For many of us, 2020 is a year we can’t put in the rear view mirror fast enough. It was, without question, one of the most challenging years in modern history. Our hearts go out to the thousands of people in Washington who have lost loved ones and many more who are facing tough times because of the pandemic. 

But while we acknowledge the tragedy and hardships of this past year, it pays to reflect on some of the milestones and successes we’ve achieved in the face of the adversity; to remember our resilience, to keep looking forward and never give up on ourselves, our community and our dreams. 

In addition to the pandemic, we faced tragedies and upheaval in our communities of color that led people to take to the streets around the country and the world. 

But this year, more so than in any time in recent memory,  those heartbreaking events inspired progress towards a national reckoning on matters of race. Just four years since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick faced boycotts and scorn for kneeling during the National Anthem in protest of racial injustice, we’ve seen the NFL change its posture and begin to to raise awareness and support reform. Our own Russell Wilson now wears Breonna Taylor’s name on his helmet, while his cleats support the Black Lives Matter movement by honoring Taylor, George Floyd, Charleena Lyles, Herbert Hightower and all victims of racial injustice.

Likewise, the NBA’s top leaders and biggest stars have used their platforms to call for change. Luminaries ranging from NBA commissioner Adam Silver to future Hall of Famer LeBron James, have taken up the torch for “Black Lives Matter.” We saw it painted on the game court, along with the social justice messages emblazoned on players’ jerseys.

It’s another example of how professional sports can be so much more than entertainment for our community, a reminder of how the return of the NBA could benefit Seattle youth, particularly those in traditionally underserved communities. 

Sports have a unique power to improve lives. Not only do they teach kids critical lessons… like the importance of teamwork and commitment, they also provide much-needed structure and activity outside of school. And pro sports can provide the inspiration and role models our young people need to keep their competitive fires burning bright. It’s been too long since Seattle has had an NBA team and players to inspire the next generation the way Sonics’ recent Hall of Fame inductees Gary Payton, Ray Allen and Jack Sikma did for so many.

In the coming year, we look forward to continuing our work with Seattle leaders to bring home an NBA team. We still believe our proposal to build a 100% privately financed arena in Seattle’s stadium district is the surest path for attracting the NBA back here, where it belongs. Having a shovel-ready, private arena project in SoDo will not only help Seattle put its best NBA foot forward, it will generate millions of incremental tax revenue. 

Despite all the challenges, we should also acknowledge the bright spots from the past year, as we anticipate and hope for a brighter road ahead. 

Congratulations to Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, Alysha Clark, Natasha Howard and the rest of the Seattle Storm for their stellar performances this year on their way to the team’s fourth WNBA Championship. You’re amazing examples of what’s possible with the right mix of talent, hard work, commitment and cooperation. You make us all proud!

We’re also thrilled to see the NHL coming back to Seattle and can’t wait to watch the Seattle Kraken menace NHL teams that dare to venture into our waters. 

Finally, the NBA deserves a huge shout out for the leadership and resourcefulness shown in the face of enormous adversity. It was able to bring the playoffs back to life after COVID shut down the regular season in March. The league’s commitment to making sure the show went on, while still protecting players, coaches and staff in the “Disney Bubble” was truly remarkable. Congrats to LeBron and the LA Lakers for a hard fought championship and for keeping Kobe’s flame alive.  

Now, let’s get ready for a new year, a new season and a new NBA team in Seattle.