BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 01/03/2020

Thiel: Stern took his Seattle business personally

David Stern is seen elsewhere as a savior of the NBA, but Seattle need not apologize for seeing the former commissioner as a petty tyrant who took business too personally.

When it came to Seattle, NBA Commissioner David Stern checked out in 2006. / Wiki Commons

I owe David Stern a thank you.

It’s a little late for that realization, since he died Wednesday. But emotional contradiction is often the case when it comes to complex characters. Such people can exhilarate and infuriate, sometimes in the same paragraph. It becomes difficult to know whether to salute or slug.

Those readers who’ve followed me since the mid-2000s, when Seattle’s hoops history began to unravel from the NBA’s, know how I feel about what he did. I’m going to get to that.

First, a story about the NBA commissioner when he was merely irascible, before he became contemptible.

Barry Ackerley, the owner of the the Seattle SuperSonics from 1983 to 2000, was in the early 1990s trying to put together a deal for an arena on acreage he owned in Pioneer Square. He wanted it to house his NBA team and an expansion NHL team. When the deal collapsed — no Seattle owners could be found for an NHL team, particularly ones willing to be tenant No. 2 to the contentious, litigious Ackerley — he switched plans to get the city to upgrade the Coliseum, the team’s original home.

In a column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, I wrote, “I would rather sleep in a bed of broken lights bulbs than make a deal with Barry Ackerley.”

The city’s political leaders didn’t take my hint. By 1995, they had given him almost $100 million in public funds to re-open the remodeled building as the basketball-only KeyArena.

The city issued 20-year bonds to cover the construction costs, but Ackerley negotiated a 15-year lease term. That difference became the incentive for prospective owners from Oklahoma to buy the Sonics in 2006 from the team’s subsequent owner, Howard Schultz, knowing the worst that could happen was playing the remaining four years of the lease in Seattle before relocating the team. The team subsequently settled a lawsuit and left in 2008.

But before all of that, Ackerley sought to revoke my season press credentials to cover his team, even though credentialing was a function of the league, not of the teams. Some Sonics people were aghast, telling me off the record that it was the broken light bulbs remark that set him off.

I found out ahead of the draft in June, when a police officer gave me a quiet heads-up that Ackerley wanted me arrested for trespassing in the downtown hotel ballroom where the Sonics were staging their draft event.

That didn’t happen, but word of the dispute got back to NBA headquarters. By the time the season rolled around, I was told that Stern issued a league-wide directive that media credentials could not be revoked on the basis of critical coverage. The addendum became known informally as “the Art Thiel rule.”

For that, I thank Stern.

That was before he started believing he was the inheritor of the divine right of kings, certain that nothing he did was subject to earthly authority.

From 1984 to 2014, Stern oversaw the NBA’s growth from a faltering enterprise considering a shrinkage via mergers among weaker teams, to a global colossus with a huge international footprint. He negotiated hard with the networks and the players union, castigated owners, players, coaches, referees and reporters, and created a marketing tornado that made the NBA compelling entertainment for multiple generations as well as a beacon for social and racial consciousness.

In the words of longtime NBA writer Marc Stein of the New York Times, “He was a workaholic, a perfectionist and, yes, often a bully.”

And he set up Seattle to be stripped of the Sonics.

Eleven years after he attended the KeyArena opening, saying Seattle “should be very proud of what’s going on here tonight,” he found himself addressing the state Legislature in Olympia. He was helping Schultz extort public funds for remaking KeyArena without taking any responsibility for ballooning player salaries, nor offering funding help from the NBA, nor admitting that his business, not the building itself or the fan support, made KeyArena economically obsolete.

In so many words, Frank Chopp, then speaker of the state House of Representatives, told Stern to drop dead. Seemingly used to being carried by sedan chair everywhere he went, Stern was furious with the repudiation. He neither cared nor understood that voters funded the Key in 1993, the baseball stadium in 1995 and the football stadium in 1997, and were fed up. All Stern wanted was revenge.

That summer, he set up Clay Bennett, a businessman who helped Oklahoma City host the the New Orleans Hornets after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, get paid back for the favor. Stern allowed him to buy the Sonics from Schultz and his 57 partners for $350 million.

On Nov. 7, 2006, two weeks after the NBA approved the sale to Bennett, voters in the city of Seattle passed by a 71 percent plurality Initiative 91, which restricted taxpayer-funded subsidies for professional sports teams by requiring that leases produced a modest profit. Stern took it as another insult from Seattle.

“If that initiative becomes law,” Stern said, “the Sonics will leave and there will never be another team in Seattle on my watch.”

It did. He was right. And he was wrong.

Granted, the city left itself vulnerable to predation, with its modest remodel, too-short lease, multiple instances of poor arena management and inability to raise private capital locally to out-bid Bennett to keep the Sonics. When, in July 2008, the city’s solid legal defense against Bennett’s spurious claim of a breach of the lease was dropped for a $45 million cash settlement, the Sonics were allowed to move to Oklahoma City and Seattle was seen as stupid.

Stern had his revenge.

For all of his creditable efforts at helping rescue, stabilize and energize the NBA, when it came to Seattle, he made the mistake of taking business personally.

He may be seen elsewhere in the hoops world as a savior. In Seattle he will be known as a petty tyrant who cared more about his power and reputation than a 41-year relationship that brought sports joy and inspiration to a region.

Thanks. But no thanks.

 


YourThoughts

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    You could probably swing a dead cat in any direction and hit at a dozen people responsible for the Sonics running off to OKC. Stern would probably be pretty close to the top of the list, but I believe the true culprit was the coffee king himself…Howard Stern. He gave the Sonics away, for a tidy sum of money of course. But he owned the Sonics and ultimately let them go to the highest bidder. His grandstanding about how he was going to fight the move was nothing more than an attempt to have people believe that he did all he could to stop the move. I say he was and is still full of bovine scatology. As for Stern, RIP, but good riddance to bad rubbish.

    • Skeezix

      WAIT! =- ‘Howard STERN’ did not give the Sonics away – It was a combination of a Stern and a Howard – and a dufus Mayor

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        Doh!!!! Good catch, Schultz. Dang it….

    • art thiel

      It’s true that Schultz was the primary culprit, mostly because he betrayed his own words about civic stewardship. Stern merely used him to facilitate a reward for a crony and a punishment for a foe.

      Judging by his lame apologies during his futile presidential campaign, Schultz still doesn’t get why is such a loathsome figure.

  • StephenBody

    Stern was the last vestige of that cliched creature who used to run professional sports: the back-slappin’, smoke-filled-back-room, out-of-touch denizen of the elitist fat cat business owner class, whose decisions were aimed mostly at padding their own pockets and those of their cronies, the public be damned. That species is still around, of course, but they’ve evolved away from overt displays and even flaunting of their elitism and egomania, into the more touchy-feely Adam Silvers and Roger Goodells and Gary Bettmans, none of whom is actually that different from the Stern mindset but all of whom at least have the good grace to appear other wise.

    Stern’s conduct in the Seattle debacle – especially his open and unchecked contempt for state politicians who dared not to kowtow to his authority – was the perfectly predictable reaction that his ilk has always embraced; My Way or The Highway. His refusal to even consider the NBA in Seattle again “on my watch” was nothing but a vain, willfully-blind hissy fit, a perfect expression of his petty and cynical personality. And, much as I despise the man, it played right into my open desire to get Seattle out of the cesspool of sleaze that Stern and his like represented. I was heartily sick of the NBA since Howard Schultz bought the team, even though, from 1995 to 2007, I was season ticket holder and rabid Sonics fan. The seamy nature of its culture literally drove me back to what was my first love, anyway, college basketball. I could very easily live with this area NEVER having an NBA team again and hope that, when and if we do, even Silver will be gone and some decent, principled person is running things, demanding transparency. and erasing the last of that shoddy legacy of an NBA run by the Uber-Rich, cutting deals that work against the fans’ interests.

    • art thiel

      I understand the contempt you feel for the corporate culture that dictates how pro sports are conducted. But going to college basketball as some sort of relief from corruption, scandal and exploitation is, for me, a head-scratcher.

      • StephenBody

        The difference, for me, is that I’m willing to put up with the occasional stupidity-driven scandal ay the college level, as opposed to the commonplace corruption and callousness of the NBA. NBA players are getting paid
        They’re the very opposite of exploited; they are, in fact, complicit in their exploitation. I want the honest effort and hunger of the college game versus the complacency of millionaires. I’m not scratching my head at all about what I get out of rejecting the NBA and embracing the college game.

        • art thiel

          The college kids are genuinely passionate. But I can’t unsee the backdrop of exploitation, corruption and and resistance to reform shown by the adults for more than 100 years.

          • StephenBody

            Which is like saying that all Penn State kids of today must be tarnished for the sins of Paterno and Jerry Sandusky. NONE of us will ever unsee that when we hear “Penn State” but imbuing the 2019 class of athletes with that disgust is patently unfair to the kids, who not only did no wrong but manu of whom weren’t even born when some of it happened. I have to draw a line somewhere, between the real perpetrators and those who were ultimately victimized and within the good side of that line are those current kids who suffer if we continue to reject college sports because of the actions of their adult stewards. I’m not selling this view as a home game. Anyone who wants to dump on NCAA athletes because of their distaste for the institution is free to do so. In any good conscience, I want that line and am quite prepared to continue celebrating these kids for what THEY accomplish and grey out my near-constant loathing of the NCAA and rogue schools who use athletes as walking ATMs.

          • art thiel

            No, it isn’t the same as Paterno. Sandusky was a criminal predator, Paterno averted his eyes and the school covered up. They deserve punishment and isolation. But none of the athletes are to blame, of course.

            I’m talking about the chronic, systemic abuse of kids’ labors for the financial benefits of schools that contradict a capitalist meritocracy.

            The NCAA system is propping up a code of amateurism that the rest of the world quit on 30 years ago.

            That doesn’t mean we should shut down the institution. To me it is a guilty pleasure that badly needs reforms that MAYBE are on their way. I understand your enjoyment, but I hope you recognize the corruption is worse than in pro sports.

          • StephenBody

            AGAIN, none of this is reason enough, to me, to deprive the students of the same kind of experience that their ancestors had in participating in college athletics. If left up to me, I would abolish the NCAA in a hot minute and worry later about how to replace it because it could scarcely be more crooked. But that is ALL a separate issue from denying kids the recognition and exposure their best efforts deserve. Must they, too, don sackcloth and ashes and mutter mea culpas before every game? Do they have to be ashamed of what they do in college athletics? It is up to US, the parents and taxpayers, to grab the NCAA by its collective grimy neck and say, “No more!” And to me, comparative corruption is a purely academic exercise. ANY corruption is unacceptable and comparing pro to NCAA is saying, “Well, ebola is worse than cancer!” Either one will kill ya dead.

            I don’t need to be right about this. I’m not going to convince you and you have no hope of convincing me. But I care about exactly NONE of it except as to how it negatively impacts the experience of the athletes in their one and only shot at playing amateur sports at the highest level. A pro athlete, to borrow Marshawn’s term, is a “grown-ass man” and can fight his/her own battles and I hope they do. These kids are OUR responsibility and they should get to have their time in college as unconflicted as it can possibly be or we’re complicit in inflicting yet another stratum of pain upon people who did absolutely NOTHING to warrant it.

    • Husky73

      I was a huge Sonics fan from the beginning. I went to their training camps. I was a Bob Rule fan, a Lenny Wilkens fan and a Fred Brown fan. I was intrigued (and terrified) by John Brisker. I sat in the upper NE corner of the Coliseum for several years, and listened to Bob Blackburn on a transistor radio. I reveled in the 78 and 79 teams. I was a George Karl fan, and stunned when the Sonics lost to the Nuggets. And then….I started to lose interest in the NBA. It was ugly-ball. When the Sonics left, I was sad but preferred the memories of the past to the Sonics and NBA of the present. Now, I only glance at an NBA game, and do not miss the NBA in Seattle at all. The chaotic hornet’s nest of Ackerley, Stern, Payton, Kemp, McIlvaine (a nice guy), Swift, Schultz, Stern and others was just too much for me. It was like a marriage that turned toxic.

      • art thiel

        It may be worth considering that almost without exception, sports fans’ memories of the teams of their youth are revered relative to the current products. The memories were so much more important to us when we were younger, and the disappearance of those figures so hurtful, that we can’t help but be dismayed with the current state.

        Y’know, like Christmas.

        • Husky73

          You mean, like Stew McDonald?

      • LarryLurex70

        When were Artest and Laimbeer ever “the faces of the NBA”?

        • Husky73

          Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

    • Tian Biao

      Stephen, I’m not so sure that Stern represents the last of his kind. all sports commissioners work for their owners; none of them are above the civic extortion racket: you know: threaten to move franchises to wring concessions from governments and taxpayers. They might be nicer about it than Stern, but they’re still playing the same dirty game.

      • StephenBody

        I may not have been clear: he was the last vestige of that class who was open about it, saw his pettiness and favoritism and God Complex as virtues, and ruled by whim, rather that by Doing The Right Thing. As the old song says, “I don’t expect humility/but what about some good ol’ fashioned dishonest modesty?”

  • Skeezix

    Arthur – One question I have had ever since that fateful day in early July of 2008 – and I’ve never heard anyone bring it up or show any interest – and that is What was Judge Pechman’s ruling? – the one that was in the sealed envelope on he desk when the lawyers from the 2 sides went in to see her?….I (think) I know that no one can “officially” know – but in the now 12 years after – are there those who have heard from someone in the loop – who have a fairly good idea as to whether it was going to be yay or nay re: enforcing the lease for the last 2 years… I attended 2 days in the courthouse and it was my sense that she was going to rule for the OKC side – and I felt that The City knew that – and thus they made the deal they did because they were gonna lose the team immediately anyways and by getting the 45 million still owed on the re-do of Key Arena – they could feel whole and express optimism re: a future franchise because they did what Stern wanted…it seems as though someone knows or has a better than educated guess as to the Judge’s view at the end…Is it unlawful to speak on it as one of the attorneys or as the presiding Judge?…It would make me understand and feel less bitter if I had a notion that she was going to rule that the City colluded to bleed the Okies and thus violated the lease terms, and so the team was leaving in 2008 regardless… after the face – and in the documentary – I only heard hand wringing about giving in and settling over what was a simple landlord tenant case, but I’ve always wondered if that wasn’t just face saving and /or uninformed opinion(s)….When Judge Pechman told Sherman Alexie that “Corporations don’t cry tears” and I saw the bumbling of the City’s legal team and the charm offensive that Brad Keller had going throughout I felt the situation was not looking good / hopeful – AT ALL – I probably can’t expect you to tell me what you know – if you in fact really DO know what her ruling was – but are there legal beagles / media members who definitively heard after all this time – what the outcome was to be? – or must we forever stay in the dark on all of this…forevermore…left to pontificate without actual knowledge as the the truth of what was contained in that sealed envelope that was to be announced at 4:00 p.m. that fateful day? – What does the ‘Great Man Himself’ ( YOU!) thinkl? – I have always felt she was going to rule in favor of the OKC group – But I think – at this juncture – we almost have a right to know….Speak to us Big Man! :)

    • art thiel

      As far as I know, Pechman never shared her ruling, and had no obligation to do so. I think if she did share it, we all would have known.

      I was there every day of the trial, and while I agree that Pechman’s questions of the city attorneys made them and the city’s position look bad, the issues were tangential to the fundamental legal question: Did the city breach its lease with the Sonics? My belief was the answer was no. But the council was scared, and saw Bennett’s $45M offer to pay off the Key’s mortgage and cover other costs as too good to risk passing up.

      Although I disagreed, I get why they did it, because electeds most often take the course of least resistance. And as much crap as they took from Sonics fans, they would have taken more from non-fans who would have railed about letting the franchise go without getting a dime, making a white elephant out of the Key and the entire Seattle Center, which is a department of the city, like the police and fire departments.

      • Skeezix

        Thx for your thorough reply Art — But I am still curious as to if YOU thought that Judge Pechman was going to rule in favor of the City or the “Sonics” ?….

        • art thiel

          As I wrot, I didn’t think the evidence showed there was a breach of the lease. And I think the city’s attorneys believed that. But the council members decided the risk wasn’t worth it.

  • Parts

    Thanks Art. It had to be said and you said it much more eloquently (and much less profanely) than many of us could have.

    • art thiel

      Well, profanity is good too, and richly deserved.

  • tor5

    That’s a great story about the broken light bulbs, and pretty cool for Stern to step up for you. And then there’s the dark side. I remember being utterly disgusted by his appearance in Olympia. I still am. I wouldn’t vote for one dime of public money going to the NBA for a team. They should pay us, apologize, and beg us to take a team here. Then I read what Stern did for the league and players, how he supported Magic after the HIV announcement, etc., and… damn, he was a complicated character. You captured that well, Art. RIP.

    • art thiel

      Many successful business leaders are similar: They do not care if they are liked, as long as they get their way.

      The 1998-99 strike was the beginning of the end for Seattle hoops. Many of the suiteholders did not renew, making the franchise financially vulnerable. He took zero responsibility for that outcome.

      • Miles DeCaro

        The ’99 work stoppage was a lockout by the owners, not a “strike”. I agree that it played a big role in the Sonics’ leaving but I’m not sure the main impetus was from the players or the players association.

        Also, great article, Art, and I’m always happy to see you respond in the comments.

        Very interesting that he stood up for a journalist against ownership, as most of my recollection of him was as the PR voice of the owners which I later understood was the main job of the commissioner. Much different than the way it is portrayed.

        • art thiel

          You’re right about ’99. Responsibility for that was shared, and Stern never took his share, while having his hand out in 06.

          Regarding standing up for journalists, keep in mind that in the early 90s the NBA was gaining considerable cred, yet, pre-internet and pre-NBA TV, he still wanted good media relations in every city. Plus, he never liked Ackerley.

          Thanks for the good words, and using your name in responding. +1 in my book.

    • LarryLurex70

      Don’t forget how he singlehandedly squashed the Hansen/Maloof deal before it even reached a vote, if I remember correctly. I’m genuinely surprised Sacramento didn’t name it’s new gym after the guy.

      • Miles DeCaro

        They did actually name the street that the arena is on after Stern. I have a picture of it from when I went to a game there last year. It’s David J. Stern Way and, no joke, there is a Starbucks on the corner.

        • art thiel

          I always say any day you learn something is a good day. But I must say, this learning upends my little bromide.

  • Husky73

    Art— I have two questions..1). Did OKC pay the final $15 million? and 2). Where did the $30 million, or $45 million, go? How was it used?

    • art thiel

      OKC paid up. I believe there was about $38 million remaining to pay off the 20-year bonds, so that debt was retired. The balance went to the arena’s maintenance and upgrades, for what turned out to be its remaining 11 years.

  • Cory Hume

    Art, great article and appreciate the continued in depth analysis of the Sonics. Howard Schultz 2020 Presidential run never held much hope considering his inability to read sentiment of the state legislature.

    Have you heard of the new pod cast about Supersoincs on Luminary, Sonic Boom? Gary Payton, George Karl, Wally Walker etc. are interviewed. Good stuff.

    https://luminarypodcasts.com/listen/the-ringer/sonic-boom/6426a152-d0b2-4a42-a147-bd1ebc3de157

    • art thiel

      Heard Ep 1, haven’t found time for the rest. Seahawks need to lose to open up my calendar.

  • Tian Biao

    Stern is so reviled in the PNW that at first, I was confused by all the gushing hagiographies that accompanied his death. Then I figured it out: in America, if you make a lot of money for a lot of people, you will be hailed a hero, no matter how much of a jerk you were (or are). All your sins are forgiven, washed clean by the rising tide of cash. Take Stern, for example: his bullying arrogance and personal pettiness are excused and explained away: he ‘stepped on a few toes,’ or ‘did what had to be done’ etc.

    I say, to hell with that. As Art says, he was a petty tyrant with a personal grudge. I imagine most of Seattle sees him that way; that will be his legacy in our corner of the country anyway.

    Art, I was interested in your comment below about sports teams and youth. I’ve had to ask myself why I am so angry and bitter toward Stern, Bennett, and especially, Howard Schultz, and I think that’s the answer: like Husky 73, I loved the Sonics when I was a kid and a teenager, and that helps explain the contempt I feel toward the loathsome trio that conspired to hijack the team. Which doesn’t make it any easier, but it does help explain it.

    Being a sports fan brings more pain than joy (in Seattle, anyway), and if I could quit, I probably would. But at this stage, it’s probably too late . . . yes, I’ll be watching the game on Sunday.

    • art thiel

      Sports are a lot like pop music: The songs and bands of our youth are ALWAYS better than contemporary stuff. It’s human nature.

      And pain is always more than pleasure in every sports market. That’s why I hope fans enjoy this Seahawks run of eight playoffs in 10 years.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Stern oversaw the NBA during a time of massive growth, but I’d posit he was along for the ride. The Celtics/Lakers rivalry, chock full of HOFers, which led into the MJ Bulls dynasty, all happened to hit when all live sports were exploding thanks to cable, ESPN and the marketing machines at Nike and other similar companies. Every single sport, including the NHL, and even pro wrestling rode this wave. Much in the way Roger Goodell can’t seem to ruin the NFL despite his best efforts, the NBA and the sport of basketball is destined to succeed if it has quality play and is simply broadcasted. I’ll grant you that I loathe the man, so I may not be giving him enough credit, but I can say with certainty that the national media is giving him too much.

    • art thiel

      I agree. A lot of NBA growth would have happened if Slick Watts were commish. Many factors were beyond his influence. He did broker much bigger deals with sponsors, tried to set a higher tone (Malice in the Palace and Tim Donaghy aside), and gets credit for the hoops-globe-changing spectacle of the Dream Team.

      The fact that he was a brutal boss and a narcissist isn’t as known or as quantifiable.

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    The larger picture, where this lives, is that of good ol’ welfare for franchise owners across the spectrum. Every time an owner demands a new stadium, the loyal, soon-to-be-fleeced taxpayers get told how much economic gain is to be gotten with said new stadium, and how they should be sooooo glad the public coffers’ contents are to be shoveled into the owners’ pockets.
    A purely economic examination reveals that public money for stadia is almost never a winner for taxpayers. In this case, Oklahoma City was ecstatic to pay lots of nice sloppy fat good ol’ corporate welfare to the new owners and they were glad to slurp.
    Next time a public stadium construction project demand is put out there, listen carefully to the proponents when they try to dupe their voters and it’s precisely like when some NCAA big shot says “student athlete.” They are getting ready for a whopper. Only slightly removed is the federal budget deficit, pegged at $984B in a growing economy, slightly skewed by the $70B in tariffs, and how this is suddenly a-ok with certain voters who mysteriously forgot about their previous 8 years of nonstop crying.

    Finally, as Keith Olbermann et al have pointed out repeatedly, if new stadia made all that much money, the owners would build themselves and then keep the money.

    • Husky73

      Well done.

    • art thiel

      Footnote: Neither Chris Hansen nor OVG made the civic economic benefit argument for their arena projects. Your points have become accepted wisdom in most new projects because owners know the evidence is overwhelming that there’s no provable monetary benefit.

  • LarryLurex70

    As much as I truly despised the guy, it’d be in poor taste for me to say anything more than that. But, he held the commissioner title for about a decade too long.

    • art thiel

      I’m sorry for his passing. His public record is his record.

  • jafabian

    I have followed the Sonics since their inception. Growing up my father wanted to be a part of Seattle’s new professional sports venture and worked as an usher until the season before they went to the Finals for the first time. He recommended his sister to replace him who worked there until they left. So I have followed this team closely over the years and it saddened me to see the pettiness and deceitful machinations that David Stern and Clay Bennett put into motion for their own interests. I sometimes call them the Gordon Gekko and Jordan Belfort of professional sports. Not that the Seattle side of things was blameless. Not the players, coaches or Sonics employees but CEO Howard Schultz and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels were about as bad. Why Nickels didn’t follow Cleveland’s blue print for dealing with a pro sport team moving is a head shaker.

    I don’t know Stern personally but what I do know is that he got the wheels in motion to move the Sonics out of Seattle and convinced NBA team owners to accept a lesser offer so the Kings would stay in Sacramento instead of moving to Seattle. Sonics fans were left high and dry and he’s barely acknowledged that. But he lauds Sacramento, New Orleans and OKC. He certainly has played the role of ruthless business executive whenever he entertained the possibility of the Sonics returning and Adam Silver continues that role, both being fairly non-committal. Stern ushered in the Bird/Magic era and closed out with denying Chris Paul going to the Lakers among his more controversial decisions. Thoughts and prayers to the Stern family at this time.

    • art thiel

      Gekko/Belfort. Not bad, John.

      Years after the deed, Stern sounded a bit regretful. To which I said: So what?

      • jafabian

        I should add that Schultz can be compared to Mr. Potter of It’s A Wonderful Life and Nickels is Bill Lumbergh of Office Space.

        Stern only sounded regretful in interviews if he thought the line of questioning was going to turn in the Sonics direction. Other times he would claim that he didn’t get the league to expand internationally (evidently Canada is not another country) and other times he would say he had no regrets. I’m disappointed though not surprised that the media coverage of his passing hasn’t brought up his part in moving the Sonics to OKC. Too bad he won’t be around when the Seattle Whatchamacallits kick off their inaugural NHL season. Love to hear his thoughts on the NHL finally coming to Seattle. I’d send him a ticket if I could.

  • Husky73

    I have probably read 15 stories on Stern’s passing. Art’s is the best.

    • art thiel

      Thanks.

  • Paul Sherman

    Always good to call a spade a spade. What a sad era for basketball in Seattle, and we did love it so.

    • art thiel

      I went back to Springfield for Sikma’s Hall of Fame induction. Saw so many who were part of the sports fabric: Kareem, Lanier, Erving, Worthy, Barkley, etc. Really hit home.

  • DJ

    Hell of a story, Art! Thanks for it. I didn’t know about your baring by Ackerly, and sorry to hear that. I share your sentiments 100%
    Take care

    • art thiel

      It’s amusing now. Not so much then.

  • Ken S.

    Well Art, I’ve been following you for far longer than the mid 2000’s. Mid-late 70’s IIRC? Post Intellegencer. I could look it up but I’m tired these days. Tired of waiting for Seattle/PNW to get another NBA team, mostly. I don’t see it happening in my lifetime so I’ll just say this: I hope the afterlife has sufficient punishment for guys like Stern. What he ripped from us Sonic’s fans is IMO unpardonable.

    • art thiel

      I think Stern long ago made his deal with the devil.

      • LarryLurex70

        I’ve long believed there’s more than a bit of truth to that. Sure, he oversaw the Association’s graduation from those 11.30pm Friday re-broadcasts of Laker home games on KIRO (remember those?) to the mega-successful CBS & NBC Sunday games of my teens and 20’s. But, ultimately at what cost the league’s soul? Sometimes ya just gotta leave things as they are. Always chasing the dollar, it seems Stern wasn’t able to do that.
        And, for me, it was the “Dream Team” that killed men’s Olympic basketball. I haven’t watched it since 1988.

  • paul

    I remain a bit befuddled as to why Howard Schultz didn’t hang on to the team until a local billionaire buyer was available. I know Balmer was neck deep in Microsoft operations still and Gates never seemed particularly interested (don’t blame him). It may have been the same time that Starbucks was constricting after an over expansion and HS had to refocus on coffee sales. It’s not like he was strapped for cash. If he had held on for a while he could have made a billion plus in profit selling to Balmer or other. Oh well, my NWAC Peninsula College Pirates (men and women) beat Highline CC this weekend. Good entertainment for six bucks and the Costco dogs were marked down to a dollar by the second period. Go Seahawks. Metcalf and Lynch 🥰.

  • DonMac

    Well said Art. Stern’s ego was the thing of a vain, petty individual and all those who wish to lionize the man should take pause and look at what he did to Seattle before moving forward with the beatification of David Stern. One day the Sonics will win their second NBA title and at the point Sonics’ fans will have their revenge and it will sweet!

  • Effzee

    Guess I can cross “sucker punch david stern in an airport” off my bucket list. Dang-it.