January 23, 2013
I wanted my team back.
I grew up a Seattle Supersonics fan. Some of my first memories of professional sporting events were Sonics games. The first pro athlete I met was Steve Scheffler, a “human victory cigar” for the Sonics in the early 90’s who, as the guy at the end of the bench, got to be the guy tasked with making appearances at various team camps around Washington State.
I didn’t care that he wasn’t a very good NBA player, or hardly ever played. He was a Sonic. I remember the wave of euphoria when the team battled Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the 1996 Finals.
And I remember the anger and sadness when the team was ripped away from Seattle in 2008 to become the Oklahoma City Thunder
When the Thunder reached the finals last year, I wasn’t happy that it was my old team. I only rooted for them to lose. And when they did my reaction was something like this:
Does it make me a horrible person to root for a team to fail, for a city to cry? Probably. But having part of your childhood torn away does strange things to people.
I’m sure there are good people in Oklahoma City, and I can understand the fans were not at fault. The city had done a great job of supporting the New Orleans Hornets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and by all rights deserved a pro basketball team.
But not my team.
Now, just a few years later I find myself in the same awkward position. I would love to see a team back in Seattle and a rivalry renewed between the Trail Blazers and the Sonics. But I can see the viewpoint of the Sacramento Kings fans, who are angry, hurt, and seeing part of their childhood ripped away.
I suppose I could console myself in the knowledge that at least Chris Hansen, the majority owner of the group purchasing the Kings and moving them to Seattle is doing this the “right” way. Unlike Clay Bennett, who purchased the Sonics promising to do everything he could to keep the team in Seattle, he has not hidden the fact he is buying the team to move it.
That doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better though. I would have preferred an expansion team in Seattle, but at the same time know that is not going to happen.
Just as Oklahoma City was before it, Seattle was a leverage point for NBA commissioner David Stern and the rest of the league owners.
It sat out there, a city without a team, but ready and willing to support one, looming as a threat to any city that did not give the league or a team owner exactly what it wanted.
Now they have it.
Despite Sacramento bending over backwards to approve a new arena for the team, was not enough for the Maloof family which owns the team.
In an ideal world, as the Kings move to Sacramento to once again become the Sonics, Sacramento would get its own expansion team.
But I know that is not likely to happen either. The NBA already has too many teams. Failing franchises are already in place in Memphis, New Orleans, Atlanta and Charlotte and in a failing city in Detroit.
The last time the league went with the move a team and give the scorned city an expansion team route, they wound up with a failing team in New Orleans and an expansion team in Charlotte which has failed to generate any momentum in eight years.
So in all likelihood, in a few years Sacramento fans will feel the same way Oklahoma City fans felt in 2008, and Seattle fans do know: Like they are going to need a shower before they feel like they can root for their new team.