It shouldn't be this hard. Northern California is a heavily populated area. A significant portion of the population is amenable to watching professional basketball. The population as a whole is fairly affluent, with a higher concentration of extremely rich people than seen in most areas.
There's really no excuse for the two NBA teams in the area to be as bad as they've been, but they both have excuses. The Sacramento Kings were great in the early 2000s, but playing in an antiquated facility in a smaller media market put a cap on their revenue stream, meaning they
can't won't spend as much as the salary cap allows. Oh, but they're working together with the city of Sacramento build a new arena so the Kings can stay in Sacramento! Huzzah!
Except now the Maloofs are backing out, saying they'd prefer to renovate their current arena. So we're back to the beginning, with a couple of owners who used to own a mediocre Vegas hotel (I stayed at the Palms once -- never again) still trying to use a small market NBA team to boost their portfolio, only they can't decide how they're going to take advantage of their market.
Then you have the Golden State Warriors, who can't even retire a guy's number without it blowing up in their faces. Their excuse for pretty much everything: the team's former owner, Chris Cohan.
The Warriors were originally rumored to share China Basin with the San Francisco Giants, except the Giants want to build their own neighborhood in that area and the Warriors would've been an afterthought. "OH YEAH?" Joe Lacob and Peter Guber say (I'm paraphrasing). "Forget that, we're going to build an incredibly expensive facility on Piers 30 and 32!"
However this shakes out for Lacuber, we can be almost certain of this: the Warriors are deciding between San Francisco and San Francisco, not San Francisco and Oakland.
At this point, both teams are run by owners who are met with skepticism and/or derision from the public. Lacob was famously booed for several minutes at Oracle Arena during the Chris Mullin ceremony, but at least his hometown newspaper didn't write an editorial requesting that he and Guber sell the team, like the Sacramento Bee did with the Maloofs. Still, it's clear the basketball-loving portion of Northern California has grown tired of both teams' inability to either lock down permanent residence in the region (Maloofs) or back up their promises of cultural change and playoff appearances (Lacuber).
NorCal Hoops in 2022
In 10 years, any one of a number of combined scenarios could play out for both teams. The Kings could stay at their current arena, revisit the railyard proposal that the Maloofs are now balking at (doubtful), or the Maloofs could do what they've wanted to all along: move to Anaheim and rake in the TV money. The Warriors could stay in Oakland, either at a refurbished (again) Oracle Arena or at a brand new facility at "Coliseum City." More likely, they'll either build a waterfront arena down the road from AT&T or change their minds and move into the Giants' hood.
Larry Ellison won't be purchasing the New Orleans Hornets and moving them to the Bay Area, because New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is buying that franchise from the NBA. Who knows, maybe the Maloofs' money troubles will force them to sell the team to Ellison, who'd move them to San Jose. Talk about an option that would upset Sacramento and Lacuber at the same time.
Regardless of what happens, Northern California fans deserve less in the way of hollow promises and real estate dealings, and more in the way of wins. Hopefully it won't take 10 years (or longer) for a dormant basketball-mad region to see the attention shifted from arenas to playoff games. In other words, less speculation and more "elevation sensation," as Warriors announcer Tim Roye might say.