One writer is very satisfied with the outcome of this year’s NBA Finals. Here’s why.
by Dave Zirin | @edgeofsports
The Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t win the 2012 NBA Championship, and that is something every sports fan should celebrate. I’m not saying this because I dislike their team. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have bionic hearts and if I could grow an urban Amish beard like James Harden, I’d strongly consider it. If you aren’t enraptured by the Thunder’s style of play then I don’t understand why you’d ever watch an NBA game.
This isn’t about the players. It’s about the franchise. The Thunder’s origin story will always be the tale of a stolen team, ripped from the city of Seattle. It was the Seattle Supersonics that took a division champion led by Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis and tore it down in a rebuilding effort that led to their current incarnation. It was Seattle’s general manager Sam Presti who drafted Durant, Westbrook, Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka to play in the Emerald City. And it was the city of Seattle who had their Slick Watts-lovin’ hearts broken when owner and Oklahoma City Captain of Industry, Clay Bennett, in collusion with David Stern, moved the team to OKC in 2008. All because Seattle’s citizens didn’t want to hand Bennett a $300 million check to build a new stadium.
What Bennett, Presti and Durant have done in four years has been a remarkable accomplishment. They were pioneers, creating a new brand in a new city, motored by the enthusiasm of a new fan base. Their success is also remarkably tempting to every owner threatening to move on to greener pastures, rich with the promise of tax-payer subsidies. I guarantee that if Oklahoma City had won it all, Zygi Wilf, the owner of the Vikings, would have used their championship as a tool in his efforts to justify fleeing the Twin Cities. He’d say, “I don’t need Minnesota. I don’t even need the Vikings name. Moving your team means a championship.”
We would have heard similar sentiments from the Maloof brothers desperate to move the Kings out of Sacramento, and the Spanos family, owners of the San Diego Chargers, looking longingly at Los Angeles. Every fan in these cities and more would have suffered. For this reason, I’m glad that the team stolen from Seattle didn’t get to raise the trophy. Let the other owners eager to flee their hometowns in the dead of night know that it’s just not that easy.
I’m also glad because the people of Seattle—one of the great hoops cities in the country—deserve the relief of not seeing the team that was theirs hoist a title banner.
I remember a friend of mine, Jesse, born and raised in Seattle and now a history teacher Garfield High—alma mater of Brandon Roy—say to me in 2008, “The pain is real. My wife’s stomach is larger than an NBA regulation ball and we are expecting our first kid any day—which makes Seattle’s loss of the Sonics weigh heavier than when the news was originally announced. The SuperSonics, as they were known in the glory days, were part of a maturation process—both stimulating and stunting my intellectual growth—that I won’t be able to share with my child.”
Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon, along with their minority partners, decided that the team wasn’t Jesse’s to share. That child is now a badass 4-year-old named Miles. He has an autographed poster in his room of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the black-gloved track stars who raised their fists at the 1968 Olympics. I’m glad that this is the sports tradition Miles will always know: it’s one that stands against the greed, the lies and the deceit that mark the birth of the Thunder. The OKC players are as classy as they come. The OKC fans are some of the best in the league. But the OKC ownership deserved to lose and we are all better for it. Until Seattle gets a team of their own, I hope Clay Bennett always looks as crestfallen as he did when the Heat celebrated at halfcourt and the Thunder were unquestioned losers in the 2012 NBA Finals.