Oklahoma City has astounded much of the NBA nation. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the best young talents in the entire league and with the addition of Kendrick Perkins, many now believe the Thunder could make a surprise run to the NBA Finals. Certainly the way Oklahoma City dominated the resurgent Denver Nuggets has been impressive, especially the way young superstar Kevin Durant closed the series out in Game Five last night.
While fans and the rest of the league are celebrating the emergence of one of its young teams and a potential champion for the future, one of the NBA’s forgotten and abandoned markets is stewing and coming to terms that THEIR team is on its way to potentially winning a title… without them.
Seattle’s Key Arena has sat empty for three years now after Clay Bennett and the NBA moved the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City. Sonics fans have continued to take their fights to the streets and warn the NBA’s fans that the league sometimes does not care about its biggest source of income. The league can and will rip teams away from a city and its fans if it fails to build the team a new stadium or come to the gate and support the team.
Even then it might not be enough. What made the Sonics situation so much worse was the apparent intention Bennett had to move the team to Oklahoma City the moment he bought the team, despite promises to make a good-faith effort to keep the team in the Emerald City, and David Stern and the league’s acquiescence to Bennett’s maneuvering.
The city fought too late to keep the team with the mayor making a last ditch effort to keep the team in Seattle that ended in a disquieting settlement. While politicians and millionaires squabbled over what to do with the team, the fans were left shouting in the streets asking them to listen to the people and keep the team where it was.
And that fight apparently still continues.
During Oklahoma City’s Game Three victory last Saturday in Denver, a group of fans, led by the directors of the film SonicsGate, wearing Sonics jerseys made sure to let Oklahoma City know that Seattle has not forgotten its team. they carried signs that read: “Save Our Sonics,” the rallying cry of the public outcry during the last season. One group carried a Seattle Supersonics flag. Another held a sign that read: “Seattle Drafted Kevin Durant” and waved around a Kevin Durant Seattle Sonics jersey.
They even carried cowbells adorned with Sonics logos as a solidarity move to the fans of Sacramento fighting their own team relocation battle.
Seattle fans are among the most passionate in the entire nation. That can be seen by the 12th Man that cheers on the Seahawks and was nominated for the cover of Madden 12. It can be seen in the passion the fans provide at Seattle Sounders, the local MLS team, games too.
Sonics fans provided the same passion, but just did not have the state-of-the-art building to match and could not find a way to create funding for one. And as small market teams are learning: without this revenue-generating stadium, the team is more than at risk to go somewhere that can support a team on the public’s dime rather than on the owners’.
That does not mean the Thunder do not deserve your support though. While Seattle fans remain bitter about the team taken away from them, the Thunder themselves are a fantastic team that will be competitive for years to come behind the ingenious building of Sam Presti.
And it does not mean Oklahoma City is the villain either. The fans of Oklahoma City have been more than enthusiastic and more than supportive of its team. Oklahoma City Arena has quickly become a passionate and loud fan base that gives opposing teams trouble. It was that way when the Hornets spent parts of two seasons playing home games there.
You just wish there was a way both of these great cities could have NBA teams. The league would certainly be better for it.
You cannot blame Seattle fans for still being a little angry and directing their anger at the team. They have no one else to vent their frustrations at. One thing is clear though, Seattle fans do indeed remember what happened. And while the rest of the league continues to coronate the young Thunder, Seattle fans can only stew over what could have been — and maybe should have been — their parade deep into the Playoffs.
Photos via DayLife.com.