A Stolen Team And A Strong City – The Emerald City’s Tribulations (Part II)

This is a continuation of the article “A Stolen Team And A Strong City – The Emerald City’s Tribulations”

A couple of days ago, green-and-gold blooded fans of Seattle showed every one around the NBA how much they really want an NBA team back in Seattle. However, a team isn’t the only thing these loud-mouth Gary Payton like, non-stop cheering and chanting, over-the-top, true NBA basketball fans really want, they also want their memorabilia back. More importantly, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and the rest of the legendary Sonics players since 1967 want to have their jerseys and awards back where it’s supposed to be, home. We all know that Gary Payton fears of having his jersey hanged in Oklahoma City and we all remember that Shawn Kemp refused to accept a court side seat offer from the Thunder last post season during the Thunder’s failed championship campaign last season which made every person in Seattle very happy. Would have been great had Shawn Kemp attended those games when the Thunder took on the Mavericks as the Thunder would lose every single home game in the Western Conference Finals. Anyways, the fans and the loyal retired players of the Sonics desperately want what they truly own back home in Seattle. From the 1979 NBA championship and retired NBA jerseys such as Spencer Haywood’s and Lenny Wilken’s to a Northwest Division championship banner, everyone in Seattle wants their Sonics memorabilia back where it belongs. And these loud fans in Seattle would stop at nothing to get what they want and make a difference. In Game 4 of the 1996 NBA Finals when the Sonics were on the brink of an embarrassing sweep, the fans at Key Arena that night made a huge difference. The Sonics would go on to win Game 4 in a blowout by defeating the Bulls 107-86 and keeping their season alive. However, the Sonics wouldn’t stop there as they did the same thing in Game 5. By knowing how much their fans believe in them, the Sonics took Game 5 by 11 points and would then make the seemingly unshakable Chicago Bulls a team on their way into the record book no one wants to be in. No team in NBA history that lead 3-0 had lost a series, and the Bulls were seemingly looked like the team to do that. However, mainly because of the heart of Michael Jordan and his inspiration to his teammates, the Bulls took Game 6 at home and would go on to take the 1996 NBA championship from the Sonics. And from then on out, it was a slow downhill move for the Sonics and the city they represent.

Seattle, Washington. The Emerald City. The Coffee Capitol of the World. The Rainy City. Seattle is known for their fresh seafood, the cool weather, the relaxing environment, the Space Needle, but most of all it’s love for sports. Seattle is currently home to the NFL (Seahawks), the MLB (Mariners), and the WNBA (Storm).  I am glad to say that I have been able to take a visit into this unique and diverse city in the United States. It truly is one of the most beautiful and A-class cities in the U.S.A. And when I say that Seattle is diverse, I don’t only mean that the city is mixed with different races. The city is mixed with different age groups and different people and different personalities. This is what makes Seattle a great city to live in and a great place to watch sports. You got old people and young people, rich and poor , blacks and whites, Asians and Europeans, all coming together to enjoy a game.  And when the NBA was still present in Seattle, the bond among the citizens in Seattle became stronger as they all rooted and supported for their beloved basketball team, the Seattle Supersonics. The Key Arena was a place where the people of Seattle could come together with one thing on their mind, help their team win. Watching the documentary Sonicsgate: A Requiem For A Team made me understand even further how much fun fans in Seattle enjoyed and basically loved watching their Supersonics play at Key Arena. It was simply a strong-hearted community coming together to watch a game of basketball. But after 1996, things would slowly change, although the fans would stay the same as always, being loyal and loud. After being eliminated in the NBA Finals by the Chicago Bulls, the Sonics still had great seasons in them, but making the NBA Finals became a thing of the past. After already trading Shawn Kemp in 1997, the Sonics would ship out Gary Payton 6 years later and were on the path to change the image of the franchise. And change they did. The Sonics would go below the .500 mark for the first time 11 years and would eventually miss the NBA playoffs. The following season would be no different at all as the Sonics would miss the NBA playoffs once again. In 2005, however, the Sonics led by sharp shooting Ray Allen, would make the NBA playoffs but would eventually lose to the eventual-champion San Antonio Spurs in the Western Semi-Finals. Fans in Seattle began to think that the Sonics were getting better after being able to return to the playoffs, but little did they know, that it was actually the last time the city would see the Sonics in the post season.

In 2006, Sonics franchise owner and Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz sold the franchise to a group of Oklahoma City businessmen headed by Mr. Clayton Bennett. When Schultz sold the franchise amidst a horrible season by the Sonics in 2005-2006, fans in Seattle began to wonder if the team was going to relocate to Bennett’s home town in down south. However, Schultz and Bennett allegedly agreed upon that despite Bennett’s dream of having a permanent (Hornets were temporary in Oklahoma City due to Hurricane Katrina) NBA team in The Big Friendly or best known as OKC. After watching the documentary Sonicsgate: A Requiem For A Team I began to see exactly how the relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma City really happened and what events took place to make that happen. Now, I’m not going to waste your time and act that I’m narrating an episode on NBC’s Dateline but I’m just gonna go straight into the major rumors and events that took place. In the two seasons that Bennett controlled the franchise in Seattle, Sonics fans were simply unhappy in how Bennett has been preventing the team’s players from going public and promoting their team. Even after picking Kevin Durant as the 2nd overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, media coverage on the rising NBA-superstar was very limited due to Clayton Bennett. And that’s where the rumors came up that Bennett was trying to make this team look bad in order to decline attendance and revenue in order for the NBA to approve Bennett’s dream of having a team in the state of Oklahoma. With the Key Arena not also being able to live-up to the standards of any other NBA arena Bennett, in 2007, applied for arbitration on the issue of whether the team could break its lease in 2008 when it’s supposedly to end in 2010. In opinion, yes, you can see Bennett and even David Stern fighting for a new arena in Seattle, but even if it fails, Bennett would certainly be fine with that because he knows he can then relocate the franchise. Before the 2007 NBA season and after the deadline for public financing for a new arnea , everyone in the NBA from David Stern to Seattle locals were informed by Bennett that the team would be moved to Oklahoma City unless something can be settled. In my opinion, it became obvious that Bennett wanted this franchise out of Seattle and when he stated that he wouldn’t sell the franchise to any local group or individual in Seattle, I knew Bennett wanted to betray the city and steal the team they love.

In 2008, during the Sonic’s final season in Seattle, the ownership group offered the city 26.5 million dollars to buy out the Sonics’ lease at Key Arena and any other debts. The city would not accept that offer. A month later, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated he would pay half of the $300 million needed to expand the below average NBA arena, and the rest would be paid by the city. Unfortunately, the city was unable to do so by the deadline and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels simply gave up and lost the battle to keep the Sonics in Seattle. The documentary Sonicsgate showed Greg Nickels in court saying that he hasn’t attended a Sonics home game recently which added that Nickels himself obviously didn’t care about the Sonics being in Seattle. As a result, the team would officially leave the city. Schultz, who had an agreement with Bennett on having the Sonics stay in Seattle, sued Bennett but would eventually back off with the lawsuit, which again, in my opinion, showed that he didn’t care where the Sonics went. Moreover, NBA commissioner David Stern didn’t look at the fact that Seattle has been a great NBA city for 4 long decades. Seattle has been loyal to the NBA and has been a wonderful city even according to players not playing for the Sonics. However, David Stern didn’t realize that and obviously didn’t care about the Sonics staying in Seattle but decided to support Bennett’s movement to a city not known at all for basketball. No disrespect to the great Thunder fans today, but in reality, the love the city of Oklahoma has for their basketball team right now is not comparable to the love the franchise got in Seattle. Seattle has been betrayed, lied to, and stabbed not only to their backs but also to their hear. And despite that, Sonics fans today, as seen in the rally last Thursday and in the past 4 years since THEIR team left, the city still believes and continues to fight for something they truly deserve. I myself believe and know that the city of Seattle deserves a basketball team and most of all, deserve the rights to their historic memorabilia to which the most hated man in Seattle, Clayton Bennett, legally owns as of right now. Seattle deserves some respect from the NBA. Four decades of loyalty to the NBA, disregarded. A beautiful city to play basketball in, disregarded. An audience possibly as loud as or even louder than the Thunder fans of today, disregarded. Seattle has been disregarded and put away by the NBA, but nothing will stop them from their quest for pride, history, respect, basketball, and an NBA team to comeback to the Emerald City to which they can cheer for.

BRING ‘EM BACK! 

This photo was taken by my older brother, Travin Keith, a student at the University of Washington, who attended the Sonics rally last Thursday with full support of the Sonics himself. Credits to him for helping me out with information about the Sonics, the team’s relocation and the Seattle local’s reaction and feelings.

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2 thoughts on “A Stolen Team And A Strong City – The Emerald City’s Tribulations (Part II)

  1. Pingback: A Stolen Team And A Strong City – The Emerald City’s Tribulations (Part I) | THEONBA

  2. Pingback: Compilation: A Stolen Team And A Strong City – The Emerald City’s Tribulations | THEONBA

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