to keep Kings

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson.

While the deal to bring the NBA back to Seattle is extremely close to completion, Sacramento still has a chance to keep its team in town and mayor Kevin Johnson outlined his plan Tuesday afternoon.

Johnson, a former NBA point guard, spoke with confidence that the city would come up with an offer to keep the team. But he did not provide any big financial updates, saying he has least $19 million raised from 19 different investors — some he’s never met before — and that there are multiple local equity partners that are interested in coming in at the level the city needs.

“The NBA reserves the right to approve a relocation or sale,” Johnson said. “It is unprecedented for the NBA to allow relocation from a city after 28 years.”

Johnson did not announce any major investor nor did he mention anything about an arena plan. He said the city is still sticking to its Play to Win strategy:

  1. Identify local ownership group
  2. Identify major equity partner
  3. Demonstrate city’s commitment to partner on new downtown arena
  4. Demonstrate viability and strength of Sacramento market

The NBA Board of Directors still needs to approve the Kings-to-Seattle agreement in April, but Yahoo calls it a “formality.” It’s 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.

“I do believe Seattle deserves an NBA team at some point, just not ours,” Johnson said today.

The Seattle investment group making the purchase, which has been valued at $525 million for 65 percent of the Kings franchise, is led by investor Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

California state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinburg isn’t happy about Ballmer’s involvement — not one bit. He’s so angry that the 53-year-old addressed a letter to California Department of General Services director Fred Klass asking why Microsoft and Ballmer are “engaging in activities which are clearly measurably detrimental to our State’s job and revenue base — not to mention use profits earned through business with our State to appropriate a California-based asset.”

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.

For some light afternoon entertainment, watch this Justin Bieber parody done by some creative Kings fans.

Previously on GeekWire: California politician blasts Ballmer over NBA deal, seeks details on Microsoft’s state contracts

  • RunTheNumbers

    “It is unprecedented for the NBA to allow relocation from a city after 28 years.”

    In 2008 the Supersonics were relocated to Oklahoma City after 41 seasons in Seattle.

    • Dave

      41 is 13 bigger than 28.

    • Guest

      Exactly. It is precedented to allow relocation after 41 seasons, but never after 28.