Mar 17, 2023 - Sports

Seattle mayor thinks a new NBA team could come soon

Illustration of an hourglass filled with basketballs instead of sand.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

While NBA officials are staying tight-lipped about if and when a men's basketball team might return to Seattle, Mayor Bruce Harrell predicted this week that it will happen — and in a "much shorter window" than five years.

Why it matters: Since the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, Seattle has been without a professional men's basketball team.

Catch up quick: Recently, Oak View Group transformed the former KeyArena into Climate Pledge Arena, redesigning it with NBA standards in mind — and eliminating a key issue that led to the Sonics' departure.

What he's saying: "The market is set perfectly for us," Harrell said at a panel event I moderated earlier this week.

  • Harrell said he thinks Seattle is positioned "better than any other city in this country" to gain an NBA team, because "we have both the financing here" and a "great stadium."
  • "If it can be done here, it's going to be done," Harrell said. "And we're not talking about, like, five years from now, we're talking a much, much shorter window."
  • He said he's spoken to people in ownership groups, and bases his optimism on the opinions of people "in the know."

Yes, but: While NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the NBA "will invariably expand" and has called Seattle "a great market," the league hasn't made promises or given a clear timeline.

  • Last month, Silver said expansion talks could intensify "in a few years" after the league negotiates a television rights deal and a new union contract, per Bleacher Report.
  • Those union negotiations are underway now, the Athletic reports, while the league's television rights package is set to expire after the 2024-25 season, according to ESPN.

The NBA didn't immediately provide Axios Seattle with a response to the mayor's comments.

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