Hornets will leave, but Sonics will come

by Jenni Carlson Published: July 18, 2006
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Buy up that Hornets memorabilia, Oklahoma City.

All of it's about to become collector's items.

Sure, the New Orleans Hornets still call Oklahoma City home, and Seattle Sonics still call the Pacific Northwest home, even though their new owners call Oklahoma City home. (Got all that?) But after an ownership group headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett purchased the Sonics on Tuesday, it's difficult to believe all of this will end any differently.

The Hornets will go back to New Orleans.

The Sonics will come to Oklahoma City.

Could be in a year. Could be two. But eventually, the moving vans will arrive in Oklahoma City, some ferrying the Hornets out, others carrying the Sonics in.

It'll be a sad day for many Oklahomans who've grown attached to the Hornets. Your first love, after all, is always the strongest. Your heart does the thinking, not your head.

So, let's stop for a moment and think.

Would losing the Hornets and gaining the Sonics be so bad?

Bidding adieu to Chris Paul will stink. It's not only that the kid is a certifiable stud but also that he is a guy everyone loves. Men want to be him. Women just want him. And kids, well, they think he's second only to Santa Claus.

He's a hoops star, a sex symbol and a teddy bear all rolled into one.

Already, though, Oklahoma City has seen how quickly things can change with an NBA team. Speedy Claxton is gone. Ditto for PJ Brown and J.R. Smith. More players will come and go. It's the nature of the beast.

So, losing the Hornets means losing CP3.

It also means losing an owner who has no local ties beyond really liking the locals' money, who has a history of goofiness and who is as unpredictable as a Tasmanian devil. Watching George Shinn in action is good fun, but he leaves something to be desired when you're wanting stability.

With the Sonics and the Bennett-led ownership group, stability would be one of the biggest positives for Oklahoma City. Bennett's previous involvement with the NBA came with the San Antonio Spurs, for which he once sat on the board of directors. He learned from the best franchise on the planet. Why tinker too much with what works?

The Spurs aren't owned by the City of San Antonio, not in the way the Green Bay Packers are civically owned, but they come mighty close. The Spurs have a group of more than a dozen investors, most of whom have business ties to San Antonio. They have a board of directors that runs the team and a chairman who is the franchise's face.

It follows a business model seen in many corporations, but the whole set-up is also a safe guard. It protects against a single individual owner from being persuaded by outsiders to sell the team.

All that the Spurs have done is become the NBA's flagship franchise and arguably the best in all of professional sports.

Why did it work in San Antonio?

The franchise was committed to the community, and the community was committed to the franchise.

No reason to think the formula couldn't be duplicated in Oklahoma City.

For starters, Bennett is a die-hard Oklahoman. He spoke passionately that day last fall when the Hornets announced they were relocating to the city. He loved the idea that his state, his city, his home was getting a major-league franchise that he long thought it deserved.

The only guy who seemed happier about the deal was Mick Cornett, and frankly, his feet didn't touch the ground for about a month.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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