Written by Andrew Ottoson Wednesday, 23 April 2008 10:29Being fan of professional basketball in central Kansas is a lonely, lonely experience. I’ve been here long enough that it doesn’t surprise me when open wheel racing gets as much airtime as the NBA playoffs on the nightly news. Still, apart from watching the games as they’re aired on ABC and reading recaps on the internet, it’s hard to find material for a halfway decent basketball column in April.
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I like the NBA game. I like it more than the college game because the players are bigger and faster and more skilled and have larger-than-life personalities.
I even like Shaq’s personality, even though he talks like he smashes cinder blocks with his head for fun during his spare time.
I thought that Spurs-Suns 2OT thriller on Saturday was the single best basketball game of the year.
No, seriously: if Robert de Niro showed up at my apartment with a gun and threatened to end me like he ended Waingro at the end of Heat unless I watched a bootleg VHS of some random basketball game with him, I’d cross my fingers and hope for last Saturday’s game.
That said, there is absolutely no way I’ll ever vote in favor of funding a facility for an NBA team—not after what happened in Seattle.
Those people bled green for that team for 40-something years and benefitted from every good thing professional basketball could possibly bring to the table.
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On Sunday night, for the first time I remember, the “Parting Shots” guys (specifically Jeffrey Parson) actually embraced the Association long enough to enunciate an opinion on the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City.
If I were a bettor, there’s not a chance I’d bet that Oklahoma City is ready for an NBA team. I honestly can’t answer the question I want to ask—it’s one of those questions I assume billionaires debate while sipping expensive liquor and playing poker and lighting up Cuban cigars with hundred-dollar bills. But the question is important: what makes Oklahoma City any different than Wichita?
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The only way I can rationalize why the NBA left Seattle is that the conclave of poker-playing billionaires added up the dollar value of Seattle’s green-blooded support for the Sonics in Column A and ran the OKC numbers in Column B and figured out that going south made better business sense.
And given this “secret collusion of billionaires” tomfoolery is the best available hypothesis, shouldn’t us ordinary folks consider the possibility that more cities will have to cut ties with long-held teams rather than fork over truckloads of tax dollars in the coming years?
If the same song and dance that whisked the Sonics out of Seattle plays out in other cities, where will the displaced pro teams go? Might Kansas City land an NHL hockey team? Is there anything that a smoke-filled room full of billionaires would consider impossible?
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Call me optimistic, but normally I’d say that what goes on inside the privacy of a smoke-filled room full of billionaires is none of my business. But this is a public matter because a huge quantity of tax dollars always ends up at stake.
Roads, schools, hospitals, parks, utilities, police and fire coverage, and everything else us ordinary folks rely on just to make sure our daily work gets done is at stake.
Today someone else’s daily work is at stake some place far away, and maybe Wichita will never face having to decide on what terms the city would house a major league sports team.
But my gut tells me that those of us who plan to live around here had better have thought this through.
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There’s a lot to like about the NBA. I might even drive down to Oklahoma City for a game one of these days. But I especially like the idea that all the extra baggage the Sonics are bringing to this region is getting dealt with on the far side of the state line.