What Happened to the Seattle Supersonics? 2023 Edition
What happened to the Seattle Supersonics? After 41 years in the NBA, Seattle played their final game on April 13, 2008 before relocating to Oklahoma City. It’s hard to imagine how a team with the history of the Supersonics could end up getting relocated in the first place.
The Seattle Supersonics were founded as an expansion team in 1967. The Supersonics name came about following a fan vote which included alternatives like the Rainmakers, Cascade, Sockeyes, Orcas, Emeralds and Thunderbolts.
Supersonics ultimately won out with the name chosen to pay homage to the planned, but ultimately failed, Boeing 2707 which was proposed to be developed in the city and was to rival the French-British Concorde jet.
The first sale of the Supersonics franchise was completed in 1983 when longtime owner Sam Schulman sold the team to a group of investors led by Barry Ackerley for $13.5 million. Ackerley held on to the franchise for 18 years before selling it to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for $200 million in 2001.
Schultz was hinting that he was willing to sell the franchise if a new stadium or a refurbishment of KeyArena couldn't be funded. In 2006 thats exactly what happened, and the Seattle Supersonics were sold to a group led by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett for $350 million.
The group led by Bennett had always intended to relocate the franchise away from Seattle. In 2008 the NBA Board of Governors approved the relocation of the Supersonics to Oklahoma City. The new team became known as the Oklahoma City Thunder and began playing in the NBA from the 2008–09 season onward.
Write it in stone:This is one of most exciting duos the NBA has ever seen pic.twitter.com/2C5ziK611u — Seattle Supersonics (@SeattleSonics) March 6, 2023
Why Did the Seattle Supersonics Leave the NBA?
The Seattle Supersonics left Seattle for a few reasons including ownership disputes, an ageing Key Arena, and a lack of progress in obtaining a new arena in Seattle. Originally opened as the Washington State Pavilion in 1962, KeyArena was nowhere near NBA standards by the 2000s.
A potential replacement arena in the SoDo District was planned in the 90s but failed to materialize. In a final ditch effort to keep the Supersonics in Seattle, an investor group led by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer promised that they would pay for half of the $300 million needed to upgrade KeyArena.
That failed to eventuate and despite efforts by Seattle officials and fans to keep the Supersonics in the city, negotiations for a new arena stalled, and Bennett eventually applied for and received approval from the NBA to move the team to Oklahoma City in 2008.
Relocating the Supersonics was extremely controversial and unpopular with fans in Seattle who felt that the team had been taken away from them unfairly. The loss of the franchise left Seattle without an NBA team, despite having been one of the league's original cities.
.@Meesh_McMahon has ALL the fun facts on Climate Pledge Arena! 😳@DallasStars | #TexasHockey | 📺: BSSW pic.twitter.com/pHfTvePKJg— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) March 12, 2023
Will Seattle Get an NBA Team Again?
There are many cities ready to become the next NBA expansion team. Making a huge case is Las Vegas with a $4 billion arena breaking ground which is ready to attract a franchise ready to play ball. A Vancouver expansion team also makes sense with the population exploding since they relocated to Memphis in 2001.
A Seattle Supersonics expansion team is the favorite team to succeed and the main reason why is for the very reason they left in the first place. KeyArena is now known as Climate Pledge Arena after Amazon bought the naming rights to the arena in 2020.
Extensive renovations were completed in 2021 totalling $850 million and it's now home to NHL team the Seattle Kraken who made their debut in the league in 2020.
Since the move to Oklahoma City in 2008, the NBA's return to Seattle was predicated upon an arena upgrade. Today, the Oak View Group has delivered Climate Pledge Arena and the NHL's Kraken, and it hopes the Sonics return. https://t.co/3BQGmAHelD— Seattle Times Sports (@SeaTimesSports) October 22, 2021
Why Seattle Deserves an NBA Team
Seattle could make a case for being one of the best sports cities in America if they still had the Supersonics back again. The Seahawks, Mariners and the Sounders all have huge and energetic fan bases in the NFL, MLB and MLS respectively.
Seattle fans are known for the legendary "Beast Quake" moment which registered a then-record 137.6 decibels following a Marshawn Lynch touchdown for the Seahawks in 2011. It was so loud it measured as a small earthquake at 2.0 on the Richter scale.
The run that shook the Earth: The BeastQuake.Still awesome 11 years later. @MoneyLynch (Jan. 8, 2011) pic.twitter.com/WEKwqaamKT — NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) January 8, 2022
The Seattle Sounders have also set the benchmark for soccer match day experiences in North America and is one of the reasons why Major League Soccer is becoming one of the best soccer leagues in the world. Averaging Major League Soccer crowds of almost 40,000 fans, the Sounders have had larger average crowds than AC Milan, Chelsea and Juventus.
Fortunately when the Supersonics relocated to Oklahoma City, Clay Bennett agreed to leave the Supersonics name, logo and colors in Seattle for a possible future franchise in the city. Historic memorabilia including trophies, banners and retired jerseys also stayed in the city which are on display at the Museum of History & Industry.
When Will Seattle Get an NBA Team
There's no official timeline or plan for Seattle to get an NBA team but there have been ongoing discussions and efforts to bring a team back to the city. The NBA also hasn't announced plans to expand the league or relocate existing teams, and bringing a team to Seattle will require significant financial investment and negotiations with the league and potential ownership groups.
Despite the uncertainty many fans in Seattle remain hopeful that the city will eventually get an NBA team again, and the strong tradition of basketball in the city with the Supersonics era will help their cause.
A move could happen as early as 2025 when the current TV rights deal expires. Seattle-Tacoma has the 12th largest media market in the country and is much larger than Oklahoma City , who are ranked as the 44th largest market. All 11 media markets ahead of Seattle-Tacoma have an NBA team so it makes sense for a Seattle Supersonics expansion franchise.
Seattle Supersonics fans can dream of a return to the glory days. The Seattle Supersonics won the 1979 NBA Finals led by Paul Silas, Jack Sikma and Gus Williams.
Superstars like one of the best defenders in NBA history Gary Payton, and one of the most athletic big men Shawn Kemp, are forever connected to the Supersonics too. There's a rich history of basketball in a city that deserves to have an NBA team again and it shouldn't be too long until we see it becoming a reality.
Rumors about the Sonics and NBA expansion are swirling. ESPN's Brian Windhorst told @jtheaps9 and @StacyRost: “If there was some sort of stock I could buy that there will be a Seattle Supersonics back in the medium- to long-term, I would buy that stock."https://t.co/NqT1Pb2QfC— Seattle Sports (@SeattleSports) January 8, 2021
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Wolfgang Sport started in 2017 as a way to connect my passion for American and British sports. Today it's evolved into a blockchain sports blog pushing the boundaries into the crypto world and embracing Web3 technologies.
I guess ownership dispute is one if the things that can make a team divide or even to relocate. I guess the best thing they can do is to bring them back to the city. I guess that will help.
would be great to see the Supersonics back in the Seattle. They truly deserve to have basketball back and theres so much history there
Hi, hmmn this name. I know this name years back– Seattle Supersonics. I recall the Kemp and Payton exciting inter-play. Shawn Kemp, is a name I remember well; then I think for Payton, it is Gary Payton.
I didn't know all these issues ownership happened later, thanks for the info.
good to see you around brother take care!
They will probably feature on Seattle's SuperSega.