The NBA appears to be headed for a possible court battle over the fate of the Sacramento Kings. Businessmen Chris Hansen and Steven Ballmer have signed a deal to buy a majority interest in the Kings from the Maloof brothers and move the team to Seattle in time for the 2013-14 basketball season. They plan to rename the team the Seattle Supersonics after Seattle’s former NBA team that was sold to Clay Bennett, who moved to the team to Oklahoma City in 2008 and renamed it the Oklahoma City Thunder.
However, Sacramento’s Mayor Kevin Johnson, himself a former star player for the Kings, insists that majority ownership of the team should be first offered to local interests who would keep it in Sacramento. And he has set out to line up some potential buyers who would do just that. In addition, some legal experts believe that, by law, the team’s minority owners retain the right of first refusal in the event that the majority ownership is put up for sale. On the other hand, Hansen and Ballmer are convinced that their deal to buy the team legally airtight, and that anything done to attempt to undermine it would amount to the illegal interference with a business deal.
So this whole thing could potentially get very nasty before all is said and done. How, then, should the NBA and Commissioner David Stern proceed? I think the best way to resolve it would be to allow the Kings to be sold to someone who would keep the team in Sacramento, and require that Clay Bennett sell the Thunder to Hansen and Ballmer, who would then be allowed to move that team back to Seattle and rename it the Supersonics. Bennett could then be given the legal right of first refusal to purchase the next NBA team that goes up for sale or the NBA’s next expansion team, whichever becomes available first.