Breakups are tough, especially in the sports world.
Sometimes fans get lucky and teams move to the same metropolitan area to ease the transition, much like the Nets moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn. Other times fans aren’t so lucky, like when the Warriors moved from Philadelphia to California.
The moves can happen for a variety of reasons, ranging from performance on the playing field to irreconcilable differences between the team and local leaders, but the feeling is the same regardless of the reason.
On July 18, 2006, one of the most notorious moves in sports history was made official when the Seattle SuperSonics were sold to a group of Oklahoma City owners and the Oklahoma City Thunder was born.
Years later, former owner Howard Schultz expressed remorse over the sale.
“Selling the Sonics the way I did is one of the biggest regrets of my professional life. I should have been prepared to lose money until a local buyer emerged,” Schultz said. in 2019.
Despite pleas from NBA fans near and far, including NBA champion Klay Thompson, an NBA team has yet to return to Seattle nearly two decades later.
Professional sports fans can understand the desire for a franchise that has moved on to greener (or sometimes less) pastures.
NFL – Baltimore Colts
Notable players: Raymond Berry, Gino Marchetti, YA Tittle, Johnny Unitas
Year folded: 1984
Renamed as: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts operated as an All-America Football Conference (AAFC) team for three seasons before joining the NFL. Baltimore’s stint was short-lived, and the team posted a 1-11 record in its only year. His one-season roster included three Pro Football Hall of Famers.
The franchise then operated as the Dallas Texans for two seasons, but it didn’t take long for football to return to Charm City when the second iteration of the Colts arrived in 1953.
Baltimore won its first NFL championship in 1958 with Johnny Unitas at the helm in “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. The team made six more playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl victory in 1970 during the Unitas era, which ended in 1972.
Over the next decade, the Colts largely struggled to achieve the same level of success. In 1983, John Elway refused to join the Colts and demanded a trade when the team selected him with the first pick.
The team had six straight losing seasons in its final years in Baltimore, and attendance suffered badly before the Colts left for Indianapolis.
NFL football returned to the city in 1996 when the Baltimore Ravens arrived.
WNBA – Houston Comets
Notable players: Cynthia Cooper, Kim Perrot, Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson
Year folded: 2008
The Comets were one of the WNBA’s original eight teams and the league’s first dynasty, winning the first four championships in the league’s existence from 1997 to 2000. The team was originally owned by Leslie Alexander, who also owned the Houston Rockets of the NBA from 1993 to 2017. In January 2007, Alexander sold the team to Houston businessman Hilton Koch, but control of the team was returned to the WNBA shortly thereafter .
The team eventually folded as no new owners could be found.
Houston’s disbandment drew heavy criticism from players and fans.
“It was a very big misjudgment on the part of the league, in the sense that I just don’t think they’re really doing business properly and they don’t appreciate what this franchise brings,” said Tina Thompson in 2016.
NHL – Hartford Whalers
Notable players: Sean Burke, Ron Francis, Gordie Howe, Mike Liut,
Year of move: 1997
Renamed as: Carolina Hurricanes
Originally known as the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association (WHA), the franchise was admitted to the NHL in 1979 when the leagues merged. The team was based about 100 miles from regional rival Boston Bruins, prompting the name change.
Despite the team’s great success in the WHA, it took seven seasons before Hartford made the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time. In 1986, the Whalers swept away a familiar foe, the Quebec Nordiques (currently known as the Colorado Avalanche), for their only playoff victory in Hartford.
The franchise left for a host of reasons, including attendance and failed negotiations for a new arena, but its iconic logo and catchy “Brass Bonanza” fight song are among the relics that have hooked fans even of decades after the team’s departure from the region.
The Hurricanes have honored the franchise’s roots with an annual “Whalers Night” since the 2018-19 season.
MLB — Montreal Expos
Notable players: Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Vladimir Guerrero, Tim Raines
Year of move: 2004
Renamed as: Washington nationals
The first MLB team outside the United States was founded in 1969 when the league added two expansion franchises to each conference. The Expos struggled to produce early in their existence, recording 10 straight losing seasons and posting one playoff appearance in the strike-shortened 1981 season.
Then-commissioner Bud Selig announced that MLB would eliminate two teams in 2001, targeting the Expos. The Expos operated as an MLB-owned team for two years, until a new owner (and location) was found.