The former All-Star guard didn’t want to celebrate at the expense of Seattle after league owners voted Wednesday to reject, once and for all, an aggressive bid to move the Sacramento Kings.
“I went to Seattle,” said Johnson, who spent all but the first 52 games of his 12-year career with the Phoenix Suns. “I played against those fans in that community. It’s a great sports town, it’s a great basketball community. And for them to come up a little short, especially with what happened in 2008 to have lost their team, that’s devastating. That’s why we fought so hard.”
NBA owners decided to follow the recommendation of their relocation committee, and Commissioner David Stern promptly announced that he hoped to have a deal in place in 48 hours with a group that wants to buy the team from the Maloof brothers.
“And now we think that because the Maloofs have overall been very good for Sacramento and the Kings and the NBA, that they will be motivated to do something fast so that the franchise can get cracking,” Stern said.
The 22-8 vote by the Board of Governors rejected a deal that would have sold a 65 percent controlling interest at a total franchise valuation of $625 million to a Seattle group led by investor Chris Hansen, who boosted the offer twice after the NBA showed an unwillingness to relocate.
Now the Maloofs will try to complete a deal at Hansen’s original price of $525 million _ still topping the NBA record of $450 million _ with a group put together by Johnson and fronted by TIBCO software chairman Vivek Ranadive. The plan includes a new downtown arena.
“I think that once Sacramento got engaged in doing this and being able to deliver on the promise, which didn’t really exist when the original deal was made in Seattle, that the principal advantage to the incumbent was going to prevail,” Stern said. “Nobody had any doubt that the same or similar thing could happen in Seattle. It was just, do you give the edge to a city that has a 28-year history of support?”
The vote ended an emotional saga that has dragged on for nearly three years. Hansen wanted to move the franchise and rename it the SuperSonics, who left Seattle for Oklahoma City in 2008 and were renamed the Thunder.
Hansen said in a statement posted on his website that he hoped to pursue a minority ownership role with the Maloofs, but Ranadive said his partners “haven’t really considered” the Maloofs maintaining a stake in the franchise.
“Our day will come, and when it does, it will just be that much sweeter for the struggle,” Hansen said.
It’s the second time since 2011 that the Maloof brothers have made plans that would have ended in relocation for the Kings. The first target was Anaheim, Calif., but Johnson convinced the NBA to give the city another chance to finance a new arena.
The Maloofs had another surprise when they announced a deal in January with Hansen’s group, which includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and members of the Nordstrom department store family.