Things could have been so different for the Spurs

Jared Wickerham

An old story dug up about the Maloofs reveals that they almost bought the San Antonio Spurs in the 1990s. Oh man.

On Tuesday, James Ham of Cowbell Kingdom published a great, nuanced piece looking at the Maloofs' ownership of the Sacramento Kings, which will come to a close within the next couple of weeks, Stern willing. One of the scoops in Ham's piece is that immediately after Sacramento voters rejected an arena tax deal that the Maloofs openly sandbagged in 2006, the family flew to New York to request relocation for the next season. This news was confirmed by a few people, and had other fans looking for more documentation of rumored early relocation requests. There had been murmurs since before the Maloofs officially bought the team in 1999 that they were looking to grab a team and take it to Las Vegas or L.A.

Mike Tavares of fan advocate group Crown Downtown dug up a gem from the Sacramento Bee in 1998. In two screenshots (1, 2), the story reveals this old bombshell.

Two years ago [in 1996], the Maloofs tried to buy the San Antonio Spurs, offering $120 million and a $30 million penalty payment if they moved the franchise.

The Maloofs ... almost owned ... the Spurs! Before Tim Duncan, at the very start of Gregg Popovich's coaching tenure, in the middle of David Robinson's career. The Maloofs! Needless to say, this is the darkest timeline for San Antonio. While the family proved loyal to Geoff Petrie in Sacramento -- he's still employed all these years later -- it turned on Rick Adelman as soon as the glow came off. Thus began a hilarious succession of overmatched but inexpensive coaches. Once the economy tanked in 2007, the Maloofs simply stopped spending on the team. Tim Duncan for Mo Williams' expiring contract, anyone?

In bitter news, the Maloofs' purchase of the Kings blocked very rich man Alex Spanos' bid for the club. Spanos is from Stockton, 30 minutes south of Sacramento, and would have almost assuredly kept the team in place long-term.

I reported a few months ago that the Maloofs looked at buying the Toronto Raptors in 1997, but I'd never seen that report on the Spurs. The Toronto deal fell apart, according to Gavin Maloof, because the family decided it'd be too far to travel between Vegas and Ontario. So why did the Spurs deal fall apart? SAT to LAS is under three hours on a direct flight.

From the story:

The San Antonio negotiations collapsed in 1996 over disagreements among the club's 22 owners. Board chairman Robert McDermott favored the sale to the Maloofs. Other owners, led by Peter Holt, saw the Maloofs as carpetbaggers. A vote was held and Holt won.

"They viewed us as maybe outsiders," Gavin Maloof said. "We're not from San Antonio. That may have crossed their minds."

Peter Holt ended up becoming the lead partner in the Spurs. He now serves as chairman of the NBA Board of Governors and is a central figure in the relocation/finance supercommittee determining whether the Maloofs can, uh, do exactly to Sacramento what Holt apparently feared they would do to San Antonio.

That said, indications have been that Holt favored a quick resolution in favor of Seattle before David Stern hit the brakes hard. No one can tell what he or any other owner thinks now. One would assume he'd be thrilled simply to get the Maloofs out of the league.

Our nightmare is almost over. Spurs fans should be thankful theirs never began.

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