Back in 2002 – the Charlotte Hornets faced the same fate as the Sacramento Kings – relocation.
The parallels between the two situations do have some merit – then co-owner and face of the franchise George Shinn (who was heavily falling in popularity) wanted a new arena built or intended to uproot the franchise, which for the first time in ages, was struggling with fan attendance. Unlike the Maloof family though, he wasn’t willing to sell – something that may have forced the hand of the NBA into the eventual move (combined with a handful of other factors).
As was expected with the Sacramento/Seattle drama, the NBA was to give their recommendation at the annual 2002 NBA Board of Governors meeting – yet – it was something they opted to delay, exactly like they’ve done for the current Kings situation. Rumors swirled as to the reasons for the lack of vote, though, Hornets co-owner Ray Wooldridge suggested the delay was nothing more than “paperwork and logistics”, though, given what we know of the current situation that seems a bit questionable, especially since the NBA continued to push the ownership group and New Orleans for secured ticket sales just days before approving the relocation. More likely, it was the NBA pushing Charlotte – trying to get that similar lock and key deal proposed by Louisiana, something they’ve seemingly been trying to do with Sacramento. Unfortunately for Charlotte, some ill-timed decisions by then Mayor Pat McCrory blocked what would eventually become the Charlotte Bobcats arena from being built, giving the NBA no other option at that current time.
Both Shinn and the NBA would come to somewhat regret the decision to move the franchise, the NBA quickly replacing the team just two seasons later while Shinn told the Charlotte Observer that he “messed up” and moving the franchise was due in part to bad judgement calls in his life, at the time.
Apologies aside – delaying a vote at the annual BOG vote isn’t completely unprecedented and as much as NBA Commissioner David Stern wants all to believe he has little to do with the process, it just isn’t believable given his track record.
All that said – the two situations are relatively different, so trying to compare how one situation went to how this situation may unfold isn’t a realistic option. This isn’t uncharted territory for the NBA though – it’s just the most difficult franchise relocation decision they’ve come across, and with good reason.