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Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson vows to fight to keep NBA’s Kings from moving to Seattle

01.23.13 at 9:44 am ET
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Sacramento Mayor (and former NBA player) Kevin Johnson remains committed to keeping the Kings. (AP)

Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson warned Seattle basketball fans not to celebrate the return of their SuperSonics just yet, because he and a group of Sacramento investors are aiming to make a counteroffer to the offer from the group that intends to move the Kings to Seattle.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Johnson announced that 19 local investors had pledged to contribute at least $1 million to the bid to keep the Kings in town, and a 20th reportedly joined in later in the day.

“Let me be very clear,” Johnson said to the crowd gathered in the lobby of Sacramento City Hall. “We are going to do everything that we can to create an environment where we can keep what’s ours, our team, here in Sacramento.”

In addition to those 20 local investors, Ron Burkle, the billionaire owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins who helped keep them from moving to Kansas City, and Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24 Hour Fitness, have also reportedly expressed interest in the Kings. According to The Sacramento Bee, city officials are calling them a potential ownership “dream team”.

Johnson, who played in the NBA for 12 years as a point guard, mostly with Phoenix, said he hopes to present a plan to the NBA Board of Governors in April when they meet to decide whether to sell the Kings to the Seattle-based group led by Chris Hansen.

Sacramento managed to keep the Kings from moving to Anaheim in 2011. Michael McCann, a sports law expert at the University of New Hampshire and a legal analyst for NBA TV, told the Seattle Times it’s unlikely, but not impossible, that the Kings will stay in Sacramento this time.

“I think that the odds are very high that the Kings will be moving to Seattle,” McCann said Tuesday. “I think clearly there is an agreement between the relevant parties in terms of Hansen and the Maloofs [current controlling owners of the Kings] to make that happen. I also think there seems to be support from other NBA officials and owners, that this is going to be OK with them. So it seems like it’s well set up for succeeding. But it’s not a done deal, and Kevin Johnson, if there is a mayor out there that has influence in the NBA, none have more than Kevin Johnson.”

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