View Full Version : Tulsa - Gracious

07-21-2006, 07:50 AM
Wow, even though nothing is written in stone... I loved this article out of Tulsa... very gracious, in my opinion.

By DAVE SITTLER World Sports Writer
Pro team would lead transformation of city

Remember when it was a hoot for Tulsans to poke fun of our neighbors in Oklahoma City? Well, we can officially turn out the lights on that long-running party.

The city we loved to jokingly call "the world's biggest truck stop" continues to write one of this country's biggest success stories.

Instead of a punch line, Oklahoma City has become a powerbroker. The latest and most significant example of this inspiring transformation came Tuesday when an Oklahoma City-based group purchased the NBA and WNBA franchises in Seattle for a cool $350 million.

In other words, Oklahoma City is going to become a permanent player in the world of professional sports. Major-league professional sports.

Clay Bennett, who heads the Professional Basketball Club LLC, said all the right things at a press conference to announce the sale. Bennett said his group intends to keep the NBA's SuperSonics and WNBA's Storm in the Pacific Northwest's largest city.

Oh, did I mention the press conference was held in Seattle?

Bennett obviously wasn't about to waltz into town and meet the local press to announce he'll move the city's 39-year-old NBA franchise to Oklahoma City just as soon as he figures out a way to get the Sonics out of a lease that runs until 2010.

It's difficult at this point to predict the future of the Sonics. What is absolutely clear, however, is that Tuesday's sale guarantees Oklahoma City will have an NBA franchise for the foreseeable future.

Bennett and his group bought a whole lot of leverage for Oklahoma City with that $350 million.

Until yesterday, Oklahoma City's movers and shakers have been forced to play footsy with New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn. Not anymore.

The Hornets played 36 of their home games at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City last season after Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans. The move proved to be a smash hit when half of the games were sold out and the average attendance of 18,717 was the 11th-highest in the NBA.

The New Orleans franchise is committed to playing 35 games at the Ford Center next season. But NBA commissioner David Stern has insisted the Hornets will return to New Orleans the following season, no matter how successful they are in Oklahoma City.

Shinn, however, has talked out of both sides of his mouth about the Hornets' long-term future. One of the goofiest owners in all of sports, Shinn has praised both cities and said no final decision will be made until next December or January.

That large gulp you heard coming out of the Big Easy late Tuesday afternoon was from Shinn. Gone is the hole card he didn't think he'd have to reveal for at least six months.

The majority of NBA fans in Oklahoma would undoubtedly like to see the Hornets remain in the state. The club has made several intriguing off-season roster moves and has one of the league's most exciting players in guard Chris Paul, the NBA's rookie of the year.

Perhaps Bennett has a plan that eventually could include some type of franchise maneuvering. Maybe his group could trade ownership of the Sonics for the rights to the Hornets.

Bennett said Tuesday he hoped to solve the problems that forced The Basketball Club of Seattle to sell the Sonics and Storm. That ownership group grew frustrated when the city failed to approve the $220 million needed to improve KeyArena, the home of the Sonics and Storm.

The now-previous owners, led by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, said they lost $60 million in the five years they owned the teams. Stern also said the revenue-sharing lease Schultz's group had with the city was the worst in the NBA.

"It is not our intention to move or relocate the teams," Bennett said.

Of course it isn't. Not now. Not with the Hornets already in Oklahoma City for the 2006-07 season.

But let's get real, OK? When Bennett and his wealthy friends formed Professional Basketball Club LLC last year, they said their primary goal was to bring a major-league franchise to Oklahoma City.

When the 2007-08 season tips off -- or shortly thereafter -- that ambitious plan will become a reality. Whether it's the Sonics or the Hornets, some NBA team call Oklahoma City its permanent home.

Meanwhile, we sophisticated Tulsans can look down our smug noses and remind our Oklahoma City brethren that our cosmopolitan little corner of the world was once called "America's Most Beautiful City," by a national publication.

Of course that was around 1982. But who's counting?

07-21-2006, 01:56 PM
Wow. That's a good article that needed to be published in Tulsa for quite some time. I hope they don't take it the wrong way and get smug or competitive or revert back to rivalry. Our state must be COOPERATIVE to be a major player in the future. Either way, it's a win-win for OKC.