Having the Sonics return to Seattle, and bringing 41 home basketball games a year, would hardly be a bad thing for Seattle University’s men’s basketball program. In fact, it could turn out to be exactly the opposite.
If the Sonics DID return, they would play in KeyArena for two or three years before moving into their brand new SoDo palace. The Sonics investors would be on the hook for several million in upgrades to KeyArena, making Seattle U’s hoops home that much nicer.
There’s that obvious benefit. But there’s another big one concerning the players themselves.
Players in college generally see a definite draw to having an NBA team locally – the chance to play during the off-season with top-flight professionals, or even work out in their professional facilities. Even just the open runs at Rainier Beach or Greenlake become that much more beneficial with NBA talent around.
With that NBA talent comes NBA coaches. Having the staff of a professional basketball team in the same city – and 29 other teams visiting that city over the season – does bring more opportunities for college players to be scouted by professional scouts.
It’s probably not a huge draw, but it definitely does have some impact on top-level basketball players. Take the case of one Jamal Crawford, as told by Jerry Brewer in a Seattle Times article a few years ago.
A spectacular talent, the former Rainier Beach High standout probably would’ve made it to the NBA without the inspiration of a local pro team. Pro athletes come from all types of markets. But Crawford can’t say for sure. And he can’t help but wonder how restricted the next generation of Seattle ballers will be without the Sonics to spur their dreams.
“It helped having the Sonics, there’s no doubt about that,” Crawford said. “I lived in Los Angeles for a while, and I wasn’t a Sonics fan. But when I came back, I was all about Gary Payton. Watching him play motivated me. It means the world to me to have the Sonics here.”
That was in 2008. Five years later, the city is still without the Sonics. Seattle youths are growing up without the green-and-gold to aspire to, without Gary Payton or Kevin Durant as models for their games.
With less motivation comes fewer top-level college basketball prospects, and fewer still wanting to stay in a non-NBA city. And that can only be a bad thing for Seattle University, a school that needs all the top-level prospects it can get.