The Seattle SuperSonics, commonly known as the Sonics, were an American professional basketball team based in Seattle, Washington. The SuperSonics played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member club of the league's Western Conference Pacific and Northwest divisions from 1967 until 2008. After the 2007–08 season ended, the team relocated to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and now plays as the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Sam Schulman owned the team from its 1967 inception until 1983. It was then owned by Barry Ackerley (1983–2001), and then Basketball Club of Seattle, headed by Starbucks chairman emeritus, former president and CEO Howard Schultz (2001–2006). On July 18, 2006, the Basketball Club of Seattle sold the SuperSonics and its Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) sister franchise Seattle Storm to the Professional Basketball Club LLC, headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. The sale was approved by the NBA Board of Governors on October 24, 2006, and finalized on October 31, 2006, at which point the new ownership group took control. After failing to find public funding to construct a new arena in the Seattle area, the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City before the 2008–09 season, following a $45 million settlement with the city of Seattle to pay off the team's existing lease at KeyArena at Seattle Center in advance of its 2010 expiration.
Home games were played at KeyArena, originally known as Seattle Center Coliseum, for 33 of the franchise's 41 seasons in Seattle. In 1978, the team moved to the Kingdome, which was shared with the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL). They returned to the Coliseum full-time in 1985, moving temporarily to the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington, for the 1994–95 season while the Coliseum was renovated and rebranded as KeyArena.
The SuperSonics won the NBA championship in 1979. Overall, the franchise won three Western Conference titles: 1978, 1979, and 1996. The franchise also won six divisional titles, their last being in 2005, with five in the Pacific Division and one in the Northwest Division. Settlement terms of a lawsuit between the city of Seattle and Clay Bennett's ownership group stipulated the SuperSonics' banners, trophies, and retired jerseys remain in Seattle; the nickname, logo, and color scheme are available to any subsequent NBA team that plays at a renovated KeyArena subject to NBA approval. The SuperSonics' franchise history, however, would be shared with the Thunder.
Oklahoma City Thunder
|Arena||Seattle Center Coliseum/KeyArena at Seattle Center (1967–1978, 1985–1994, 1995–2008)|
Tacoma Dome (1994–1995)
|Team colors||Green, gold, white|
|Team manager||Full list|
|Head coach||Full list|
|Ownership||Sam Schulman (1967–1983)|
Barry Ackerley (1983–2001)
Basketball Club of Seattle (Howard Schultz, Chairman) (2001–2006)
Professional Basketball Club LLC (Clay Bennett, Chairman) (2006–2008)
|Conference titles||3 (1978, 1979, 1996)|
|Division titles||6 (1979, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2005)|
|Retired numbers||6 (1, 10, 19, 24, 32, 43)|
On December 20, 1966, Los Angeles businessmen Sam Schulman and Eugene V. Klein, who both owned the AFL's San Diego Chargers at the time, and a group of minority partners were awarded an NBA franchise for the city of Seattle. Schulman would serve as the active partner and head of team operations. He named the SuperSonics after Boeing's recently awarded contract for the SST project, which was later canceled. The SuperSonics were Seattle's first major league sports franchise.
Beginning play on October 13, 1967, the SuperSonics were coached by Al Bianchi and featured All-Star guard Walt Hazzard and NBA All-Rookie Team members Bob Rule and Al Tucker. The expansion team stumbled out of the gates with a 144–116 loss in their first game in San Francisco against the San Francisco Warriors. The team got their first win on October 21, their third game of the season in San Diego against the San Diego Rockets in overtime 117–110, and finished the season with a 23–59 record.
Hazzard was traded to the Atlanta Hawks before the start of the next season for Lenny Wilkens. Wilkens brought a strong all-around game to the SuperSonics, averaging 22.4 points, 8.2 assists, and 6.2 rebounds per game for Seattle in the 1968–69 season. Rule, meanwhile, improved on his rookie statistics with 24.0 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game. The SuperSonics, however, only won 30 games and Bianchi was replaced by Wilkens as player/coach during the offseason.
Wilkens and Rule both represented Seattle in the 1970 NBA All-Star Game, and Wilkens led the NBA in assists during the 1969–70 season. In June 1970 the NBA owners voted 13–4 to work toward a merger with the ABA; SuperSonics owner Sam Schulman, a member of the ABA–NBA merger committee in 1970, was so ardently eager to merge the leagues that he publicly announced that if the NBA did not accept the merger agreement worked out with the ABA, he would move the SuperSonics from the NBA to the ABA. Schulman also threatened to move his soon-to-be ABA team to Los Angeles to compete directly with the Lakers. The Oscar Robertson suit delayed the merger, and the SuperSonics remained in Seattle. Early in the 1970–71 season, however, Rule tore his Achilles' tendon and was lost for the rest of the year.
Wilkens was named the 1971 All-Star Game MVP, but the big news of the season came when owner Sam Schulman managed to land American Basketball Association Rookie of the Year and MVP Spencer Haywood following a lengthy court battle (see Haywood v. National Basketball Assn.). The following season, the SuperSonics went on to record their first winning season at 47–35. The team, led by player-coach Wilkens and First Team forward Haywood, held a 46–27 mark on March 3, but late season injuries to starters Haywood, Dick Snyder, and Don Smith contributed to the team losing eight of its final nine games; otherwise, the 1971–72 team might very well have become the franchise's first playoff team.
For the 1972–73 season, Wilkens was dealt to Cleveland in a highly unpopular trade, and without his leadership the SuperSonics fell to a 26–56 record. One of the few bright spots of the season was Haywood's second consecutive All-NBA First Team selection, as he averaged a SuperSonics record 29.2 points per game and collected 12.9 rebounds per game.
The legendary Bill Russell was hired as the head coach in the following year, and in 1975 he coached the SuperSonics to the playoffs for the first time. The team, which starred Haywood, guards Fred Brown and Slick Watts, and rookie center Tommy Burleson, defeated the Detroit Pistons in a three-game mini-series before falling to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in six games. The next season, the SuperSonics traded Haywood to New York forcing the remaining players to pick up the offensive slack. Guard Fred Brown, now in his fifth season, was selected to the 1976 NBA All-Star Game and finished fifth in the league in scoring average and free throw percentage. Burleson's game continued to strengthen, while Watts led the NBA in both assists and steals and was named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team. The SuperSonics again made the playoffs, but lost to the Phoenix Suns in six games in spite of strong performances from both Brown (28.5 ppg) and Burleson (20.8 ppg) during the series.
Russell left the SuperSonics after the 1976–77 season, and under new coach Bob Hopkins the team started the season dismally at 5–17. Lenny Wilkens was brought back to replace Hopkins, and the team's fortunes immediately turned around. The SuperSonics won 11 of their first 12 games under Wilkens, finished the season at 47–35, won the Western Conference title, and led the Washington Bullets three games to two before losing in seven games in the 1978 NBA Finals. Other than the loss of center Marvin Webster to New York, the SuperSonics roster stayed largely intact during the off-season, and in the 1978–79 season they went on to win their first division title. In the playoffs, the SuperSonics defeated the Phoenix Suns in a tough seven game conference final series to set up a rematch with the Washington Bullets in the finals. This time, the Bullets lost to the SuperSonics in five games to give Seattle its first, and only, NBA title. The championship team roster included the powerful backcourt tandem of Gus Williams and Finals MVP Dennis Johnson, second year All-Star center Jack Sikma, forwards John Johnson and Lonnie Shelton, and key reserves Fred Brown and Paul Silas.
The 1979–80 season saw the SuperSonics finish second in the Pacific Division to the Los Angeles Lakers with a strong 56–26 record. Fred Brown won the NBA's first three-point shooting percentage title, Jack Sikma played in the second of his seven career All-Star Games for Seattle, Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson were both named to the All-NBA Second Team, and Johnson was also named to the All-NBA First Defensive Team for the second consecutive year. The SuperSonics made it to the Western Conference Finals for the third straight season, but lost to the Lakers in five games. It was the last time that the backcourt of Williams and Johnson would play together in SuperSonics uniforms, as Johnson was traded to the Phoenix Suns before the start of the 1980–81 season and Williams sat out the year due to a contract dispute. As a result, the SuperSonics fell to last place in the Pacific Division with a 34–48 mark, so far the only time they have ever finished in last place. Williams returned for the 1981–82 season, and Seattle managed respectable 52–30 and 48–34 records during the next two years.
In 1981, the Sonics also created the Sonics SuperChannel, the first sports subscription cable service; subscriptions were available for $120 ($1.33 a game). It shut down after the 1984-85 season.
In October 1983, original team owner Sam Schulman sold the SuperSonics to Barry Ackerley, initiating a period of decline and mediocrity for the franchise. In 1984, Fred Brown retired after playing 13 productive seasons, all with Seattle. His career reflected much of the SuperSonics' history to that time because he had been on the same team roster as Rule and Wilkens during his rookie season, playing a key role on Seattle's first playoff teams, and being the team's important sixth man during the championship series years. In recognition of his many contributions to the team, Brown's number was retired in 1986. Lenny Wilkens left the organization following the 1984–85 season, and when Jack Sikma was traded after the 1985–86 season, the last remaining tie to the SuperSonics' championship team (aside from trainer Frank Furtado) had been severed.
Among the few SuperSonics highlights of second half of the 1980s were Tom Chambers' All-Star Game MVP award in 1987, Seattle's surprise appearance in the 1987 Western Conference Finals, despite posting a 39–43 regular season record during the 1986-87 season, and the performance of the power trio of Chambers, Xavier McDaniel, and Dale Ellis. In 1987–88, the three players each averaged over 20 points per game with Ellis at 25.8 ppg, McDaniel at 21.4, and Chambers at 20.4. In the 1988–89 season, with Chambers having signed with Phoenix, Ellis improved his scoring average to 27.5 points per game and finished second in the league in three-point percentage. The SuperSonics finished with a 47–35 record, and made it to the second round of the 1989 playoffs.
The SuperSonics began setting a new foundation with the drafting of forward Shawn Kemp in 1989 and guard Gary Payton in 1990, and the trading of Dale Ellis and Xavier McDaniel to other teams during the 1990–91 season. It was George Karl's arrival as head coach in 1992, however, that marked a return to regular season and playoff competitiveness for the SuperSonics. With the continued improvement of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, the SuperSonics posted a 55–27 record in the 1992–93 season and took the Phoenix Suns to seven games in the Western Conference Finals.
The next year, 1993–94, the SuperSonics had the best record in the NBA at 63–19, but suffered a first round loss to the Denver Nuggets, becoming the first #1 seed to lose a playoff series to an 8th seed. The Sonics moved to the Tacoma Dome for the 1994–95 season while the Coliseum underwent renovations and went on to earn a second place 57-25 record. Again, the Sonics were eliminated in the first round, this time to the Los Angeles Lakers in four games. The team returned to the rebuilt Coliseum, renamed KeyArena for the 1995–96 season.
Perhaps the strongest roster the SuperSonics ever had was the 1995–96 team, which had a franchise best 64–18 record. With a deep roster of All-NBA Second Team selections Kemp and Payton, forward Detlef Schrempf, forward Sam Perkins, guard Hersey Hawkins, and guard Nate McMillan, the team reached the NBA Finals, but lost to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in six games. Seattle continued to be a Western Conference powerhouse during the next two seasons, winning 57 games in 1996–97 and 61 games in 1997–98 for their second and third straight Pacific Division titles. At the end of the 1997–98 season long-time Sonic and defensive specialist Nate McMillan retired, and disagreements with management led Karl to end his tenure as head coach despite him winning the 1997-98 Coach of the Year. He was replaced by former Sonic Paul Westphal for the 1998–99 season.
The 1998–99 season saw the SuperSonics again descend into an extended period of mediocrity. Westphal was fired during the 2000–01 season and replaced by then-assistant coach Nate McMillan on an interim basis, eventually losing the "interim" label the next year. The 2002–03 season saw All-Star Gary Payton traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, and it also marked the end to the SuperSonics 11-year streak of having a season with a winning percentage of at least .500, the second longest current streak in the NBA at the time.
The 2004–05 team surprised many when it won the organization's sixth division title under the leadership of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, winning 52 games and defeating the Sacramento Kings to advance to the 2005 Western Conference Semifinals. The Sonics would proceed to lose in 6 games to the established trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginóbili and the San Antonio Spurs, who subsequently defeated the Detroit Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals. This appearance also marked the last time that this incarnation of the SuperSonics would make the playoffs. During the off-season in 2005, head coach Nate McMillan left the Sonics to accept a high-paying position to coach the Portland Trail Blazers. After his departure, the team regressed the following season with a 35–47 record.
On May 22, 2007, the SuperSonics were awarded the 2nd pick in the 2007 NBA draft, equaling the highest draft position the team has ever held. They selected Kevin Durant from the University of Texas. On June 28, 2007, the SuperSonics traded Ray Allen and the 35th pick of the 2nd round (Glen Davis) in the 2007 NBA draft to the Boston Celtics for rights to the 5th pick Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West. On July 11, 2007, the SuperSonics and the Orlando Magic agreed to a sign and trade for Rashard Lewis. The SuperSonics received a future second-round draft pick and a $9.5 million trade exception from the Magic. On July 20 the SuperSonics used the trade exception and a second-round draft pick to acquire Kurt Thomas and two first-round draft picks from the Phoenix Suns.
In 2008, morale was low at the beginning of the SuperSonics season as talks with the City of Seattle for a new arena had broken down. The Sonics had gotten a franchise player with second overall pick in the NBA draft with Durant. However, with the Allen trade the Sonics did not have much talent to surround their rookie forward, as they lost their first eight games under coach P. J. Carlesimo on the way to a 3-14 record in the first month of the season. Durant would live up to expectations, as he led all rookies in scoring at 20.3 ppg and won the Rookie of the Year. However, the Seattle SuperSonics posted a franchise worst record of 20-62. It would end up being the final season in Seattle as Bennett ended up getting the rights to move the team after settling all the legal issues with the city.
From 2001 to 2006, Starbucks chairman emeritus, former president and CEO Howard Schultz was the majority owner of the team, along with 58 partners or minor owners, as part of the Basketball Club of Seattle LLP. On July 18, 2006, Schultz sold the SuperSonics and its sister team, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)'s Seattle Storm, to the Professional Basketball Club LLC (PBC), a group of businessmen from Oklahoma City for $350 million. The team relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008, and now plays as the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In 2006, after unsuccessful efforts to persuade Washington state government officials to provide funding to update KeyArena, the Basketball Club of Seattle LLP, led by Howard Schultz, sold the team to the Professional Basketball Club LLC (PBC), an investment group headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. The purchase, at US$350 million, also included the Seattle Storm WNBA franchise. Schultz sold the franchise to Bennett's group because they thought that Bennett would not move the franchise to Oklahoma City but instead keep it in Seattle. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was quoted as saying, "I think it's presumptuous to assume that Clay Bennett and his ownership group won't own that Seattle team for a long, long time in Seattle or somewhere else. It's presumptuous to assume they're going to move that franchise to Oklahoma City", Cornett said. "I understand that people are going to say that seems to be a likely scenario, but that's just speculation."
After failing to persuade local governments to fund a $500 million arena complex in the Seattle suburb of Renton, Bennett's group notified the National Basketball Association (NBA) that it intended to move the team to Oklahoma City and requested arbitration with the city of Seattle to be released from the Sonics' lease with KeyArena. When the request was rejected by a judge, Seattle sued Bennett's group to enforce the lease that required the team to play in KeyArena through 2010.
NBA owners gave approval of a potential SuperSonics' relocation to Oklahoma City on April 18 in a 28–2 vote by the league's Board of Governors; only Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks and Paul Allen of the Portland Trail Blazers voted against the move. The approval meant the Sonics would be allowed to move to Oklahoma City's Ford Center for the 2008–09 season after reaching a settlement with the city of Seattle.
On July 2, 2008, a settlement was reached that allowed the team to move under certain conditions, including the ownership group's payment of $45 million to Seattle and the possibility of an additional $30 million by 2013 if a new team had not been awarded to the city. It was agreed that the SuperSonics' name would not be used by the Oklahoma City team and that the team's history would be shared between Oklahoma City and any future NBA team in Seattle. The team began play as the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2008–09 NBA season, after becoming the third NBA franchise to relocate in the past decade. The two previous teams to relocate were the Vancouver Grizzlies, which moved to Memphis, Tennessee and began play as the Memphis Grizzlies for the 2001–02 NBA season; and the Charlotte Hornets, which moved to New Orleans and began play as the New Orleans Hornets for the 2002–03 NBA season.
In months prior to the settlement, Seattle publicly released email conversations that took place within Bennett's ownership group and alleged that they indicated at least some members of the group had a desire to move the team to Oklahoma City prior to the purchase in 2006. Before that, Sonics co-owner Aubrey McClendon told The Journal Record, an Oklahoma City newspaper, that "we didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here", although Bennett denied knowledge of this. Seattle used these incidents to argue that the ownership failed to negotiate in good faith, prompting Schultz to file a lawsuit seeking to rescind the sale of the team and transfer the ownership to a court-appointed receiver. The NBA claimed Schultz' lawsuit was void because Schultz signed a release forbidding himself to sue Bennett's group, but also argued that the proposal would have violated league ownership rules. Schultz dropped the case before the start of the 2008–09 NBA season.
In 2009, Seattle-area filmmakers called the Seattle SuperSonics Historical Preservation Society produced a critically acclaimed documentary film titled Sonicsgate – Requiem For A Team that details the rise and demise of the Seattle SuperSonics franchise. The movie focuses on the more scandalous aspects of the team's departure from Seattle, and it won the 2010 Webby Award for 'Best Sports Film'.
In 2011, a group of investors led by Valiant Capital Management hedge fund founder Chris Hansen spoke with then-Seattle mayor Mike McGinn about the possibilities of investing in an arena in hopes of securing an NBA franchise and reviving the SuperSonics. An offer was made by McGinn to Hansen to obtain ownership of KeyArena for little to no money to aid in his efforts. As KeyArena was deemed unacceptable by the NBA and barely breaking even in operation, the facility would likely have needed to be leveled and a new one built on the site. Determining there were transportation concerns in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood around the Seattle Center, Hansen declined in favor of building a new arena at another location.
Hansen began quietly purchasing available land near Safeco Field in Seattle's SoDo industrial neighborhood, at the southern end of what was designated a Stadium Transition Overlay District housing both Safeco Field home of the MLB's Seattle Mariners and CenturyLink Field home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and MLS's Seattle Sounders. A short time later, Hansen presented to McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine the proposal for a basketball, hockey, and entertainment arena at the SoDo site. McGinn employed a stadium consultant on the city's behalf to study the viability of such a project. Local media took notice of the land purchases and began to postulate that it was for an arena. Rumors of meetings between McGinn and Hansen's investment group began to circulate in late 2011 and were finally acknowledged in early 2012.
At that time, rumors that Hansen would begin pursuing a vulnerable franchise to relocate to Seattle began making the rounds. Most of the discussion centered on the Sacramento Kings, a struggling franchise that had been trying to put together a plan to replace the aging Sleep Train Arena, then called the Power Balance Pavilion, for years with no luck. While Hansen had not spoken in public about his desires or pursuits for a specific team, the rumors were rampant enough that Think Big Sacramento, a community action group created by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson to develop solutions for the Kings, composed an open letter to Hansen asking him not to pursue the city's team. Meanwhile, negotiations between McGinn, Constantine, and Hansen continued on development of a memorandum of understanding that would lay out the relationship for a public-private partnership on the new arena.
On May 16, 2012, after coming to agreement, McGinn, Constantine, and Hansen presented the proposed Memorandum of Understanding to the public. McGinn and Constantine had insisted on a number of protections for the citizens of Seattle and King County, specifically that no public financing on the project would be committed until Hansen and his investors had secured an NBA team to be primary tenant. The MOU proposal included a financial model that made the project "self-financed", in which no new taxes would be levied to provide funds and city bonds issued would be paid back by taxes and revenue generated solely by the new arena. The proposal was turned over to the Seattle City Council and the King County Council for review and approval.
The King County Council voted to approve the MOU on July 30, 2012, adding amendments that provided for work with the Port of Seattle, securing the SuperSonics naming rights, offering reduced price tickets, support for the Seattle Storm WNBA franchise, and require an economic analysis. The approval was also on the condition that any changes made by the Seattle City Council, which still had yet to vote on the proposal, would need to be voted on and approved separately. The Seattle council had announced that morning that amendments of their own were intended and negotiations began.
Hansen and the Seattle City Council announced on September 11, 2012, a tentative agreement on a revised MOU that included the county council's amendments and new provisions, specifically a personal guarantee from Hansen to cover not only cost overruns of construction of the new arena but to make up any backfall for annual repayment of the city bonds issued. To address concerns of the Port of Seattle, the Seattle Mariners, and local industry, a SoDo transportation improvement fund to be maintained at $40 million by tax revenue generated by the arena was also included. Also, all parties agreed that transaction documents would not be signed and construction would not begin before the state required environmental impact analysis was completed. By a vote of 7–2, the Seattle City Council approved the amended MOU on September 24, 2012. The King County Council reviewed the amended MOU and voted unanimously in favor of approval on October 15, 2012. The final MOU was signed and fully executed by Mayor McGinn and Executive Constantine on October 18, 2012, starting an effective period of the agreement of five years.
In June 2012, it was revealed that Hansen's investment partners included then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and brothers Erik and Peter Nordstrom of fashion retailer Nordstrom, Inc.. Peter Nordstrom had been a minority owner of the SuperSonics under Howard Schultz's ownership. Wally Walker, former Sonics executive, was also later revealed to be part of Hansen's group. On January 9, 2013, media reports surfaced regarding the imminent sale of majority ownership of the Sacramento Kings to Hansen, Ballmer, the Nordstroms, and Walker for $500 million to relocate to Seattle as early as the 2013–14 NBA season.
On January 20, 2013, several sources reported that the Maloof family had reached a binding purchase and sale agreement to sell Hansen and Ballmer's ownership group their 53% majority stake in the Kings franchise, pending approval of the NBA's Board of Governors. The next day, the NBA, Hansen, and the Maloofs all released statements announcing the agreement, which also included the 12% minority stake of owner Robert Hernreich, and based the sale price on a team valuation of $525 million. Sacramento mayor Johnson offered a quick rebuttal to the announcement, stating that the agreement was not a done deal and that Sacramento would have the opportunity to present a counteroffer to the NBA.
David Stern, then NBA Commissioner, confirmed on February 6, 2013, that the Maloofs had filed paperwork with the league office to officially request relocation of the Kings from Sacramento to Seattle on behalf of the potential new ownership group. Johnson, with guidance from Stern and the NBA league office, began to assemble an alternative ownership group that would keep the Kings in Sacramento and aid in getting a new arena constructed. On February 26, 2013, the Sacramento City Council voted to enter into negotiations with an unnamed group of investors revealed two days later to be headed by grocery magnate and developer Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness. An initial counteroffer presented to the NBA by this new group was deemed "not comparable" as to merit consideration. Burkle eventually left the group because of a conflict with other business interests, but offered to be primary developer of lands around the planned downtown location of the new arena to aid in city council passage of public funding for the project. Mastrov took a backseat to Vivek Ranadivé, founder and CEO of TIBCO and a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, brought in to assemble a stronger group of investors. Others, including Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, Sacramento developer Mark Friedman, former Facebook executive Chris Kelly, and manufacturer Raj Bhathal, were added to the group to address team ownership and arena investment.
Ahead of the annual Board of Governors meeting where they were expected to vote on approval of the sale of the Kings to Hansen and Ballmer's group, as well as the relocation request, members of the NBA owners' finance and relocation committees held a meeting in New York City on April 3, 2013, for the Seattle group and the Sacramento group to each present their proposals. Any vote would only be on the PSA presented by Hansen and Ballmer, and the Sacramento proposal was considered a "backup offer". Coming out of that meeting, the NBA removed the vote from the agenda of the BOG meeting and postponed it for two weeks while information was reviewed. Despite stated desires to the contrary, a bidding war began between Hansen's and Ranadivé's groups, including Hansen raising the team valuation of their offer twice from $525 million to $550 million to $625 million, and Ranadivé offering to forgo the team revenue sharing that has frequently kept smaller market teams like the Kings financially stable.
With the meeting of the Board of Governors to vote moved again to mid-May, the groups were asked to make another brief presentation to the full relocation committee on April 29, 2013. The committee voted to recommend rejection of the relocation request to the full board. When the Board of Governors finally convened in Dallas on May 15, 2013, they heard final presentations from both the Seattle and Sacramento groups. The BOG voted 22-8 against moving the Kings from Sacramento to Seattle. As the PSA for the sale of the team was, for all intents and purposes, dependent upon relocation, the NBA rejected the sale without vote.
Though initially resistant to the idea, after negotiations, on May 17, 2013, the Maloof family and Hernreich formally agreed to sell their ownership stake in the Kings (65% of the team, valued at US$535 million) to Ranadivé's ownership group. Part of the $348 million purchase was considered paid with a $30 million non-refundable deposit Chris Hansen had paid to the Maloofs to establish their business relationship, though Hansen has no ownership stake in the team.
In September 2013, then-Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, in line to become the next commissioner upon David Stern's retirement in February 2014, made the announcement that the Milwaukee Bucks would need to replace the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center because of its small size and lack of amenities. The team had recently signed a lease through the 2016–17 NBA season, but the NBA made it clear that the lease would not be renewed past that point. With counties surrounding Milwaukee passing ordinances that they would not approve a regional tax option to fund a new arena, rumors began swirling that owner Herb Kohl would need to sell all or part of his ownership of the team. Though Kohl had repeatedly stated he would not sell to someone intent on moving the Bucks out of Wisconsin, many had pegged the team as a likely potential candidate to move to Seattle.
On April 16, 2014, it was announced that Kohl had agreed to sell the franchise to New York hedge-fund investors Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens for a record $550 million. The deal included provisions for contributions of $100 million each from Kohl and the new ownership group, for a total of $200 million towards the construction of a new downtown arena. During sale discussions, it was revealed that Hansen and Ballmer had expressed interest in purchasing the team for more than $600 million but had not made a formal offer because of Kohl's insistence that the team stay in Milwaukee.
In the summer of 2015, the state of Wisconsin and city of Milwaukee agreed to help fund a new arena to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center, and construction began in June 2016. The new arena, the Fiserv Forum, was completed in August 2018, with the Bucks also signing a 30-year lease with the city of Milwaukee.
On January 2, 2015, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Atlanta Spirit, then-owners of the Atlanta Hawks, would put the team up for sale. Initially, only majority owner Bruce Levenson would put his stake in the team up for sale; however, the remaining minority owners announced that they would sell their stakes as well. On January 6, 2015, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Chris Hansen and film producer Thomas Tull (the latter a minority owner of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers) would put in separate bids to acquire the Hawks and move them to Seattle. However, the NBA stated that the Hawks were to remain in Atlanta as a condition of their sale; additionally, any attempt to move the Hawks would have incurred a $75 million penalty from the city of Atlanta and Fulton County for breaking the Hawks' lease at Philips Arena before 2017. The Hawks were sold to a group led by Tony Ressler on June 24, 2015.
On May 2, 2016, the Seattle City Council voted 5–4 against vacating a section of Occidental Avenue South, which connected property purchased by Hansen and was deemed critical to siting a future arena. The vote was seen as a significant setback to the memorandum of understanding between Hansen, the city and King County, which ran through November 2017. On October 25, 2016, Chris Hansen announced he will fund the arena without public funding. On November 14, 2016, Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson announced that he would be investing in the NBA arena effort. However, the original deal would ultimately expire on December 3, 2017. Nevertheless, Hansen plans to keep the land owned in the Seattle Stadium District until a commitment for a new Seattle SuperSonics franchise occurs, especially in the event a potential back-up plan becomes warranted.
While talks of building a new arena were underway, there were also talks from another group of investors on renovating the SuperSonics' former home, the KeyArena. One of the investors is Tim Leiweke, co-founder of the Oak View Group. On December 4, 2017, one day after the deal with SoDo investor Chris Hansen expired, the Seattle City Council voted 7–1 approving the renovation of the KeyArena, with one person not available for voting that day. While the renovation is considered to have a main focus on fitting the new expansion team for the National Hockey League (NHL), interest for the revival of the SuperSonics still remains a distinct possibility with the renovated arena. However, while Hansen and his fellow investors still feel having a future arena should be considered as a back-up plan for the future of the SuperSonics, they fully support the renovation and would be right beside the Oak View Group in cheering the team on moving forward if the plan on acquiring an NBA team becomes successful. Renovations of KeyArena into Seattle Center Arena began in 2018, a day after NHL approval of the new Seattle franchise with the renovations planned to be fully completed by 2021, before the beginning of upcoming seasons in the NBA and NHL.
The Seattle SuperSonics' first uniforms had "Sonics" displayed in a font that was also used by the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings). The road jerseys were green and had the lettering displayed in yellow coloring, where the home uniforms were white and had the lettering green. In 1995, the SuperSonics changed their uniforms adding red and orange, removing yellow, to their new jerseys that would last six seasons. It displayed the new Sonics logo on the front and their alternate logo on the shorts. The home uniforms had green stripes on the right side of the jersey and shorts, while the green road jersey had red stripes.
The final SuperSonics uniforms were worn from the 2001–02 NBA season through the 2007–08 NBA season. They were commissioned by owner Howard Schultz for design by Seattle design agency Hornall Anderson. The home jerseys were white with green and gold trim, displaying "SONICS" across the chest. Road uniforms were dark green with white and gold accents, with "SEATTLE" across the chest. The alternate uniform was gold with green and white trim, again with "SONICS" arched across the chest. These uniforms were a nod to a similar style worn from the 1975–76 season through the 1994–95 season.
The SuperSonics were traditional rivals with the Portland Trail Blazers because of the teams' proximity; the rivalry had been dubbed the I-5 Rivalry in reference to Interstate 5 that connects the two cities, which are only 174 miles apart. The rivalry was fairly equal in accomplishments, with both teams winning one championship each. The all-time record of this rivalry is 98–94 in favor of the SuperSonics.
The SuperSonics were rivals of the Los Angeles Lakers, particularly due to the teams' longstanding pairing in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. The Lakers' sustained success meant regular season games often impacted NBA Playoffs seedings, with the teams matching up head-to-head for numerous playoff battles.
|Seattle SuperSonics retired numbers|
|1||Gus Williams||G||1977–1984||March 26, 2004|
|10||Nate McMillan||G||1986–1998 1||March 24, 1999|
|19||Lenny Wilkens||G||1968–1972 2||October 19, 1979|
|24||Spencer Haywood||F||1971–1975||February 26, 2007|
|32||Fred Brown||G||1971–1984||November 6, 1986|
|43||Jack Sikma||C||1977–1986||November 21, 1992|
|Seattle SuperSonics Hall of Famers|
|19||Lenny Wilkens 1||G||1968–1972||1989|
|33||Patrick Ewing 2||C||2000–2001||2008|
|24||Dennis Johnson 3||G||1976–1980||2010|
|—||Lenny Wilkens 1||Head coach||1969–1972
|Seattle SuperSonics Hall of Famers|
|K. C. Jones||1990–1992|
|P. J. Carlesimo||2007–2008|
|Zollie Volchok||1977 (or 1978)–1983|
|Points||Fred Brown||58||March 23, 1974|
|Rebounds||Jim Fox||30||December 26, 1973|
|Assists||Nate McMillan||25||February 23, 1987|
|Steals||Fred Brown||10||December 3, 1976
February 22, 1978
|Points per game||Spencer Haywood||29.2||1972–73|
|Rebounds per game||Spencer Haywood||13.4||1973–74|
|Assists per game||Lenny Wilkens||9.6||1971–72|
|Steals per game||Slick Watts||3.18||1975–76|
Points scored (regular season) (as of the end of the 2007–08 season)
Other Statistics (regular season) (as of the end of the 2007–08 season)
Media related to Seattle SuperSonics at Wikimedia Commons
The 1976–77 NBA season was the SuperSonics' 10th season in the NBA.1978 NBA Finals
The 1978 NBA World Championship Series was the championship round of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 1977–78 season, and the culmination of the season's playoffs. The series featured the Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics against the Eastern Conference champion Washington Bullets. The Bullets defeated the SuperSonics in seven games to win the NBA championship. Bullets power forward/center Wes Unseld was named MVP of the series. Before the Cleveland Cavaliers' Game 7 win at Golden State in the 2016 NBA Finals, this was the last time a road team had won Game 7 in the NBA Finals. The 1978 World Championship Series was the first NBA Finals series since the 1958 World Championship Series in which both teams had under 50 wins, and is the only NBA Finals to feature two teams with under 50 wins in an 82-game season.1978–79 Seattle SuperSonics season
The 1978–79 Seattle SuperSonics season was the team's 12th since the franchise began, and their most successful, winning their only NBA title.
In the playoffs, the SuperSonics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the Semifinals, then defeated the Phoenix Suns in seven games in the Conference Finals to reach the NBA Finals for a second consecutive season, in a rematch of the 1978 NBA Finals, facing the defending NBA champion Washington Bullets, whom they had lost to in seven games. The Sonics would go on to avenge their NBA Finals loss and defeat the Bullets in five games, winning their first and only NBA championship. Dennis Johnson was named the NBA Finals MVP.
This was Seattle's first professional sports championship since the Seattle Metropolitans victory in the Stanley Cup in 1917.1979 NBA Finals
The 1979 NBA World Championship Series was the championship series played at the conclusion of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 1978–79 season. The Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics played the Eastern Conference champion Washington Bullets, with the Bullets holding home-court advantage, due to a better regular season record. The SuperSonics defeated the Bullets 4 games to 1. The series was a rematch of the 1978 NBA Finals, which the Washington Bullets had won 4–3.
Dennis Johnson of the SuperSonics was named as the NBA Finals MVP, while Gus Williams of the SuperSonics was the top scorer, averaging 28.6 points per game.
This was Seattle's second men's professional sports championship, following the Seattle Metropolitans' Stanley Cup victory in the 1917 Stanley Cup Finals.
Coincidentally, this series (along with the 1978 NBA Finals) was informally known as the George Washington series, because both teams were playing in places named after the first President of the United States (the SuperSonics represented Seattle, the most populous city in the state of Washington, and the Bullets represented Washington, D.C., albeit playing in nearby Landover, Maryland).
This is the most recent time that a Western Conference team based outside of Texas or California has won an NBA title, and the last of only two occasions alongside the 1976–77 Portland Trail Blazers when a team from the present-day Northwest Division has won the league title, which is by 26 years the longest league championship drought for any division of the four major North American sports leagues. Since then, the following Western teams have gone on to win an NBA title: the Los Angeles Lakers (ten times), the San Antonio Spurs (five times), the Golden State Warriors (three times), the Houston Rockets (twice), and the Dallas Mavericks (once). The remaining eighteen titles since 1980 have been won by Eastern Conference teams.1986–87 Seattle SuperSonics season
The 1986–87 Seattle SuperSonics season was the 20th season of the Seattle SuperSonics in the National Basketball Association. Bernie Bickerstaff returned for his second season as head coach of the franchise and, despite a modest improvement over their previous season's 31–51 record, managed to clinch a spot in the playoffs, where they defeated the Dallas Mavericks in four games in the First Round, and then the Houston Rockets in six games in the Semifinals, reaching the Western Conference Finals, only to be swept in four games to the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. The 39-43 Sonics remain the last team to date in the NBA to win a playoff series with a losing regular season record.1996 NBA Finals
The 1996 NBA Finals was the championship series of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 1995–96 season, and the culmination of the season's playoffs. The Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics (64–18) played the Eastern Conference champion Chicago Bulls (72–10), with the Bulls holding home court advantage. The teams' 136 combined regular season wins shattered the previous record of 125, set in 1985. The series was played under a best-of-seven format. This was the first championship in the Chicago Bulls second three-peat.Chicago won the series 4 games to 2. Michael Jordan was named NBA Finals MVP.
NBC Sports used Ahmad Rashād (Bulls sideline) and Hannah Storm (SuperSonics sideline).
Hal Douglas narrated the season-ending documentary Unstoppabulls for NBA Entertainment.
This was the 50th NBA Finals played.1996 NBA Playoffs
The 1996 NBA Playoffs was the postseason tournament of the National Basketball Association's 1995–96 season. The tournament concluded with the Eastern Conference champion Chicago Bulls defeating the Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics 4 games to 2. Michael Jordan was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time.
By winning their fourth title, the Bulls capped what many consider to be the greatest season in NBA history, as they finished a record 72–10 in the regular season, eclipsing the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers record of 69–13, helped by the addition of another future Hall of Famer to the Bulls, Dennis Rodman. It was also redemption for Jordan after his first return to the playoffs in 1995 and the Bulls' disappointing second-round loss to the Orlando Magic, a team that would be swept in the NBA Finals. With him leading the way, the Bulls swept the defending Eastern Conference champion Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, winning the four games by an average of 17 points en route to a combined record of 87–13 in regular season and postseason play. As for the Magic, it ended a three-year run of dominance for the team, as Shaquille O'Neal went on to sign with the Lakers the following season. The Magic did not have another 50-win season, division title and first round playoff series victory until 2008, followed the season afterward by an Eastern Conference championship and the franchise's second NBA Finals appearance in 2009 to which they lost to the Lakers.
The SuperSonics were only the tenth team in NBA history to win 64 games during the regular season, but their feat went largely unnoticed due to Chicago's record 72 wins. They made their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1979, and vindicated them as well after their stunning first-round loss to the Denver Nuggets in 1994, when they had become the first #1 seed to lose to an eighth-seed.
This was the Sacramento Kings' first playoff appearance since 1986, but would be Mitch Richmond's only one as a King (he previously appeared twice in the playoffs for the Golden State Warriors in 1989 and 1991). The Kings did not make it back until 1999, which began their eight-year string of playoff appearances. Richmond would be traded to the Wizards in 1998 and would later win his first and only championship with the Lakers in 2002 (he would retire shortly thereafter).
As for the two-time defending NBA champion Houston Rockets, their quest for a 3-peat was thwarted by Seattle. The Sonics swept the Rockets 4-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Sonics were also the last team to defeat the Rockets in the playoffs before their two-year title run, in the 1993 Western Conference Semifinals (Seattle won 4–3). Also noted during their two-year title run, Houston never had to face Seattle in the playoffs as the Sonics were eliminated in the first round by both the Nuggets and the Lakers respectively.
After the Lakers' first round loss to Houston, Magic Johnson retired for good after a brief in-season comeback.
Though the Utah Jazz fell in 7 to the SuperSonics in the Western Conference Finals (their third appearance in 5 years), in retrospect it kickstarted their own Finals run, which they ultimately accomplished in 1997 and 1998, but lost both times to the Bulls.Bob Weiss
Robert William Weiss (born May 7, 1942) is an American professional basketball coach and former professional basketball player. He is currently serving as an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets of the National Basketball Association (NBA).Dennis Johnson
Dennis Wayne Johnson (September 18, 1954 – February 22, 2007), nicknamed "DJ", was an American professional basketball player for the National Basketball Association's (NBA) Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics and coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. He was an alumnus of Dominguez High School, Los Angeles Harbor College and Pepperdine University.A prototypical late bloomer, Johnson overcame early struggles and had a successful NBA playing career. Drafted 29th overall in 1976 by the Seattle SuperSonics, Johnson began his professional career as a shooting guard. He eventually led the Sonics to their only NBA championship in 1979, winning the Finals MVP Award. After a short stint with the Phoenix Suns, he became the starting point guard for the Boston Celtics, with whom he won two more championships. Johnson was voted into five All-Star Teams, one All-NBA First and one Second Team, and nine consecutive All-Defensive First and Second Teams. Apart from his reputation as a defensive stopper, Johnson was known as a clutch player who made several decisive plays in NBA playoffs history.The Celtics franchise has retired Johnson's #3 jersey, which hangs from the rafters of the TD Garden, the home arena of the team. On April 5, 2010, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame officially announced that Johnson had been posthumously elected to the Hall. He was formally inducted on August 13. He is considered by several sports journalists to be one of the most underrated players of all time.Detlef Schrempf
Detlef Schrempf (born 21 January 1963) is a German-American retired professional basketball player. He played college basketball for the Washington Huskies from 1981 to 1985, and was drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA) by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 1985 NBA draft, with the eighth overall pick. He was an All-NBA Third Team member in 1995, a three-time NBA All-Star and the NBA Sixth Man of the Year twice.
Schrempf played in the NBA for sixteen seasons, including stints with the Indiana Pacers, the Seattle SuperSonics, and the Portland Trail Blazers. In 1996, he reached the NBA Finals with the SuperSonics. He played for the West German, and later German, national team in the 1984 and 1992 Summer Olympics and the 1983 and 1985 EuroBasket championships.Jack Sikma
Jack Wayne Sikma (born November 14, 1955) is an American retired basketball center. He was a seven-time NBA All-Star with the Seattle SuperSonics, who drafted him in the first round with the eighth overall pick of the 1977 NBA draft. In 1979, he won an NBA championship with Seattle. Sikma finished his playing career with the Milwaukee Bucks. He was known for his distinctive curly, blond hair along with his patented step back behind the head jumper during his playing days. During his thirteen-year career, he reached the playoffs eleven times, was selected to seven all-star games, and anomalously established himself as accurate-shooting center. His style of play would become significantly influential for centers at both the amateur and professional levels. Sikma was a seven-time NBA All-Star, who scored 17,287 points in his NBA career.Lenny Wilkens
Leonard Randolph Wilkens (born October 28, 1937) is an American former basketball player and coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He has been inducted three times into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, first in 1989 as a player, as a coach in 1998, and in 2010 as part of the 1992 United States Olympic "Dream Team", for which he was an assistant coach. He is also a 2006 inductee into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
Wilkens was a combined 13-time NBA All-Star as a player (nine times) and as a head coach (four times), was the 1993 NBA Coach of the Year, won the 1979 NBA Championship as the head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics, and an Olympic gold medal as the head coach of the 1996 U.S. men's basketball team.
During the 1994–95 season, Wilkens set the record for most coaching wins in NBA history, a record he held when he retired with 1,332 victories. Wilkens is now second on the list behind Don Nelson, who broke it in 2010. He won the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award for the 2010–11 NBA season. Wilkens is also the most prolific coach in NBA history, at 2,487 regular season games, 89 more games than Nelson, and over 400 more than any other coach, and has more losses than any other coach in NBA history, at 1,155.List of Oklahoma City Thunder head coaches
The Oklahoma City Thunder is an American professional basketball franchise based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It plays in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA). It was known as the Seattle SuperSonics from 1967 to 2008. The team plays its home games at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. As of October 2008, the Thunder is currently owned by Professional Basketball Club LLC and coached by Billy Donovan, with Sam Presti as its general manager. The team was formed in 1967. After spending 41 seasons in Seattle, Washington, the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City. Owner Clay Bennett, who purchased the team in 2006, sought to get public funding for a new arena in Seattle, or a major renovation of the KeyArena in 2007. After failing to do so, he decided to move the team to Oklahoma City. Seattle sued Bennett's group to enforce the lease that required the team to stay until 2010. The two sides reached a $45 million settlement to pay off the team's lease with KeyArena in July 2008.There have been 16 head coaches for the Thunder franchise. The franchise won its only NBA championship in the 1979 NBA Finals while coached by Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens. Wilkens is the only member of the franchise to have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach. He is also the franchise's all-time leader in regular-season games coached, regular-season games won, playoff games coached, and playoff games won. Wilkens, Paul Westphal, Nate McMillan and Bob Weiss formerly played for the team in Seattle. Former head coach Scott Brooks is the only coach to have won the NBA Coach of the Year Award with the franchise.Luke Ridnour
Lukas Robin Ridnour (born February 13, 1981) is an American retired professional basketball player of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was born in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and grew up in Blaine, Washington.Nate McMillan
Nathaniel McMillan (born August 3, 1964) is an American basketball coach and former player who is the head coach for the Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He coached the Seattle SuperSonics from 2000 to 2005, and the Portland Trail Blazers from 2005 to 2012.Nick Collison
Nicholas John Collison (born October 26, 1980) is an American former professional basketball player who played his entire 15-year career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder franchise. He was drafted by the SuperSonics in the first round of the 2003 NBA draft and retired as a member of the Thunder in 2018. As a college player, Collison went to two Final Fours with the Kansas Jayhawks.Northwest Division (NBA)
The Northwest Division is one of the three divisions in the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The division consists of five teams: the Denver Nuggets, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz.
The division was created at the start of the 2004–05 season, when the league expanded from 29 to 30 teams with the addition of the Charlotte Bobcats. The league realigned itself into three divisions in each conference. The Northwest Division began with five inaugural members: the Nuggets, the Timberwolves, the Trail Blazers, the Seattle SuperSonics and the Jazz. The Trail Blazers and SuperSonics joined from the Pacific Division, while the Nuggets, the Timberwolves and Jazz joined from the now-defunct Midwest Division.
The SuperSonics-Thunder franchise has won the most Northwest Division titles, with six, while the Jazz have won three, the Nuggets have won three, the Trail Blazers have won two, and the Timberwolves have never won the Northwest Division title. In the 2009–10 season, all four teams that qualified for the playoffs each had more than 50 wins. The most recent division champion is the Portland Trail Blazers, having won its second division championship in the 2017–2018 NBA season.Rashard Lewis
Rashard Quovon Lewis (born August 8, 1979) is an American former professional basketball player. Rashard entered the NBA directly from Alief Elsik High School. He rose to prominence in the NBA as a scorer with the Seattle SuperSonics, and was later a member of the Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards and Miami Heat. He garnered two NBA All-Star selections, one with Seattle and another with Orlando. Lewis reached the NBA Finals three times, winning an NBA championship in 2013 as a member of the Heat.Seattle SuperSonics relocation to Oklahoma City
The Seattle SuperSonics relocation to Oklahoma City was a successful effort by the ownership group of the Seattle SuperSonics to relocate the team from Seattle, Washington to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The team began play as the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2008–09 basketball season, after becoming the third National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise to relocate in the 2000s.
After efforts to persuade Washington state government officials to provide $220 million in public funding to update KeyArena failed, the SuperSonics' ownership group, led by Howard Schultz, sold the team to the Professional Basketball Club LLC (PBC), an investment group headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. A condition of the sale was that PBC execute a "good faith effort" to secure a suitable arena in the Seattle area for the team. After failing to persuade local governments to pay for a new $500 million arena complex, Bennett's group notified the NBA that it intended to move the team to Oklahoma City and requested arbitration with the city of Seattle to be released from its lease with KeyArena. When the request was rejected by a judge, Seattle sued Bennett's group to enforce the lease that required the team to play in KeyArena through 2010. On July 2, 2008, a settlement was reached where PBC would pay $45 million in exchange for breaking the lease, and an additional $30 million if Seattle was not given a replacement team in five years, among other conditions.
In months prior to the settlement, Seattle publicly released email conversations that took place within Bennett's ownership group alleging they indicated that some members of the group had a desire to move the team to Oklahoma City prior to its purchase in 2006. The city used these conversations to argue that ownership failed to negotiate in good faith and as a result, Schultz filed a lawsuit seeking to rescind the sale of the team and transfer the ownership to a court-appointed receiver. The NBA claimed the lawsuit was void because Schultz signed a release forbidding himself to sue Bennett's group but also argued that the proposal would have violated league ownership rules. Schultz dropped the case before the start of the 2008–09 NBA season.
|G League affiliate|
|Culture and lore|
Seattle SuperSonics seasons
Bold indicates NBA Finals victory
Seattle SuperSonics 1978–79 NBA champions