It is pretty much established fact that when Clay Bennett purchased the Seattle SuperSonics in 2006, he had no interest of keeping the team in Seattle and that the city of Seattle lost their precious SuperSonics by way of robbery. Bennett purchased the team for the sole purpose of relocating the team to his home city of Oklahoma City and there was nothing that the city of Seattle could do to stop him.
Bennett could hide behind the fact that Key Arena in Seattle was one of the smallest arenas in the league and that the SuperSonics at the time had poor attendance, but the reality is that he just wanted to bring his hometown an NBA franchise. He didn't care how he did it and who he hurt in the process. As long as he was able to succeed at moving the Sonics to Oklahoma City, he was happy.
The only good that came out of the departure of the Seattle SuperSonics was the fact that the team name was changed to "Oklahoma City Thunder", which would allow a possible return of the "SuperSonics" nickname to Seattle. Given the fact that there are other arenas across the country ready to house NBA franchises and that Seattle sports fans are foaming at the mouth for the return of the Sonics, the NBA has to do what is right and bring back the Seattle SuperSonics within the next five years.
Rather than uprooting another team and angering more fans, the NBA needs to instead expand to 32 teams, placing one team in Seattle and another team somewhere else that is also deserving of an NBA franchise. The only real argument against expansion is that it dilutes the talent pool and creates two more terrible teams. I find this argument to not be all that convincing. The reality is that such an expansion would be a great thing for the NBA.
First of all, such an expansion would put fans across the league at ease and it would put an end to talks of relocation. Los Angeles has two teams; New York has two teams; Chicago has a team; Boston has a team; Texas has three teams; and the greater Bay Area has two teams with the Warriors and the Kings. By bringing back the Seattle SuperSonics, the NBA would have a team in every major market in the United States of America, which would be a great thing for the league. Fans would stop freaking out if their team goes for sale and greedy billionaires in Seattle would stop trying to poach a team from another market.
Secondly, it would give the NBA an opportunity to realign the conferences. The two most likely cities to also get a team are Kansas City and Louisville, both of which have new arenas capable of housing an NBA team. Louisville geographically is an Eastern Conference city and Kansas City geographically is a Western Conference city, but either way, the addition of a 32nd team would allow the NBA to put either the Memphis Grizzlies or New Orleans Pelicans in the Eastern Conference if they wanted to make the conferences more fair and balanced.
In addition, the NBA could also realign the divisions within the conferences to make things more geographically coherent. The Northwest Division is a mess geographically thanks to the the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City and by expanding to 32 teams, the NBA would certainly be able to realign the divisions and make everything more orderly for the sake of travel and competitive balance.
Lastly, as sort of an appeal to nostalgia, who wouldn't want the Seattle SuperSonics back in the NBA? Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp did so much to put the Seattle SuperSonics on the map that it's sad there is nothing left to remind us of their legacy. The return of the SuperSonics would bring back fond memories and restore a tradition and history that never should have left us.
What I'm saying is that the NBA needs the Seattle SuperSonics. There is a hole created by their absence and it won't be filled until they return. I say "until" because the Seattle SuperSonics aren't dead. They are just waiting to be brought home.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord