A SuperSonic Comeback: NBA eyes potential foray back into Washington

Hope grows as many fans feel the SuperSonics return is imminent



Climate Pledge Arena is a state-of-the-art faciliy in Seattle built on the footprint of Key Arena. It is home to the NHL and WNBA and is primed to host the NBA if / when a team should come to Seattle.

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen sports co-editor

Seated just about a three-hour drive apart, Portland and Seattle should be ripe for sports rivalry. However, as of now, the only major league the cities share is the MLS and while the rivalry between Portland’s Timbers and the Seattle Sounders is real, there is still something to be desired.

There was a time when this was not the case. For decades, Seattle had the SuperSonics to rival Portland’s Trailblazers, similar in both their fantastic names and in their devotion to the rivalry. 

The I-5 rivalry, named for the highway between the two cities, was the only major sports feud that could represent the very real social rivalry that exists between the two cities.

In 2008, the SuperSonics had a hopeful future with the Rookie of the Year in Kevin Durant and while they were fresh off the worst season they had ever had, that meant they could get another good young player in the draft to pair with Durant. That pick turned into superstar and eventual MVP Russell Westbrook, but the good young roster being built would not play in Seattle.

Starting in the 2008-09 season, the SuperSonics were no more, moving to Oklahoma City and becoming the Thunder. While OKC came close to a dynasty with the young core built in Seattle, the fans that watched it come together had no team to watch anymore. The I-5 rivalry was dead. For over a decade, it has remained that way and professional basketball in Seattle existed only in dreams.

As the 2022 NBA season nears tipoff, rumors are abuzz. It is not the first time there has been talk of the NBA returning to Seattle, but there are a number of factors that make this time feel more real than previous rumors.

The redevelopment of the old KeyArena into what is now Climate Pledge Arena gave a major bump to the rumors, as a reason for the team leaving in 2008 was the lack of a new stadium. Climate Pledge Arena is nearly completely rebuilt on the location of the old arena and it is a state-of-the-art basketball and hockey complex. 

If the NBA was worried about a stadium before, they should have no apprehension now, as Climate Pledge would instantly become the most sophisticated NBA arena were there to be a team in it. Also adding to the rumors is the door labeled “NBA Locker Room” in Climate Pledge, behind which is the skeleton of a SuperSonics branded NBA-ready locker room.

Further proving the NBA viability of Climate Pledge and Seattle in general was the “Rain City Showcase”, a preseason game played between the Trailblazers and Los Angeles Clippers on Oct. 3. 

Before the game started Seattle native and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer shouted to the crowd, sharing his belief that Seattle was a basketball city above all else. In attendance were a number of SuperSonics legends, such as Detlef Schrempf and Gary Payton.

Expansion elsewhere will also likely come with the Seattle team, keeping the league to an even number of clubs. Almost certainly that other new team will be in Las Vegas, where there is another top notch NBA-ready court at T-Mobile Arena and preseason games are being hosted by the other Los Angeles team, the Lakers. Of course, Vegas has no long-exiled fanbase and so most of the attention with these rumors is rightfully directed at the potential comeback of the Seattle SuperSonics.

While the specifics obviously are not known, most likely two of the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans or Memphis Grizzlies would be moving to the Eastern Conference to keep the balance.

In the coming months of the NBA season, more news will come out and the league is liable to announce expansion at basically any moment. Clearly, Seattle is ready. The arena is there, the fans are passionate and the richest owner in pro sports is actively lobbying for the SuperSonics to return. 

It really is starting to seem like it is a matter of when and not if. With the Mariners (and to a lesser extent, the Seahawks) both having bright futures, we could be looking at one of the greatest years in Seattle sports history if the announcement is made soon.