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Originally published July 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 3, 2008 at 4:53 PM

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Steve Kelley

Basketball still has a future in Seattle? Are you kidding?

Basketball in Seattle is dead, and don't look for any miracle resurrections. Chances are good that an entire generation will grow up in this town without the NBA to watch.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Basketball died in Seattle Wednesday afternoon. It died because too many people who should have cared didn't. It died of neglect. It died because all of the powers-that-be stopped paying attention.

It's no secret the sport has been sick in this city for a long time. There have been so many bad front-office decisions for so many years, basketball has been on life support since president Wally Walker let coach Nate McMillan fly south to rebuild the Portland Trail Blazers.

This has been a team in trouble for a long time, but we always thought there could be a cure. Losing was cyclical. After all, Walker could keep drafting first-round centers only for so many years.

Not until that coffee-making crock, Howard Schultz, sold the team to Clay "Boo-Hoo" Bennett did we truly understand that this team was gone.

Basketball is dead, and don't look for any miracle resurrections. Chances are good that an entire generation will grow up in this town without the NBA to watch.

The team formerly known as Sonics has moved to Oklahoma City. The Sonics Web site was changed before Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels could clear his throat to start his news conference.

The Liars won.

Owner Clay Bennett, that man possessed, now possesses a very bad basketball team in a very different city.

The Oklahoma City Bums.

The only consolation for Seattle's hoops cognoscenti is that these OKC Bums are doomed for a long time. The Ford Center could be considered obsolete just about the time that team starts competing for the playoffs. And young superstar Kevin Durant will be playing for, I don't know, the Knicks, maybe?

The pulse is weak in Oklahoma City.

But the pulse is gone in Seattle.

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After two wasted years of angst and acrimony; after millions of dollars poured into a hopeless lawsuit; after all of Bennett's lies; after all of the rallies and visits from legends of the past, this is all we get.

Are you kidding me?

In this lopsided deal, the NBA didn't even guarantee Seattle another team. There is no timeline for the return of basketball, just some vague understanding between the parties.

According to Nickels, Seattle has a written promise from the NBA that it will "notify" the city when another franchise is for sale, or it will notify Seattle if there is the possibility of expansion.

Can you imagine?

"Yo, Seattle, David Stern here. We just got word Charlotte is unhappy with its lease. You remember what a lease is, don't you? It's that worthless piece of paper that's supposed to keep a team in a building for the length of time stated on that paper. What a joke that is, huh?

"Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, I'm just notifying you, as per our agreement, that Charlotte is for sale. Good luck. You have my word we will consider your application to move the team to your fair city. And you know, my word is as good as... well, let's not go there."

When Nickels was asked at the news conference why we should trust anything the NBA says, he responded, "I'm not going to go there."

Why not?

What makes him think, as he told us Wednesday, that the league will consider an offer from the same group that includes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and that it mocked at the recent Board of Governors meeting?

Why should anyone believe the NBA, which steadfastly has said a remodeled KeyArena is not a viable solution to keeping the team in town, when it now says the remodeling plan will work?

And who thinks there will be another expansion team in our lifetime? And please, pause for a moment to consider just how gosh-awful that team would be.

It's over, Seattle.

D-League, anyone? Harlem Globetrotters?

Bennett and his buddies have been rewarded for their lies. He gets to leave town even though his "best efforts" to keep the team here had all of the passion and commitment of a night in the low post with former Sonic Benoit Benjamin.

The league is gone.

Shame on Schultz for selling the team to a guy who had no intention of keeping it here.

Shame on former team president Walker for the years and years of lousy decisions that made for so many losing seasons, which made it easy for politicians to ignore the franchise's long-term needs.

Shame on Stern for turning his back on a city that supported his product through the down seasons, as well as the ups, for 41 years.

Shame on Gov. Christine Gregoire and Rep. Frank Chopp for either not understanding or not caring about the future of the sport in this state.

And shame on City Councilmember Nick Licata, who poisoned the atmosphere between the city and the league so profoundly with his negative statements that even his backtracking "I love this game" testimony at the federal trial was far too little and way too late.

Basketball died in Seattle on Wednesday, and it feels too soon to mourn.

The anger we feel today is too real.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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