As you have no doubt seen by now, Oklahoma City has flung its own paperwork into the ever-increasing bonfire of words surrounding the Sonics’ relocation to their fair city.
This time, OKC aims its letterhead at Howard Schultz and his attorneys, claiming that should Schultz emerge victorious in his lawsuit against Clay Bennett, he will be forced to play in Oklahoma, not Seattle.
Let us set aside the merits of this letter (Brian Robinson at SonicsCentral outlines those better than I could) for the moment, and focus on a broader view of the situation, a view that looks at this scenario as something other than an Oklahoma vs Seattle battle.
In a dysfunctional relationship, one entity is always required, the enabler. Allow me to give you the Merriam-Webster definition, just to clarify:
one that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.
Clearly, in this saga, Oklahoma City and Seattle have become David Stern’s, and the NBA business model’s, enablers. Long, long ago, I wrote on this website that the only way Stern could continue to pursue a faulty business model was through a Ponzi scheme of pitting one city against another – exactly the situation he has aided in creating here.
Playing off the feelings of inadequacy in Oklahoma City (and that is not intended in an insult at all; it is clear from their language that they want the NBA so they might be elevated to a “major league city”), Stern has managed to create a sense of urgency in both cities, to the point where a total approaching half a billion dollars is being proposed to reconstruct existing arenas.
When I wrote about this last year, my argument was that the whole debate was upside-down, and that rather than having the cities chase the NBA, it should be the NBA chasing the cities. Let’s face it, the NBA needs markets more than the markets need the NBA.
After all, do you think people in Las Vegas or St. Louis woke up this morning and cursed themselves for not having an NBA team? Do you believe residents of Memphis are patting themselves on the back with glee that they don’t live in a hellhole like San Diego, a city barren of NBA basketball?
Of course not. In the end, this foolish back and forth between Seattle and Oklahoma City is just that – foolish. In the NBA in this century, it is always just a matter of time before another owner decides to test the waters of another municipality, and if a city really wants the NBA, they merely have to wait for another Vancouver or Charlotte to come along before they can have a bauble of their own.
So, Oklahoma City, let us call a truce, focus on more important things, and remember, most of all, that the battle is not between our two cities, but between the NBA and bankruptcy.