A Seattle SuperSonics and Storm fan's thoughts on the possible return of NBA basketball to the city (Part 1 of 2)

Former Sonics season ticket holder Patrick Sheehy enjoyed seeing then-franchise guard Ray Allen duke it out against Lakers guard Kobe Bryant at KeyArena. - Photo by Otto Greule Jr.

This year I will be entering my sixth season as a Washington Wizards and Mystics season ticket holder. Until 2008, not unlike myself, Patrick Sheehy was a season ticket holder for the Seattle SuperSonics and Storm, and watched them take on the rest of the NBA and WNBA respectively. But since 2008 after the Sonics were relocated to Oklahoma City, he does not enjoy the same luxury that I do. Five years later, Seattle native and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer entered into a binding agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise from the Maloof family with the intention of relocating the team to Seattle. This fired up the Kings' fanbase to make efforts to prevent a second relocation effort in two years when the Maloofs tried to relocate the team to Anaheim. One of many things the fans did was have a #HereWeBuy Night last Saturday in a game against the Utah Jazz, where the Kings won 120-109 and they won yesterday again at home against the Houston Rockets, 117-111. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has also made major efforts to get investors to buy the team with a "whale" investor to be announced soon. So, what are Patrick's thoughts on these developments and the possibility that Seattle will have the NBA once again?

I asked Patrick 11 questions in regards to the topic of the Sacramento Kings possibly being relocated to Seattle. The first five questions will be in this post where he will give his favorite moments as a Sonics fan, how he has dealt with the team's relocation to Oklahoma City, his participation in a lawsuit filed against Clay Bennett, the owner who relocated the team, and his thoughts on the new Seattle investment group headed by Hansen and Ballmer.

Swish Appeal: You are not only a current Seattle Storm season ticket holder, but you were also a season ticket holder for the Seattle SuperSonics before they relocated to Oklahoma City. How long were you a season ticket holder for the Sonics before they left?

Patrick Sheehy: I became a fan of the Sonics watching the 1996 NBA playoffs while living in Florida. I moved to Seattle that fall and attended my first game on January 17, 1998 when Shawn Kemp played his first game in Seattle in a Cleveland uniform. I bought ticket packages for a number of years and finally bought season tickets in 2000.

SA: What was your favorite moment as a Sonics fan?

PS: One of my absolute best memories was a game between Seattle and the Lakers where Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant turned the game into a one on one matchup through most of the fourth quarter with one unbelievable offensive play after another…like the 2004 battle between Nykesha Sales and Betty Lennox in the WNBA it was just two incredible offensive talents holding everyone else in the arena captivated to see who would pull it out. Like the Storm victory in Game 2 of the 2004 WNBA Finals, Ray and the Sonics came away the victors when Kobe missed the last shot of the game.

SA: How have you dealt with the Sonics’ relocation personally since they left for Oklahoma City?

PS: I moved on. I was angry for a while. I didn’t watch the NBA at all for a year. I threw myself into the Storm as a fan and found a love for coaching the sport that I didn’t know I had hidden away inside. I have moved on. I watched the Thunder in the playoffs last season. I was annoyed at the references to Sonics history in the broadcasts, but I enjoyed the games…and maybe took a little bit of extra satisfaction in the Heat winning the 2012 NBA Finals against the Thunder. I still don’t watch much of the NBA. I catch a game here and there to watch players I like or coaches I admire, but I am not the passionate fan I once was.

SA: You were part of the Sonics season ticket holder lawsuit against Clay Bennett’s ownership group due in part because of breach of contract issues regarding renewing season tickets for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 NBA seasons by joining the Emerald Club. Ultimately, you and other season ticket holders did agree to a settlement offer against him. Could you talk a little about that?

PS: I was a named plaintiff in the season ticket holder lawsuit and was the main class representative for a sub-class in the suit. I was deposed over two days by the ownership group’s lawyers and required to provide vast amounts of electronic paper trail information as part of the discovery period.

The case centered around promises for price guarantees on season tickets at a "new arena" if you renewed your season tickets for the 2007-2008 NBA season. We were never offered the chance to renew our tickets at any arena and [Bennett's group] raised the prices for the sold out Oklahoma City seats. In essence had we been allowed to purchase our seats in Oklahoma at our Seattle prices as promised, we could have legally resold our seats through existing NBA authorized TicketMaster resale processes for a profit. [The NBA uses ticketsnow.com which is part of TicketMaster as its official secondary ticket marketplace for its teams.]

Bennett's lawyers attempted to use the same poisoned well tactic that earned them a settlement with the City of Seattle in getting out of their KeyArena lease agreement and my relationship to Save Our Sonics (SoS) and specific individuals was part of that case. Unfortunately for them, I was never really involved in SoS as much as I would have liked, and actually disagreed with SoS leadership on a number of issues.

My deposition did not help their case. A Seattle judge ruled that [Bennett’s group] was at fault in the suit and turned it over to a Seattle jury to determine penalties. The ownership decided to settle rather than face a Seattle based jury decision. None of the named plaintiffs were in it for the money and we felt the $1.6 million offer was a fair one and therefore approved it on behalf of the class.

My individual settlement benefits were small. As a named plaintiff, I was also given a nominal sum for the time and effort required to represent the class, be deposed and provide a couple of years of emails, websites where I wrote, commented, or had some presence and all my forum private messages and posts.

I used my settlement money to set up a special bank account for that money and used it to do things for Seattle youth basketball. I used it to donate to the Ballard Boys and Girls Club athletic program for their youth basketball league (where I was a volunteer coach). I bought Seattle Storm tickets and donated them to kids who might not otherwise get to see a WNBA game. I bought supplies and held parties for the youth and public school basketball teams that I coached. I even used a little bit of it to buy train tickets and game tickets for myself to the 2010 WNBA Stars at the Sun game at the Mohegan Sun Casino [where Storm guard Sue Bird was on the Team USA FIBA World Championship team and head coach Brian Agler led the WNBA All Star team]. I used the last bit of it last year for an end of season party for the middle school basketball team I coached at the time. The high school team I coached this season was out of luck…I bought a couple of them lunch out of my own pocket.

SA: The Sacramento Kings NBA franchise is currently in a binding agreement to be purchased by a group headed by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer who would move the team to Seattle as early as the 2013-2014 NBA season. The new team would play at KeyArena for about a couple years before moving to a newly built arena in the SoDo area of the city. What are your thoughts on Hansen and Ballmer, and the possibility of the return of NBA basketball to Seattle?

I have tremendous admiration for Mr. Hansen and Mr. Ballmer and what they are trying to do to bring the NBA back to Seattle. Their arena plan is the best public/private partnership I have seen and they have been fully committed to the city, the county, the fans and the league in their efforts.

This could be a group as passionately committed to the team, the sport and the community like Force 10 Hoops has been for the Storm. Chris Hansen bought beers for anyone who showed up to celebrate the deal that he struck with the city and county over the arena last September. He has been honest, open and genuine in his dealings and the people that I know that have dealt with him directly attest that he is as real a person as you could ask for in an NBA owner. I have not met either of them myself, but people whom I respect and admire in my professional career and my personal life have told me that both Mr. Ballmer and Mr. Hansen are people you can respect and admire as well. I am fully on board that train.

In Part 2 which can be accessed by clicking here, Patrick answers questions on issues regarding NBA expansion and how it ties to both Seattle and Sacramento, how the Seattle Storm WNBA team figures into this, and whether he would like to be an NBA season ticket holder again.

For more information, detailed analysis and developments on the Sacramento Kings' relocation situation and the city's fight to keep the team there, please visit Sactown Royalty's StoryStream. In addition, SB Nation NBA also has an additional StoryStream on this topic.

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