Before Sacramento staved off elimination against Anaheim two years ago, the NBA needed to make sure what Kevin Johnson was selling them was real.
At the league’s annual Board of Governors’ meetings that spring, the mayor pitched the NBA on Sacramento’s viability, guaranteeing that the market still had the fans, but also the corporate base to support its only major professional sports team. The league responded by sending relocation committee chair/Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett and other NBA officials to investigate the mayor’s claims.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the franchise and spectre of a league lockout, local businesses rallied behind Johnson’s push and ponied up $10 million in corporate sponsorships for the following season of Kings basketball.
“Actually I suggested to him that now that he’s done that, perhaps he can come and negotiate a bargaining agreement with us,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said jokingly, referencing the league’s eventual 161-day lockout on a media conference call two years ago. ”Because I was extraordinarily impressed with his ability to do that in such a short time.”
The effort bought Sacramento another year to come up with a financing plan on a new arena that eventually all parties, except the Maloofs, backed.
Will the NBA be sending league officials to engage in a similar vetting process this time around? With less than two weeks to go until the owners meetings, here’s what the mayor said when asked of the possibility at yesterday’s press event at the Downtown Plaza.
No we’re beyond that. What the city did already in terms of our investment is very clear. Again, when I talk about an ownership group, it’s important to understand part of the NBA vetting process is that’s why they created that meeting on Apr. 3rd, so they could get Seattle and Sacramento together, vet the ownership group, see if there’s any conflicts. We had one; we were seeing if we could resolve it in a way that Ron (Burkle) could participate in both (the arena plan and Kings ownership deal). He’s not able to do that, (but) it doesn’t slow us up any one bit. So the vetting will go on for our ownership group, it’ll go on in terms of our city, but we feel very comfortable with we are.