Now that the league has officially confirmed the sale of the Sacramento Kings to Chris Hansen's ownership group, it is hard not to think about the impact this will have on this year's mayoral election. And it is even harder to think that this impact will be anything but good for Mayor Mike McGinn.
If the NBA owners approve the deal—reportedly a mere formality—a Sonics team will be back at Key Arena next fall, their inaugural season opening just days before the November election. But this momentous tipoff will come after months of steadily building hype and buzz. If there's one thing voters will know about McGinn it is that the Sonics returned to Seattle on his watch.
And it was more than just something that passively happened on his watch. It was McGinn who negotiated with Hansen the framework for an arena deal that was eventually approved by both the Seattle and King County councils, and who helped shepherd it past political and media obstacles. Two of McGinn's mayoral opponents, council members Tim Burgess and Bruce Harrell, voted to approve the arena deal. It will be interesting to see how Burgess and Harrell attempt to brand the mayor as unaccomplished at the same time the return of the Sonics dominates the headlines.
It's not that voters will decide: "Basketball! Yay! I'm voting for McGinn!" No more than voters shoved former Mayor Greg Nickels aside simply because the Sonics left on his watch. But major professional sports franchises are rare commodities, and whatever credit he truly deserves, the Sonics return strongly runs counter to the narrative that McGinn is an ineffective politician with poisonous interpersonal skills.
Facing a council of rivals and a phalanx of hostile newspaper editorialists, McGinn managed to buck the "Seattle Way" and push through approval of a major public infrastructure project in record time. That's an accomplishment in itself, whether you support the arena or not.
I don't know whether that's enough to carry McGinn through the August primary, but it sure doesn't hurt his prospects.