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Friday, January 31st, 2014 at 10:57 am  |  20 responses

Nevermind

Between Robinson Cano and the Seahawks, pro sports are thriving in Seattle. Too bad the city doesn’t have the basketball team it deserves.

kevin durant seattle supersonics

by Dave Zirin / @EdgeofSports

As I write this, the Seahawks are heading to the Super Bowl, with brash cornerback Richard Sherman’s name on everyone’s lips. As I write this, people are dancing in Seattle’s streets, in full fever over being at the center of the sports universe. As I write this, Kevin Durant is living the life of having the inside-track on the 2014 NBA MVP award, splashing shots from every angle and dropping threes like he is throwing oranges in a garbage dumpster. He is doing it for a team without their second best player in fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook. He is also doing it for a team with a name that sounds like it was ripped from a roller derby squad and in a city that by any conceivable metric should not be home to an NBA team.

Yes, all love to Oklahoma City for making it work and supporting the Thunder. But I’d love to see what the crowds look like once Durant has moved on to another team or retirement. This is a team that has become must-see television though the individual greatness of one 6-9 three-point god, who plays like an elastic Dirk Nowitzki with a mean streak. The power of Durant in 2014 forces me to wonder what the sports world would be like right now if Clay Bennett had never ripped the Sonics out of Seattle and dropped them in the heart of his wife’s family’s fortune in Oklahoma City. Imagine the Seahawks in the Super Bowl while Durant is making three-pointers look as easy as a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. I wish the Sonics were around right now so much that I’m walking around with a Slick Watts headband on in protest that the world is not how I want it to be.

Much has been written about the fact that Durant, a basketball ascetic, likes Oklahoma City because there are “no distractions” and he can just concentrate on playing ball. Another way to put this is that he likes Oklahoma City because it limits the possibilities for a 25-year-old with cash in hand to get into any in-season mischief. But the man and the city are a mismatch. Seattle fits KD like hand in glove. They would have been inseparable like Baltimore and Cal Ripken Jr. Durant himself said in 2010 after the move was made, “I miss Seattle a lot. It was my first city that I lived in on my own. It was a great city to play for. It was unfortunate for the fans what happened, but it’s time to move on. I’m sure they’ve moved on. But in the back of my mind, I still have a thing for Seattle and always am going to remember what they’ve done for me.”

Durant loved Seattle because, frankly, it’s lovable, with a hoop culture that is second to none. It is also a city, however, that is progressive enough that it refused to accede to the threats of Clay Bennett and David Stern. They would not hand over $300 million in tax money to finance a new arena. Schools were being closed because of underfunding, homelessness was on the rise, and for too many people in Sea-town, giving a billionaire a few hundred million more was an obscenity.

I spoke with Jesse Hagopian, a teacher in Seattle who led a nationally recognized boycott of the state’s standardized testing regime. He is currently running to be the youngest teacher’s union president in a major American city. Jesse said to me, “I grew up with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp and we miss the Sonics every day. The thought taking my own little kids to see the Durantula gives me chills just to think about it. But in Seattle we had just paid for a new baseball stadium and just paid for a new football stadium. We were sick and tired of being held up when there were so many needs across the city. I personally wish the state had just taken over the team like the Packers. Maybe next time….”

In 2014, the sports world should have belonged to Seattle and it does not. Now as the NBA Commissioner begins his slow stroll toward retirement and the tributes begin, we should never forget that the absence of Durant in a Sonics uniform will always be the most shameful part of the Stern legacy.

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  • LakeShow

    I’ve changed my mind over the years. Seattleites don’t “deserve” this team.

    Seattle is as fair-weather a city as there is.

    Just a few years ago, my friend was calling the Sea-Hawks the “Sea-Chickens”… Now all the sudden he ‘IS’ the 12th man!

    What?!

    They only care about football now, because they are winning. As soon as the wins aren’t there, the noise will die… and the Sea Hawks too will leave.

    There was so little support for the Sonics overall in their waning years. A small passionate fan base doesn’t count. Now all the sudden they deserve them?

    No.

    Oklahoma City deserves them. Seattle needs to garner a fan base that will support their team through thick and thin.

  • shad206

    Way to base an entire fanbase on one fan………*clap* *clap*

  • Brian_206

    That us factually wrong! Look at attendance and seat capacity percentages the last 5 years the Sonics were in Seattle. They were top 3 in the NBA until the very last season when it was imminent that Bennett was going to move the team and fans did not want to support an owner that was taking their team away. You are just plain wrong in your statement on all accounts.

  • LakeShow

    Link please.

  • Brian_206

    Here you go. Key arena sat just over 17,000

    http://www.databasebasketball.com/teams/teamatt.htm?tm=SEA&lg=NFree

  • CG83
  • LakeShow

    You’re wrong.

    From 2004-2007 their average attendance was: 16,209

    The Cav’s averaged 19,000 over that time.

    The Bulls averaged 21,000

    Celtics averaged 16,450

    Dallas Mav’s 20,100

    Nuggets 17,500

    Pistons 22,000

    Warriors 18,000

    Rockets 16,500

    Clippers 17,000

    Lakers 18,800

    I’m getting tired of compiling these though.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    this should help your case, (although i vehemently disagree …. Seattle needs a basketball team dammit) http://www.sactownroyalty.com/2013/1/23/3904630/video-illustrates-fan-support-by-way-of-attendance-sacramento-vs

  • LakeShow

    I certainly wasn’t saying they are undeserving to ever have a team. I just think OKC deserved the ball team very much. (I friggin hate myself right now)

    It still kills me EVERY day that the Sonics are the Thunder, BUT… If Seattle truly deserved the team more they would have gotten to keep them. Same as why the Kings stayed in SAC-TO, they were wanted more than they were in Seattle. There was a small passionate fan base in Seattle, but the overwhelming reports were that the majority didn’t want to in any way subsidize a basketball team.

  • Brian_206

    You are looking at total attendance. Different arenas hold different numbers. For example, the United Center in Chicago holds over 23,000. Again Key Arena only sat just over 17,000.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    the Sonics weren’t selling out. And their arena was already smaller than their competitors. They weren’t “top 3″ in attendance by any measure that matters.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    whether Oklahoma City deserves the team that they have is irrelevant to me. They didn’t deserve Seattle’s team. They didn’t deserve Seattle’s superstar. Clay Bennett moved that team because it benefited him, not because one fan base held superior to another.

  • Dfrance

    I know its probably the angle, but KD arm looks about the length of his whole body in that pic. lol

  • Micah Smith

    Stop it… just stop it. You sound so stupid right now it is ridiculous. #1 Seattle was a top 3 in percentage attendance the years before bennett purchased the team and began to drop when fans began to protest him as an owner in Seattle. #2 OKC might have deserved a basketball team except for this, before Durant and Westbrook turned into who they are today, when they were rookies and the thunder missed the playoffs, no one talked about the fans of the thunder. Just like LeBron and Michael Jordan, Durant attracts fans because of his play, there is no way the fans would be happy if they had a 35-47 team every year. and #3 and most importantly, the only reason that Sacramento stayed in Sacramento is David Stern, he vowed when Seattle moved that he would not allow another relocation during his regime. Chris Hansen offered more money, a better arena deal, and a bigger market, maybe you don’t understand how it works, but the larger the City a team is located, the more chance to make money. And as for the “less people in Seattle were interested” comment. 44,000 people signed up for a ticket hold at the new Sonics arena. 44,000! it would only seat half that! so to sit here and say that Seattle fans don’t care and that there’s no support to bring back the sonics and that OKC deserves our team?! BLASPHEMY

  • Brian_206

    Your facts are so wrong it is hardly worth further discussion. How bad the Sonics were “wanted” has absolutely nothing to do with why they left. Howard Schultz did not want to put any money into a new arena that he wanted because he was losing money on the Key Arena lease. A lease that was terribly written, but one that Schultz signed knowing full well. When he didn’t get his way, he sold the team to an out of state buyer who was dead set on moving the team to OKC. Bennett said if the city paid for 100% of a half billion dollar arena they would stay. Never going to happen and even if it did it was a lie based on emails sent by Bennett and his ownership group that flat out stated they never intended to keep the team in Seattle. The city of Seattle failed, King County failed, the state legislature failed, Howard Schultz failed and David Stern failed. It has absolutely nothing to do with fan support. That is the most incorrect argument there is out there and just proves ignorance. You know nothing about the situation, absolutely nothing. If you want the true story, I highly recommend the documentary “Sonicsgate” I believe it is on YouTube. Educate yourself before you make such ignorant comments.

  • Max

    It’s not the angle, it’s just KD!

  • Reedan Seven

    Amen!

  • Fat Lever

    I was a huge sonics fan back in early to mid 90′s, even all the way out here from Philly. GP was my favorite player growing up and I was the only kid in HS to proudly wear my GP and SK jerseys and my hideous looking green and yellow Sonics Starter pullover jacket.

    Seeing that pic of KD in a sonics jersey is like throwing salt in the wound of Seattle fans. All the progress that is credited to Stern, especially this weekend, should also merit the fact that he stole a team from an area that loved their team and loved basketball. Absolute disgrace on Stern’s part.

  • D tipp

    lol cry about it seattle. your tears are sooo delicious. (cartman voice)

  • LakeShow

    Yeah top 3 in the L in percentage of attendance in the smallest capacity arena in the L.

    And the tax payers said they would NOT subsidize in ANY WAY, a new arena.

    But yeah, I’m stupid…

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