|David Stern reportedly wants to return the NBA to Seattle. (Getty Images)|
When David Stern officially says goodbye to the NBA in 2014 after 30 years, he's going to be lauded for his achievements and successes in growing the league, but there will also be a number of blemishes and disappointments to point at as one.
Possibly none larger than the failure to keep an NBA franchise in Seattle.
Stern, along with a long line of others, was left with blood on his hands following the departure of the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City. In the end, there wasn't much to be done by the commissioner. The team was leaking money in the market, the city wouldn't build a new arena that the league deemed necessary and the ownership group was set on moving the team to their hometown.
But as the clock ticks on Stern's tenure in the NBA's throne, he's focused on returning the NBA back to the Emerald City, according to Yahoo Sports.
Between now and his departure, Stern is determined to get a franchise back into Seattle, league sources said, and 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."
Stern was mostly mum on Seattle at his press conference Thursday and insisted he backs Sacramento in keeping the Kings there. But he wasn't exactly adamant that the NBA would remain.
“Well, I think that there are many people who appreciate the fact that Sacramento was, is, and can be a first class NBA city,” Stern said Thursday. “It is true that it needs a new building. We have our differences of opinions with all of our owners, and in this case with the Maloofs on some of the issues that have gone down here. But my advice to Sacramento is to continue the enormous support that you have shown for the team, and we'll see what the next steps turn out to be.”
Seattle has taken the first necessary step in bringing the NBA back -- they've approved an arena. Yes, it has to actually be built, which is another hurdle. But after that the final jump and biggest jump is to actually relocate a team to the city. Because it's extremely unlikely the league would be expanding at any time soon. Relocation appears to be the only option and the Kings are the most likely franchise.
Which naturally would be extremely ironic considering the contention and bad blood that boiled over the Sonics' move to Oklahoma City. The claims and wails of "stealing" the team were echoed throughout the league. But essentially, Seattle would be returning the favor to Sacramento.
As history has shown during the Stern reign, he typically gets what he wants. And if his mission is to return the NBA to Seattle, I wouldn't bet against it.