Sacramento Kings: How Long Has Seattle Group Been Trying to Steal Kings Away from Sacramento?


Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
How long has Seattle Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group been trying to snatch the Sacramento Kings from Sacramento? What role has NBA Commissioner David Stern played to help the Seattle group, if any?

There are more questions than answers, but looking at the timeline may provide a few hints.The seeds may have been planted well before the breaking news by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!Sports, last Wednesday, January 9.

Nearly two years ago, NBA Commissioner, David Stern, expressed his regrets about the Sonics leaving Seattle, believing it a prime city for an NBA franchise. It was a sad day for Sonics fans to be sure. They lost their team, not unlike the fate fans in Sacramento fear today.

February 15, 2011 Seattle PI Sports Blog Citing a report from’s Bill Simmons podcast.

"My regrets are that we didn’t do a – weren’t able to do a better job of getting a building moved along so that we could have kept a team there… I have regrets about both Vancouver and Seattle… I think (Seattle is) a very prime city for an NBA franchise… But our goal here is to keep all of our teams where they are… but recognizing that that hasn’t been a goal that we have successfully achieved in the past."

Fast-forward to the following year, as Sacramento was closing in on a deal between the city, Maloofs, owners of the Sacramento Kings, and AEG, a leading sports and entertainment company, to build a downtown arena, Chris Hansen, a Seattle arena investor, emerged on the scene prompting this letter from Think Big Sacramento to him.

February 13, 2012, Think Big Sacramento’s Open Letter To Chris Hansen

"Mr. Christopher HansenValiant Capital Management1 Market Street, Steuart Tower, Suite 2625San Francisco, CA 94105Mr. Hansen,On behalf of the 99% of us who make up the wonderful mosaic that is the great City of Sacramento, we have one message for the top 1/10th of the 1% who is engaged in actions detrimental to our community:KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OUR KINGS."

Soon thereafter, the Sacramento Bee reported on Seattle’s arena proposal. Of course, with Sacramento trying to close their deal with the Maloofs, the timing of Seattle emerging as a viable player for an NBA team could not have been much worse.

February 16, 2012,Ryan Lillis, Sacramento Bee reported, Seattle Mayor releases arena proposal says pathway exists to get NBA team.

February 16, 2012, Wendell Maxey,, Crossover Chronicles Meet the man behind bringing Sonics back to Seattle: Chris Hansen.

"…Hansen has apparently already had talks with Stern, who professed the NBA isn’t interested in adding new teams to the league. Relocation appears the lone solution for existing Sonic fans, who will have to embrace either the Kings or Hornets as their own."

February 27, 2012, NBA Kings reach tentative arena deal to remain in Sacramento

Seemingly, all was well in Sacramento, until this happened:

April 14, 2012, Sacramento Bee, Kings arena deal crumbles as Maloofs back away from plan.

Then, as Sacramento was still reeling from the pain of a broken deal with the owners of the Sacramento Kings, NBA Commissioner David Stern added to the angst:

June 12, 2012 NBA Commissioner David Stern annual NBA Finals press conference. (direct link not found; here is an indirect link cited June 13, 2012 by Bill Ingram, Senior NBA Editor, Hoops World, NBA@2: Could Sacramento Kings Move to Seattle?

"It is extremely unlikely that the NBA would expand the number of teams in the league, but if a current team were to be approved for relocation, Seattle would have to be considered a frontrunner if they have a new building ready for occupation."

These were not the words Sacramento Kings fans wanted to hear, but the next couple of months were uneventful. No public statements were coming from the Maloof camp to give anyone, without inside information, any idea of was going on insofar as the team was concerned. Then this happened:

August 29, 2012, Aaron Applegate, reporter Virginia-Pilot, Virginia Beach council hears sports arena pitch.

"A group of companies, led by Comcast-Spectacor – owner of NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers and former owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers – are in talks with the city to build an 18,500-seat arena next to the Virginia Beach Convention Center near the Oceanfront.Sources have said the NBA’s Sacramento Kings are the target tenant. Comcast-Spectacor officials said Tuesday they haven’t talked to Kings representatives about moving here. The family that owns the Kings has declined to comment."

While the whole idea of the Maloofs relocating the team to Virginia Beach seemed pretty farfetched to many around Sacramento, given that it was not considered nearly the market that Sacramento is, it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibilities that the owners could entertain a sweetheart deal, wherein they would not have to put in any money and could still retain the team.

Then, word came out of Seattle that Chris Hansen reached a deal for an arena.

September 11, 2012, Chris Daniels/KING 5 News, Final deal reached on Seattle NBA/NHL arena.

"SEATTLE – A deal has been reached between the Seattle City Council and the investor group led by Chris Hansen on the financial terms that would put a new sports arena near Safeco Field, multiple sources confirm."

Then, Wojnarowski added a piece on Stern and the Seattle connection.

October 26, 2012 Adrian Wojnarowski, NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports, David Stern’s final act as NBA commissioner: Promote the myth of David Stern.

"Between now and his departure, Stern is determined to get a franchise back into Seattle, league sources said. He has become a strong ally of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s group to bring back the NBA there. Ballmer’s group has been trying to get the Maloof family to sell the Sacramento Kings, so that the franchise can eventually play in a new arena in Seattle."

"From the league office, pressure on the Maloofs to sell has been growing, sources said – just as hopes for a new Sacramento arena have been fading. Seattle Sonics fans will never forgive Stern for his complicit role in Clay Bennett’s deception to move that franchise to Oklahoma City, but make no mistake: Stern desperately wants to return the NBA to one of its great markets and wants it for his own measure of vindication before he leaves office."

"As one source involved in the process said, “Stern has enough time to get a team back to Seattle, but he’ll let Silver deal with the crowd [booing] on opening night.”"

Then, Sam Amick added his:

November 9, 2012 Sam Amick,USA TODAY Sports, Sacramento is still fighting to keep the Kings

"Seattle looms as the greatest threat of all, with a group headed by billionaire Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer having already landed city council approval for a $490 million arena for professional basketball and hockey. The Maloof family that owns the Kings, that took it to such great heights during their glory days in the early 2000s and down to the lowest lows of late, has said consistently that they don’t want to sell. But the mistrust in the Maloofs runs deep in these parts, and so the tension remains in what has become a most awkward arrangement between a once-beloved team and its city."

Then, Virginia Beach makes more moves to get a deal.

January 3, 2013– Aaron Applegate, writer Virginian-Pilot, Virginia Beach hopes NBA deal tips off funding quest.

"With the start of the General Assembly session looming, city officials are waiting to see if the company that would operate the estimated $346 million arena can reach a deal with the NBA team targeted as the building’s anchor tenant. Sources have said since August that the team is the Sacramento Kings.If an agreement is reached, city officials can make the pitch to state lawmakers for $150 million to help build the 18,500-seat arena. If there’s no deal, the project is dead."

"Mayor Will Sessoms said he hopes to hear this week from officials at Comcast-Spectacor, the company negotiating with the team, about which way it will go.“It’s critical,” he said of an agreement. “I can’t go to Richmond and plead for money if we don’t have a deal.”"

Interesting, as a side note, the following two comments were listed in the comment section of Applegates’ piece. Interesting, because neither person provided his or her name, but did seem to have some inside information of events which did not come to light until five days later.

January 2, 2013 Comments section to Aaron’s article identified as beach23451.

"seattle or va beach….how would you decide???Submitted by beach23451 on Wed, 01/02/2013 at 11:22 pm.Had to get this story out I guess before the Kings Seattle deal is announced as they have been talking for months and Fox Sports has been in on the talks. NBA is supporting Seattle whatever way things go. As a note, relocation fee of 80M is paid to the NBA not the team…another note $346 Million arena + $80 Million relocation fee now we are pushing $450 Million…adds up fast does it not? Seattle is also shopping with “private” cash in hand for an NBA team as well…"

January 3, 2013, Also listed among the comments was this one:

"Submitted by nfkstateofmind on Thu, 01/03/2013 at 9:34 pm. But I did see an email sent to employees of a major Seattle corporation in indicating how some of their bonus money was being spent and that they would see it back after the nba deal is complete. Looked to be a done deal from the tone of the email. Hampton roads with great fan base loses out again because no corporate presence."

News hit in fairly rapid succession on January 9, with reports the Virginia Beach project was dead, a rumor the Maloofs were going to Seattle, and a report a deal was nearing completion between the Maloofs and Seattle group.

Mayor Will Sessoms was waiting at the altar hoping to hear from officials at Comcast-Spectacor. We all know now, that Virginia Beach’s hopes for an NBA team were dashed when a deal between Comcast – Spectacor and a team believed to be the Sacramento Kings failed to materialize.

January 9, 2013, Aaron Applegate, Virginia Beach mayor says arena project is dead for now.

January 9, 2013, Daina Falk, daughter of NBA agent, David Falk tweeted this:

"So I hear that the Seattle Kings is officially a done deal! The Maloofs finally sold the ailing Sacramento team. #NBA"

January 9, 2013, Adrian Wojnarowski, author Yahoo!Sports, Maloofs nearing deal to sell Kings to group that plans to relocate franchise to Seattle, the report cited above.

At this point, I don’t think too many people doubt the reports coming out about the Maloofs working on a deal with Chris Hansen. The question is – when did the talks begin? Nearly a year ago, right as Sacramento was finalizing its deal with the Maloofs, Think Big warned Chris Hansen to back off. Was Hansen the reason the Maloofs backed out of the deal with Sacramento? What part, if any, did David Stern have in any of this? What did he know and when?

It isn’t over. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is working to put together investors to make a bid for the Sacramento Kings to remain in Sacramento. But, there are still questions.