Seattle Mayor 'Very Optimistic' About NBA Returning amid Expansion Rumors

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 15, 2022

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 13: The Space Needle stands over the Seattle skyline as Mt. Rainier is seen in the background on March 13, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. The iconic observation tower was constructed in 1962 for the World's Fair. Years later, the Space Needle remains a top tourist draw despite the city's recent struggles with an uptick in homelessness and violent crime.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore/Getty Images

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell believes the NBA will eventually return to his city.

"So without revealing my 'confidential sources,' I'm very optimistic," Harrell said, per Curtis Crabtree of Fox 13 Seattle. "But I will tell you almost on a weekly basis I'm getting updates on what's happening in the league, where there's some opportunities."

While the building of the new Climate Pledge Arena means there is a stadium in place that could house an NBA team, Crabtree explained Seattle fans may have to be patient for any type of announcement since the NBA's collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2023-24 campaign and carries a mutual opt-out for after next season.

What's more, television broadcast contracts expire after the 2024-25 season.

Taking care of those issues will probably come before adding expansion teams on the NBA's list of priorities, and Harrell even suggested as much when looking at the timeline for his optimism.

"No, I'm not that optimistic by the end of the year. But I will tell you that the league, and those that make decisions including the ownership base, they fully understand that this is a great market here. And so there are other dynamics looking at the collective bargaining agreement with the players and the owners, how they make decisions, there are some other factors at play that need to be stabilized first. But Seattle is very ripe and the league understands that and they know our passion, particularly my administration's passion, for getting that team."

The idea of the NBA having expansion teams in Seattle and Las Vegas picked up steam in February when The Ringer's Bill Simmons said he had "intel" the league was exploring such a possibility.

Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic also reported earlier this month that the Oak View Group will build an arena in Las Vegas by 2026 that could serve as an NBA team's home in the future.

Yet an NBA spokesperson said "there is no truth to it" when addressing the speculation after Simmons' comments, per Chris Daniels of KING 5 in Seattle.

The NBA has a rich history in Seattle considering the SuperSonics played there from 1967-68 through 2007-08 and won the title in 1979. They also reached the NBA Finals in 1996 with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp leading the way, although that team lost to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.

Seattle lost its team when the franchise moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder starting with the 2008-09 season.