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Mr. Commissioner, Please Don't Take Away My Miami Heat
SPORTS 10/06/2039 6:08 AM ET
Mr. Commissioner, Please Don't Take Away My Miami Heat
Rex Kirkman
Senior Sports Editor

CC BY-SA 4.0 - image changes released under same license American Airlines Arena | 131001-8930-jikatu by Jimmy Baikovicius | Writer image: CC BY 4.0 Shadowy face by Denis Dervisevic | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
American Airlines Arena: current home of the Miami Heat.
In what is being described as a legacy decision, Commissioner Silver has decided to be a complete jackass in yet again shafting NBA fans with an outrageous arena proposal.

On Wednesday, the Commish held a press conference, reiterating the NBA's stance that the city of Miami must contribute an amount north of $800m for a new arena for the Heat to play in.

This flies directly in the face of longtime owner Mickey Arison's request for $200m, with an offer to pay $500m out of his own pocket for what he has described as a gift to the people of Miami. The remainder of the $1.2bn asking price would be financed through concessions, parking, amenities rental and Miami Heat merchandise, over a number of years under the Arison plan.

The NBA is having none of it though, instead countering with its own "proposal". The NBA's plan calls for a direct injection of $150m from The Association, with Arison contributing $250m and the remainder financed via local taxes, including a 1.5% sales tax increase.

This is, of course, deranged.

Commissioner Silver has called his plan a "clear-thinking model of public private partnership in realizing next-generation of NBA arena requirements", which is corporate speak for "we want your money money money give give give now now now".

Miami is swamped - literally - with demands. There is water everywhere. Ten inches of sea level rise (in the past 35 years) is turning the city of Miami into a massive lake. There isn't money for schools and police at the moment, because so much of the city's budget is being directed toward THE CITY NOT BEING WASHED AWAY FOR ETERNITY.

What good is a new arena if it's underwater? I suppose future generations could scuba dive down to it and marvel at the stupidity.

No-one is disputing that Floridian Energy Arena is outdated and needs replacing. Also, it's right on the water. It couldn't be in a worse spot.

But common sense dictates that a) you let a billionaire finance a leisure-oriented facility when he offers what is basically a billion dollars out of his own pocket, and b) it's not a good look for your business when you demand $800m from fans who have ad hoc swimming pools in their front yards.

Of course, this is nothing new to the NBA. Its "move on, nothing to see here" approach to extorting cities into paying for new arenas has been tried and proven in Seattle, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Detroit (something about shafting the Midwest seems to please the NBA).

Seattle was of course the template. Starbucks Emperor Howard Schultz's efforts to procure public financing for either a new area or renovations for Key Arena were rebuffed. So in 2006 he sold the Supersonics to an Oklahoma-based ownership group led by Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon.

They promptly led only the least realistic Sonics fans on a joyride of lies and deception, and headed for a cliff's edge, jumping out at the last moment like kid Kirk in that old Star Trek movie.

Then-Commissioner David Stern greased the wheels (the e-mail scandals were a delicious piece of bumbling deceit to behold), and the Sonics were relocated to Oklahoma City, despite the passionate clamor of fans who loved their team. Despite a sincere grassroots effort to keep the team in Seattle.

41 years of history (including a championship) was ignored as the NBA turned a team into a sacrificial lamb. 25 years later Seattle is still without an NBA team.

The moral of the story was: don't mess with the NBA in financing your team's new arena.

Cities like San Diego, Kansas City, and Las Vegas are not kept hanging on by the NBA for no good reason. If the league expresses enough interest in those and other non-NBA cities, it can blackmail teams whose fan bases are rightly concerned that they will become the next Sonics.

In Miami's case, they don't have an owner looking to pull as much money out of the city as he can. In that the NBA is a little unlucky because their model requires an owner willing to at least drop hints that he'll move the team if necessary (though it would break his heart).

But make no mistake, the NBA is experienced in finding ways to make you pay for its buildings. It is composed of billionaires who have an interest in paying as little as possible for new arenas.

Miami is between a rock and a hard place.
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