Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 at 1:27 pm  |  13 responses

A Tale of Two Cities

Directors of Sonicsgate and Small Market, Big Heart discuss the Kings’ possible relocation.

by Duane Watson / @sweetswatson

In October of 2009, Jason Reid directed Sonicsgate, an investigative documentary that examined the ill-fated circumstances behind the Seattle SuperSonics’ departure to Oklahoma City after 41 years. Three years later, in January of 2012, Tobin Halsey directed Small Market, Big Heart, a film that examined the plight of the Sacramento Kings and the city’s fight to keep them and their 26-year history, despite the intentions of money-grubbing ownership. Both are great movies worthy of your time, critically looking at the issues and affairs in each city.

This is where the stories intersect. Less than a month ago, Seattle investor Chris Hansen entered into a binding agreement with said money-grubbing owners, the Maloofs, to purchase the Kings for $525 million. The deal takes him one step closer to his goal of moving the team to the Northwest, restoring the SuperSonics name and ultimately bringing them home. While NBA owners have to approve the sale, the city of Sacramento isn’t about to let its team go without a fight.

SLAMonline spoke with Reid and Halsey about their films and their feelings of a possible move of the Kings, or return of the Sonics, depending on whom you ask.

SLAM: It’s not final, but how do you feel about the Sacramento Kings potentially moving to Seattle?

Jason Reid: People are excited about the possibility of the Sonics coming back, but I think people are cautiously optimistic. They’ve been on a pretty big roller coaster for six and a half years, since (Howard) Shultz sold the team to Clay Bennett. So we’re just waiting to see what happens. Fact of the matter is, Chris Hansen has an arena deal in place in Seattle. He’s purchased the majority of the team from the Maloofs in a binding agreement, and all signs point towards it being extremely hard for Sacramento to really do anything to save the Kings, and keep them in Sacramento.

Tobin Halsey: I wouldn’t feel good about it. I think it definitely would be a tough pill to swallow, especially considering everything that Sacramento has gone through. Obviously Seattle has gone through some large stuff too, but their city failed them and ours did not. There’s quite a bit of irony there, that of all the things and for Sacramento to do everything in their power, they showed the fan support, the business community has been there and everything else and the city have an arena plan ready. Everything there and essentially a handshake deal, and then to turn around less than a year later, and sell to a Seattle interest group is pretty tough to take if it happens like that. I don’t think it will though, I really don’t, especially with all the stuff happening right now.

SLAM: It’s been reported that David Stern is determined to get an NBA franchise back in Seattle before he steps down. Do you think that is motivated out of guilt?

Reid: I think if you probably asked David Stern, he’d say one of the biggest black marks on his record was allowing the SuperSonics to leave Seattle. He has a shot at redemption in a lot of ways, by restoring the history of the Seattle SuperSoncics before he leaves, getting the black eye off his face. I think that’s part of the reason why he put Clay Bennett in charge of the relocation committee. I think he has experience in relocation clearly, he moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City. But at the same time, if Clay Bennett moves the team to Seattle, we hope Seattle fans can forgive the both of them, seems like it could be a two-for-one.

SLAM: Did the Sonicsgate movement inspire Small Market, Big Heart?

Halsey: I had not even heard of Sonicsgate. We started doing the interview process and one of our producers, James Ham, said, “Have you seen Sonicsgate?” The stories were so different anyway, I got that from about 10 minutes in watching it, then I stopped watching it as I didn’t want it to influence how we were going to put this together. We had actually contacted them and asked about their process, ’cause none of us had done anything like this. So we asked them a couple of things, not on story, but some of the other things as far as production.

Our motivation was different than Sonicsgate. Theirs was to show people how wronged they were; we wanted to show Sacramento and anyone else that was willing to watch it [that] this was something worth fighting for. At the time we didn’t know whether the city would come through, or the council would have votes, or whether they could put an arena deal together. So win or lose, whatever happens, whether we get it done or not, everybody should know what we’re winning and what we’re losing and why we’re fighting.

SLAM: When you made your film, did you anticipate that this is how it would unfold?

Reid: We always believed that, [as long as] we were loud and we weren’t silent about what happened here, how it went down and also loud about the fact we want the NBA product back in our market. We want to go to games and spend money on jerseys and stuff, and I think that we felt like the perception nationally was, Sonics fans didn’t support the team and that’s why they left and that couldn’t be further from the truth. So what we’ve done with the film and the subsequent movement to bring the Sonics back, has been to prove to the nation that Seattle is a basketball city. We were wronged the way the team was moved out of town and I think that by us being loud with the film and loud showing up at games in green and gold and sitting courtside behind the Thunder bench. Some of the antics we’ve done have helped to facilitate bringing the NBA back to our market. Without kind of speaking out, I think that the issue could have faded away and history could have been written a different way.

Halsey: Honestly, this story has been so wild and crazy on the Sacramento side, there’s nothing that would surprise me with how things have gone. If you wrote this thing as fiction, this whole story, no one would believe it. The truth is stranger than fiction. It’s been a wild and crazy process and it’s going to get wilder.

SLAM: Are there plans to do an updated version of Small Market, Big Heart?

Halsey: Yes, we haven’t got any kind of interviews set up like we did before. We just shot events, film press conferences and things going on, but we haven’t done a lot of sit down interviews as yet, as so much is happening right now. But we are committed to finishing out, however it finishes out, whether it’s for us a happy ending or a sad ending, I guess for Seattle that would be a happy ending.

SLAM: What did you think of the Sonicsgate producers’ open letter to Sacramento that was on Grantland?

Halsey: It was really interesting, ’cause we talked to them a couple of times and they seemed like pretty decent dudes, but it came off pretty condescending. It was basically like, “Sorry we’re buying the team, we’ll take care of them and remember you the best we can.” I feel like, Hey, we’re going to be fighting this until the moving trucks pull up, and that’s the way they were. So it was a little surprising to get that kind of letter written to us from Seattle. We’re not giving up. Again, it’s one of those things that shouldn’t be a competition—I think it’s an easy fix. I know the League isn’t anxious to expand, but I think this is one of those win-win-win situations; it’s a win for the NBA, a win for Seattle and a win for Sacramento.

SLAM: How do you feel about the fans in Sacramento?

Reid: I think that everybody in Seattle would prefer an expansion team to taking the Sacramento Kings, but the reality is David Stern and the NBA have made it more than clear that expansion is not on the table, at least right now. We’ve known that this is how it would have to play out the whole time, with us taking a team and that’s why we made Sonicsgate. To alert other cities that no team is truly safe in this modern sports era, that’s been kind of our whole thing. We think the Kings fans should fight to the very end and do everything they can to keep the team there, but we know from experience that once these transactions are done and once the momentum is going one way, it’s extremely difficult to turn it around. I think all of our hearts up here in Seattle go out to the Sacramento Kings fans and wish them the best, even though our end motives are in competition to each other. We’re certainly here for Sacramento fans, to give them advice on the blueprint that we lived with losing a team and getting a team back. It’s a tough situation. It’s not really fans versus fans and we’re pretty much helpless.

Sonicsgate trailer | Sonicsgate full movie | Small Market trailer | Small Market full movie

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  • Derek

    This Reid guy really does sound condescending. Also an interesting spin on the phrase “arena deal is done” considering there is now litigation by the unions in Seattle to stop it from happening and the feasibility study that still needs to be done. But I guess that is what PR is, sidestepping the truth and only saying the parts you want people to hear.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=38313794 J.t. Alwin

    All the litigation will either be thrown out or will end up in favor of the arena. People can file whatever lawsuits they want, but it’s not going to last long if you don’t have an argument that’s put together well (and they don’t). The arena is, for all intents and purposes, a done deal.

  • Boom

    Its an environmental impact study, not a feasability study. It is just another formality that will in no way impede hansens sbility to build an arena

  • DJS425

    How is it condescending?! You might not like what he’s saying based on passed experiences but its not condescending its the truth!

    The union is nothing more then a formality. Stadium projects always have lawsuits and groups who simply don’t like sports and will use whatever platform to voice their opposition. Sacramento has them too! The Seattle and county council approved this. The mayor and county executive approved this. Every government entity has supported the new stadium, they put it in writing. This isnt a “PR” stunt this is factual. On top of the local government approval Hansen has bought 60 million dollars in land, he has designed the arena and now is going to to purchase a team. Spending 2 years on this project, I doubt a small issue like environmental impact study and a lawsuit which is a joke and holds no water is gonna stop a billion dollar transaction that took many years to put together. Big project ALWAYS have opponents.

    I love the comment “ Obviously Seattle has gone through some large stuff too, but their city failed them and ours did not”.

    41 years and I wouldnt call the city a failure when they did everything they could to keep the team with the options given.

  • DJS425

    Every major project, especially stadium project ALWAYS have lawsuits or other hurdles people try to put in front of it. The only people who think this is actually a barrier are the ones in Sacramento.

  • Robert_in_Sacramento

    How scummy and hypocritical is Seattle?

  • Leon

    I guess we can categorize Sonicsgate as a comedy now; its maker is actually pretty cool with a team being stolen in backroom deals (just as long as it’s not his team). This has successfully evaporated any pity I had for Seattle.

  • LakeShow

    How so?
    I’ll wait.

  • Dock

    Exactly. Oh we were wronged and are the best fans…what was that? steal someone else’s team? Hoorah!!

  • http://twitter.com/ejharden Erik Harden

    I’m a Seattle fan and I think most of us would be “willing” to wait for an expansion team or at the very least, a team that is truly in trouble and doesn’t have strong support from it’s fan base. That said, I think that you’re delusional if you think for one second that the Sac fan base wouldn’t be “willing” to take a team from another city, having lost theirs through no fault of their own.

  • Leon

    So we shouldn’t feel for Sacramento because according to you, hypothetically they could be just as worse than Seattle actually is. Or have I missed the part where Sacramento shoved a glossy, sanctimonious “documentary” about the injustices of the NBA (backroom deals! Billionaire playthings! Holding cities hostage over impossible arena deals!) down the throats of anyone who’d listen? And then, when the first city getting screwed worse than themselves came along, threw all those principles out the door with a “whoops, that’s just the business”?

    Look, I say this as a Bucks fan. It’ll happen to me, but I don’t have a horse in this particular race. Seattle’s its own worst enemy because you’ve believed your own Sonicsgate hype: that you’re a major metropolis, a good basketball city; you deserve a team. Truth is, you’re a midmarket diluted by other sports and not all that bigger than Sac. But because Sac has a more humble idea of where they fit in the world, their whole city is fighting this harder than Seattle ever did. They know this is it for them, getting a new team for Sacramento will be impossible. If Seattle wins this fight, it’s not because you guys deserve it more, it’s because you had a billionaire gift $30 million to the Maloofs to shut out Sacramento.

  • jwilky22

    This will just be another dagger in the hearts of sonics fans either way it falls. If we get a team we still feel like crap because we know what Sacramento is going through. If we don’t get a team. well, its just another reminder of how we got our team ripped from us. At the end of the day its a business. It doesn’t matter what us fans (the ones who take our hard earned money and put it towards the Almighty NBA) thinks or feels. As a fan of basketball, these guys have killed it for me.

    I remember going to a basketball camp where I got to meet Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, as well as many other players. As a kid, I felt proud that these guys would take the time to come to camps and serve as roll models for us. This is more than just buying a team. This is taking away a part of a community. This happened to us in Seattle, and as much as I would like to have a team back, buying another team wont set things straight in my eyes. Just because I know there is some kid in Sacramento, Just like me.

    efffffffff you Stern and Bennett and Shultz. and who ever was involved.

  • http://twitter.com/ejharden Erik Harden

    To the contrary, feel for Sacramento (if the move even happens)… just don’t think that they’ll riot in the streets in the scenario where they lose their Kings but are later presented with the opportunity to get one in a similar manner.

    As for your perspective on the city of Seattle… It’s in the pacific northwest, we’re used to people dismissing our teams and/or fan base. Cool part about that, is that we don’t have to care what a “sanctimonious” Bucks fan thinks ;)

    Not sure how my post got you so uppidy but it was a bit of an overreaction from my perspective.