Why he's fighting: The oldest of six children, Nickels moved at a young age from Chicago to Erie, Pa., to Seattle as his father searched for work. He went to the all-boys Seattle Preparatory School, but when his father quit his Boeing job to start the Pacific Northwest's first public defenders group for low-income children, Nickels worked after school in the mess hall and at a funeral home to pay his tuition.
He started college at the University of Washington but never finished, dropping out to manage a city council campaign. He worked his way up and became Seattle's mayor in 2002.
The Democrat, best known for his commitment to environmental protection, led the charge on light rail and water taxi service. He's been unafraid to take a stand.
What he's defending: In the past decade, Seattle taxpayers have funded two sports cathedrals — the Mariners' Safeco Field and the Seahawks' Qwest Field. The combined price tag was nearly $1 billion.
And with the Sonics trying to buy their way out of the final two years on their KeyArena lease, Nickels decided to put his foot down. Seattle gave the Mariners and Seahawks what they wanted even as those franchises threatened to move, but now, Nickels wants the Sonics to give Seattle what it wants. Even as some officials have suggested compromise, Nickels has remained steadfast.
Sonic sound bite: "By keeping the team here for the next two years, it opens doors. Maybe Seattle knows that better than any other city in America. We had challenges with the Mariners. We had challenges with the Seahawks. We know that the longer the team is here, the better our changes of having a long-term future with the team in our city." — Nickels hours after the NBA Board of Governors approved the Sonics' relocation to Oklahoma City.