Friday, April 15, 2011
I still miss my Sonics
The stage was all set this year for the Sonics as they have just won the Northwest Division title. The Sonics feature a young team that is poised to win some titles especially after the Kendrick Perkins trade. The Sonics feature Kevin Durant who was the youngest scoring champion last year and led the league in scoring once again. The Sonics will face a familiar face in George Karl whose division rival Denver Nuggets will face off with the Sonics. The Sonics have given us a nice distraction from the Mariners terrible start, NFL lock out and the Huskies disappointing season. Then all of a sudden I woke up from my dream or am I leaving reality to a nightmare right now? Our team was stolen three years ago in July yet the pain still exists for me. This still feels like some sort of nightmare and at any moment I'll join reality where the Sonics featuring Kevin Durant are hoisting the championship trophy. In this following post I'll talk about my memories of the Sonics growing up and the pain I feel now. I won't talk about who is at fault because we all know who is(Schultz, Bennett,Stern and Nickels). So hope you enjoy this following post how the city of Seattle still misses their team.
Growing up in Southwest Washington there was a divide in our area between Seattle SuperSonics fans and Portland Trail Blazers fans. You see where I grew up we are only 50 miles from Portland but Seattle is the home state team. I was a Sonics fan my very first sports team I got into and my very first sporting event I went to was a Sonics game. It also helped that the Sonics growing up in the 1990's were the best team in the northwest which as a kid matters quite a bit. The first year I got into the Sonics was my second grade year when the Sonics had the best record in the entire NBA going 63-19. My dad bought me a Sonics shirt for the playoff ride as this was the year Seattle was going to win their first title since 1979. Well after being up two games to none the Sonics lost both games in Denver to force a game five. I remember at no point did my dad think the Sonics would lose the series. He was complaining how going five games will tire us out down the stretch. I still remember that game as the Sonics were bailed out by a Kendall Gill tip in to force overtime. The Sonics would ultimately become the first team to ever lose in the first round of the playoffs as the #1 seed. The NBA was forbidden in my house for the rest of the playoffs so unless I was at my grandparents house I missed most of that playoffs(I did see the O.J. car chase though).
The following year in third grade is when I really got into the Sonics. For those who went to Mint Valley Elementry school with me can testify I wore Sonics clothes every single day. I even bought a shirt with the schedule on the back. That year is when I went to my first Sonics game ever which took place at the Tacoma Dome that year. We lost to the Spurs by three points as David Robinson had a big game(he would win the MVP that year). I don't remember much from the game other than the Sonics had 37 rebounds as a team and Dennis Rodman had 27 rebounds by himself. I also remember Sam Perkins signing autographs for a bunch of fans at halftime. I also bought a Shawn Kemp home jersey at the game. That christmas I got a brand new Sonics starter jacket which was the best gift I could have got plus I still have that jacket. When the day comes I'll have my son wear that jacket to still represent the Sonics. That year once again the Sonics would lose in the first round to the Los Angeles Lakers which saw them lose three straight heartbreakers. Most people thought George Karl was going to be fired. I'll never forget Karl in the postgame press conference crying pleading to the public to forgive him and keep his job. The Sonics would keep Karl and be rewarded.
In my fourth grade year was probably the best sports year of my life to date. The year began with the Seattle Mariners miracle 1995 run which alone would make for a great year. Then Washington Huskies football won a share of the Pac-10 title and the basketball team surprised everyone and made the NIT. The Seahawks had their first non losing season since 1990 as well going 8-8 and even had a shot at the playoffs that season. Still my first love the Sonics were having a great season. Overshadowed by the Chicago Bulls 72-10 season the Sonics had the best record in the Western Conference and once again were the #1 seed. The Sonics won game one without my favorite player Shawn Kemp who was suspended as they defeated the Sacramento Kings in game one behind Gary Payton. Then Kemp returned in game two only for the Kings to upset the Sonics at Key Arena where they had lost just three times all year. I was so down I remember being so upset I took down my Kemp posters. I was thinking not again not another first round choke job. Then in game three down in Sacramento the Sonics found themselves trailing by double digits I had a sick feeling in my stomach at that point. I remember the Sonics came back led by Frank Brickowski of all people drilling some three pointers. The Sonics would clinch in game four and finally win a playoff series. The Sonics would then sweep the two time defending champions Houston Rockets(had gone 12-0 against them previous two years). Then the Sonics blew out the Jazz in game one and in game two the Sonics rallied behind a great Shawn Kemp dunk. The Sonics would then rally game four to take a three games to one lead. Then the Sonics lost game five at home in overtime then were blown out in game six forcing a game seven. The Sonics won that game seven and due to the Bulls being so dominant that felt like a championship. I celebrated with my dad and was so excited. I went to school that monday wearing my Payton jersey and was so pumped up about the win. Then the Sonics were down 3-0 to the Bulls rallied to win the final two at home before losing in the finals. Then that offseason destroyed basketball in Seattle.
That offseason the Sonics felt they had to get a big man. The Sonics lost to the Bulls mainly because they were dominated inside by Luc Longley and Dennis Rodman. The Lakers had just signed Shaquille O'Neal as well so the Sonics counter by signing Jim McIlvaine. That single move destroyed the Sonics mini run they had going. The Sonics would once again win the Pacific Division on the last day of the season as the Portland Trail Blazers upset the Lakers. The Sonics would defeat the Phoenix Suns in five games but would lose to the Houston Rockets in seven games in the second round. After the game Shawn Kemp said he had played his last game as a Sonic. Kemp was unhappy with his contract and how McIlvaine was making more money than he was. Kemp would be traded in a blockbuster deal that brought in Vin Baker. That 1997-98 year saw the Sonics win their fourth division title in five years. George Karl became just the third coach in NBA history to win 55+ games with the same team for six straight years. I went to a game that year at Key Arena where the Sonics won their 55th game that is when I bought my Vin Baker jersey. After another playoff loss to the Lakers in the second round Karl was fired. The Sonics in his six seasons won 55+ games, won four division titles, went to two western conference finals and one NBA finals. The Sonics just weren't the same after that. At the time I was spoiled I was so mad at the Sonics for once again breaking my heart in the playoffs that I figured that was normal to make the playoffs every single year as a high seed. I would quickly find out those were my peak years as a fan.
After Karl was fired it was pretty hard being a Sonics fan. It was really tough for me who was spoiled by success that the Sonics started to struggle while the Blazers were enjoying their run. After four straight lackluster seasons which saw the Sonics bounced in the first round in five games twice the unthinkable happened. It was my junior year and I remember getting home from school and seeing on espn.com that Gary Payton had been traded. I wanted to like our new owner Howard Schultz but it was tough after trading away the franchises best player. The Sonics did bring back Ray Allen who was the best pure shooter in the game at the time and probably still is. Still growing up Payton and Kemp were my favorites and those two were officially gone. What made it even worse was the offseason where Payton signed with the hated Lakers. I liked Payton so much I also did the unthinkable I wanted the Lakers to win a title that year so Payton could win. The Sonics were becoming an afterthought as well since the Seahawks and Mariners had become good. The Sonics who once ruled the city of Seattle found themselves the third team on the pecking order.
I'll never forget my first year of college in Ellensburg, Washington at Central Washington University. I didn't know anyone at first so I watching the Huskies who went on to be the #1 seed in basketball which wasn't a surprise. The big surprise was the Sonics who were picked to finish last place. That Sonics team was my favorite individual sports team ever probably due to my age I could appreciate them more than my youth. This Sonics team came out of nowhere and had Mr.Sonic Nate McMillan coaching the team. The team featured Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis with the rest of the roster full of scrappy players. The Sonics won the first ever Northwest division title that year then were up two games to one against the Sacramento Kings heading into game four. I still remember the Sonics trailing by double figures then Ray Allen went off. Allen would score 45 points and when he hit the falling away three pointer to ice the game I remember freaking out. The Sonics would win a playoff series then face the heavy favorites the San Antonio Spurs. The Sonics down 2-0 came back home and won both games at home. Then in game six in a back and forth game the Sonics finally lost by a Tim Duncan buzzer beater. I was never more proud of a Seattle sports team than I was that team. Then a few months later Nate McMillan left to our rivals the Blazers which pissed me off. Then a year later doom hit Schultz sold the team to out of state owner Clay Bennett which had me worried.
After another disappointing season I remember the day the draft lottery happened. I was sitting in my college house with my two roommates as the Sonics landed the #2 pick we celebrated so much. I thought by landing Durant the Sonics were safe no way this team was moving. I remember my Blazers roommate rubbing it in that the Blazers had the #1 pick and Greg Oden. I was excited for the Sonics as Wally Walker was finally gone and Kevin Durant was coming to Seattle. The year ended with the Sonics having their worst season in franchise history but that was all right the team was young. Then in July the darkest day happened the Sonics were leaving to Oklahoma City. Our own damn city sold the team out and got nothing in return. The Sonics had two years left on their lease and Mayor Greg Nickels let the team leave. The worst part is not only did they leave they got to share the history which still to this day pisses me off! We lost our team, history and a great talent like Kevin Durant. Durant the only Seattle Supersonic ever to win rookie of the year by the way. No matter what Durant does remember he was drafted by Seattle and like our team was stolen from us.
Now because so many idiots got rich by being sell outs the fans are the ones who are left to suffer. The only professional championship that was won in anyone's lifetime is no longer in our city. The Sonics were the most successful franchise having won six division titles, reaching six Western Conference finals, reaching three NBA Finals and winning a World Championship. Our history is gone and so is the Sonics yet I get the impression I'm in the minority who is outraged by all this. Look how ESPN felt so "sympathic" to Cleveland for the Lebron James situation. What about Seattle who lost Durant and our team!!! Only Bill Simmons will bring up the Sonics situation while the rest of the media pretends nothing happened which makes me sad. I hate how casual fans or fans of other teams just expect Seattle fans including myself to just "move on". Makes me sick to my stomach when the Hijack City Zombie Sonics were in the playoffs last year and ESPN bragged up how great their fans were. I know their fans didn't do anything but when you have feelings for someone and see them with someone else you naturally don't like that person she is with. That is how I feel about Oklahoma City and I hope Durant leaves them in five years.
The Sonics leaving did so much damage to so many people. I take a look at myself for example. I always felt the Sonics were the big reason why my dad and I grew so close growing up. We always had the Sonics to talk about regardless of how good or crappy each of our days went. Huskies football dominated the discussions but that was just 12 games a year while the Sonics were 82 games plus playoffs. I remember going to games with my dad with the Sonics and how them winning/losing meant so much to us. I also remember years later in my college years calling my dad talking Sonics. I feel for kids growing up what are they going to do? The city of Seattle has produced so many great NBA players you have to wonder what the absence of an NBA team will do going forward. All I know is the Sonics built a great relationship between my dad and myself. Of course David Stern didn't think of that as he ripped my heart out of my soul.
In conclusion, I still miss my Sonics. I miss playoff basketball and I'd kill to see the Sonics get upset in the first round again. I'd take that over what we have now which is nothing. Instead the city of Seattle has a crappy baseball team to watch right now when we should be getting ready for the playoffs. This used to be my favorite time of the year the NBA playoffs as a kid where Key Arena would be rocking loud. Now I'm left wondering if we'll ever get a team back. Nobody seems to care far as the "important" people go. On Dave Niehaus day Costco had Howard Schultz do an autograph signing which didn't sit well with Sonicsgate Adam Brown who was removed for simply wearing a Sonics hat. Earlier that week the city council of Seattle named a day statewide Starbucks day. Now today the NBA named Clay Bennett head of the relocation committee. I feel as if people are intentionally trying to rub Seattle's faces in the crap that they took on us. I'm still heartbroken about the team being gone and still am in shock. I know it has been three years but it feels like it has been 10 years since we last had an NBA team. I wish nothing but bad things for the league as long as David Stern is running the show. I just want my team back. I still miss my Sonics and like most Sonics fans I sit at night watching old youtube clips of the Sonics. They can take our team and history but these jerks can't take away the memories. I saw Seattle clinch the western conference championship, my dad remembers when they won the title in 1979, I remember where I was when Shawn Kemp would throw down a monster dunk. Just remember that fans don't be afraid to openly miss the Sonics and if someone tells you to get over it tell those people to get bent. I just hope someday I can wake up from this nightmare and see Kevin Durant hoist that trophy for Seattle.