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Ballmer drops bomb on Seattle

Seattle Supersonics logo Ballmer drops bomb on Seattle Local News The Seattle Times


So while it was vintage Ballmer that he dropped out of Seattle’s quest for an NBA team and instead bought the Los Angeles Clippers for an astronomical $2 billion, I bet the ripple effects of this atomic money bomb on Seattle politics will be profound.

Remember that public-private partnership for an NBA arena down in Sodo, for which Ballmer was to be the big private money? It’s said to be forging ahead, as if nothing seismic had just happened.

Except now, how can the Seattle City Council possibly remain committed to the idea this arena needs public money to be built?


For the amount Ballmer just paid for the Clippers, he could have built a new Sodo basketball arena all by himself, plus built the Safeco Field baseball stadium, plus built the CenturyLink football stadium and still had more than $600 million left over for buying a team.

I have been favorable to Hansen’s arena since it was proposed because I like basketball and because it’s a far better deal for the public than any past stadium around here.

But clearly the ground has shifted — both the political ground and the crazed Ballmerian economics of pro sports.

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Holy smokes:

For the amount Ballmer just paid for the Clippers, he could have built a new Sodo basketball arena all by himself, plus built the Safeco Field baseball stadium, plus built the CenturyLink football stadium and still had more than $600 million left over for buying a team.

Okay then forget the public money.

Ballmer can build his own arena, own it 100% himself, and make all the profits on it without having to share at all.

THAT is the new new basketball economics.

grantland wrote about this awhile ago. impossible to buy an NBA team. 

So impossible it cost him 2 billion dollars. That's a LOT of money.

Seriously, what the fuck? We are all just playthings to billionaires:

I don’t know how you can “assess” that stuff. Did you know who Josh Harris was five years ago? What about Vivek Ranadivé or Joe Lacob? Purchase an NBA franchise and you’re joining the most exclusive of rich guy clubs — you can sit courtside, puff out your chest and feel super, duper, duper, duper rich. Of course, those intangibles aren’t nearly as enjoyable if you’re losing money. To paraphrase something a league official told me recently, Once these guys buy a team, they don’t want to keep writing checks after they already wrote THE check. Even losing a million dollars in one season really bothers them. These are competitive guys that are used to making money. Everyone forgets that part.

So that was the conundrum: NBA teams are clearly ego purchases, but rich guys hate losing money … and that’s about ego, too. In 2010 and 2011, six NBA franchises sold or changed hands, and another four were practically thrown on Craigslist.2 That’s one-third of the league. A steady stream of billionaires crunched numbers and came to the same conclusion: Unless it’s a killer market, the NBA isn’t a good investment. During 2011’s lockout, Philly sold for a measly $280 million as the league frantically looked for a New Orleans buyer (and didn’t find one).

Everything flipped in December of that year, after the NBA negotiated an owner-favorable collective bargaining agreement (and then some) that included a 50-50 revenue split, shorter long-term deals and a more punitive luxury tax system, as well as a pay-per-view event in which David Stern and Adam Silver poured Dom Perignon on each other’s heads and danced over the ruins of Billy Hunter’s career. Fine, I made that last one up. From there, everything kept breaking the NBA’s way. In no particular order …

• The economy rebounded (at least in rich guy circles).

• LeBron became the league’s most famous and talented superstar since MJ, right as we suddenly had the deepest pool of under-27 stars in 20-plus years.

• The 2013 Finals went down as one of the greatest Finals ever, followed by a LeBron-Durant rivalry emerging that could and should carry the rest of the decade.

• Americans stopped caring about PEDs and started worrying about concussions right when everyone should have started worrying about PEDs in basketball (a sport that rarely has any concussions).

• The YouTube/broadband/iPad/GIF/Instagram/Twitter era turned basketball into a 24/7  fan experience — just the ideal sport for the Internet era, the kind of league in which your buddies email you a bizarre Kobe Bryant tweet, an endearing Spurs team selfie and a ridiculous Blake Griffin dunk GIF in the span of three hours (and by the way, that happened to me yesterday).

• A new multimedia rights deal is coming soon … and it’s going to easily double the current deal.

(Repeat: easily double it.)

And I didn’t even mention basketball grabbing the no. 2 spot behind soccer as the world’s most popular sport. I’m not sure when it happened, but it happened. Buy an NBA franchise in 2014 and deep down, you’re thinking about stuff like, I wonder if fans from 250 countries will be paying for League Pass 20 years from now? Throw in the other breaks and that’s how you end up climbing from here …

June 2011: Detroit, $325 million

October 2011: Philly, $280 million

June 2012: New Orleans, $338 million

October 2012: Memphis, $377 million

To here …

May 2013: Sacramento, $534 million

April 2014: Milwaukee, $550 million

Even if the NBA didn’t always favor leaguewide democracy like the NFL does, it’s definitely heading that way. Just look at Oklahoma City, one of the league’s tiniest markets. Fans around the world buy Durant’s Thunder jersey, follow his tweets, click on his Instagram photos and watch his 40-point explosions … and it wouldn’t matter if he were playing for Oklahoma City, New York or East Bumfart. Every time OKC plays in Los Angeles, I find myself astounded by the number of Durant and Westbrook jerseys floating around. Kids in Southern California wearing Oklahoma City jerseys??? What???

The SuperSonics’ still-indefensible Oklahoma City move inadvertently changed the business of basketball, proving the right star (or stars) could transform a team in the smallest market into a marquee juggernaut. We wondered if that was true during LeBron’s aborted prime in Cleveland, but Durant and Westbrook eliminated any and all doubts. It doesn’t really matter where they play, just like it doesn’t really matter where Anthony Davis plays, and it doesn’t really matter who drafts Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.

The OKC hijacking also created the league’s first extortion city — Seattle, the NBA’s version of L.A.’s Potemkin NFL franchise. These days, the mere threat of Sonics 2.0 can get a state-of-the-art arena built in other markets and bump up bidding wars by $100 million–$125 million. It’s hard to call multibillionaires “tragic” figures, but frustrated kajillionaires Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen are the greatest owners the NBA never had. They made a shockingly lavish offer for the Kings (nearly $800 million if you added everything up)3 and the biggest offer for the Bucks (more than $600 million, from what I heard). Two committed billionaires desperately trying to bring the NBA back to a passionate market, willing to spend their own money on an arena and knowing they can fill every suite and courtside seat … and they can’t get a team? Incredible.

What the fuck? Makes me not want to spend a dime supporting any of these teams. 

Btw LOL at the phrase Ballmerian economics. 

Any chance he will try to move the Clippers to Seattle? and rename them the SuperSonics?

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