Gone, But Unforgettable

The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't the Seattle SuperSonics, for better or for worse.
Share |
This t-shirt no longer available because the NBA is just like that.

Image via Skreened.com

As the seconds ticked away, the dread slowly seeped in. The Thunder were going to win the Western Conference Finals. Really, it felt a fait accompli early in the third quarter when OKC erased an 18-point deficit with stunning ease. During the time between that surge and the final round of mid-court high-fives and trophy dandling, my Twitter feed started filling up with disbelief from fellow Seattleites. San Antonio’s three-pointers rimmed out and fell short, despite my best psychic efforts. Kendrick Perkins slammed home the points that sealed it; Kevin Durant hugged his parents with 14 seconds still on the clock. I looked down at my phone and saw I had an email from a friend, someone not prone to profanity. It read, in its entirety, “FUCK.”

There are a lot of people in Seattle who feel that this is their Western Conference title, something stolen from them as surely as was the team that won it. As someone who lived and died with, and later worked for, the Seattle SuperSonics, I understand this impulse to think that they should be the ones celebrating and Oklahomans should be waiting patiently for college football to start; we had earned this, that they hadn’t. Many of these Seattleites are, in fact, probably thinking much nastier thoughts than those about Oklahomans, and maybe in weaker moments blurting them out in bars or from couches or on the social networking platforms of their choice. However, as bitter and terrible as I felt watching Clay Bennett lift the trophy that night—does it make me a bad person that I noticed he’s got fatter, or that noticing it made me happy?—I had to remind myself that this is not the Sonics, this is not our team, this is not our trophy.

***

This Thunder franchise is, spiritually and philosophically, a spawn of the Spurs much more than it is a Sonics team in podunk exile. Clay Bennett’s entrée into sports ownership was his stake in San Antonio in the ‘90s. And when he took over the Sonics, he looked to an R.C. Buford protégé to construct his franchise. When Presti emerged from his lair on the night of the clinch to gather his riches, he wasn’t just passing his mentor and bringing some hardware to OKC, although he did do all that.

Bennett also reminded fans that without him, this wouldn’t have been possible. Which means that without Bennett, there might be no Thunder, but there would also be no Sam Presti. Sonics fans might still have their team, but that team would not be this one. It would be one consisting of Kevin Durant and whatever stiffs and terrified Euro-bigs and other misshapes and humps that Wally Walker plugged in around Durant.

I said as much on Twitter that night and some people disagreed. They said this wasn’t about Presti, it was about Durant and Presti just lucked into it. Very true, in much the same way Pop and Buford lucked into the No. 1 pick that landed them Tim Duncan. Championship teams, by and large, need generational players, which means that franchises aspiring to win championships require either some serious draft-night luck or a geographic location where the average temperature is above 72 degrees and there are beaches nearby. But LeBron and Cleveland taught us that a generational player alone isn’t enough.

Presti could have stitched together a 45-50 win team with Durant and Ray Allen. But he knew that having the 10th pick in the draft is to have not very much, and to be someplace like nowhere. It’s reductive, but not untrue, to write that teams looking to build a champion in a small market must be willing to suck and hope he ping-pong balls bouncing in their favor. Presti, to his credit, had the guts to trade Allen as his first move. He passed on re-signing Rashard Lewis (who I think old Sonics ownership would have signed) and then got a trade exemption out of it. He drafted James Harden with the third pick when many commentators thought he should have taken Stephen Curry. He wasn’t too proud to cut bait with one of his first draft picks, Jeff Green. He traded him to the Celtics for the guy whose dunk sealed the Thunder’s Western Conference championship.

And so on, and on it went one savvy and resolutely grown-up decision after another, and the team got better and better. The Thunder did all this faster than a lot of franchises, but they did familiar things. Things that, if I’m being honest, would most likely not have been done if Schultz and Walker were still running the team, if only because they were things neither ever showed any tendency or inclination towards doing during their time at the helm.

So OKC fans got to feel what I felt when the Sonics beat the Jazz back in ’96 to claim the West and I can’t begrudge them their happiness. Certainly, I’ve tried. But what did they do wrong? Sure, there were a few loudmouths who were horrible asses about the move, who didn’t think about or try to understand what had happened in Seattle before they opened their loud mouths, the better to let some ignorant-ass anti-Seattle bile escape. But, also, we were calling them inbred, backwater hicks; they had a reason to be upset. We shouldn’t have said that shit, because it’s unfair and unkind, because it made us look petty and because it was petty. All OKC fans ever did was pack their building when Hurricane Katrina made the New Orleans Hornets the OKC Hornets. They brought so much enthusiasm that the NBA had to look long and hard at bringing a franchise to that particular smaller market. As far as I know, they didn’t have to be told to “fan up” and to get in their seats at a reasonable time to spare themselves embarrassment. They embraced this team even when P.J. Carlesimo was the coach. Think about that.

So when I sat there and watched the team and the coach and the owner celebrate, something weird happened. After Clay mercifully shuffled his hammy girth out of the frame and the camera focused in on Durant talking about the team, I smiled. I caught myself and wondered why. It’s because I LIKE this team. Not the owners (let’s not even get into Aubrey McClendon’s questionable character) or the league that disingenously fast-tracked their move out of Seattle, but the guys themselves, the ones who are endlessly endearing and brilliantly fun to watch. The bitterness is difficult to stave off, though. The rational part of my brain tells me that in different circumstances I wouldn’t be celebrating a Seattle win at that moment. The emotional part of me just wishes that we Seattleites had the chance to experience it—in our town, and at a distance closer than arm’s length.


Share |

Comments

I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained. cheat girlfriend

I think this is a standout amongst the most critical data for me. What's more, i'm happy perusing your article. Be that as it may, ought to comment on some broad things, The site style is flawless, the articles is truly awesome : D. Great job, here's to you online-kreditvergleich24.de

excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here. blog comments backlinks

Outstanding blog you guys have preserved there, I totally valuate the effort. Lee Escobar Reviews

I beyond dubiety revalue your articles and blogs 0800 lines

The material and aggregation is excellent and telltale as comfortably. pokies games

I would certainly commit 10 on 10 for such incredible cognition. Site

Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up! high trust flow

i was simply skimming along and happened upon your web journal. simply needed to say great web journal and this article truly helped me. How to Lose Belly Fat in 3 Days

Thanks so much with this fantastic new web site. I’m very fired up to show it to anyone. It makes me so satisfied your vast understanding and wisdom have a new channel . Jarabacoa

It’s really such nice information to get advantage from.
multiple url

Howdy, I discover perusing this article a delight. It is to a great degree supportive and fascinating and all that much anticipating perusing a greater amount of your work.. https://www.stylewe.com/designer/annakiki-306

The content on your website never confuses me http://cookiejamtool.com

Your place is for sure couturier bookmarking. click to site

Enormous blog you individuals have made there, I entirely appreciate the work.

Anorexia

I have learnt various good stuff right here, and I’m sure everyone will get advantage of it.
opulence for life bonus

I have learnt various good stuff right here, and I’m sure everyone will get advantage of it.
opulence for life bonus

Thanks for Nice and Informative Post. This article is really contains lot more information about This Topic Citation Flow

It is rather very good, nevertheless glance at the data with this handle. Emotional Hook Formula

Thanks meant for sharing this type of satisfying opinion, written piece is fastidious, that’s why I’ve read it completely.

opulence for life

Outstanding blog you guys have preserved there, I totally valuate the effort. cccam server

I would but say to you all "impressive information" http://www.mikrowelle-tests.info

Thanks for compiling such nicest information in your blogs. Articles are very informative and hope again I’ll find more like that.
http://www.theopulenceforlife.com/bonus

I can set up my new thought from this post. It gives inside and out data. A debt of gratitude is in order for this profitable data for all,.. Tom Sirois

This is a decent post. This post gives really quality data. I'm certainly going to investigate it. Truly extremely helpful tips are given here. Much thanks to you to such an extent. Keep up the acts of kindness. Robert Colangelo

This post is really valuable that designed for the new visitors. Pleasing work, keep on writing.push button influence reviews

I think this is a charming issue, I expect you would surely post on it again sometime near the future. Thanks guys!
http://virtualceolifestylebonuses.com/reviews/

Wonderful article, thanks for putting this together! This is obviously one great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here. High PA Backlinks

It is very nice blog. You are the best one due to your blog. It contains very useful and interesting information. Thank you so much for sharing and please share some more informative posts. clicking here

I consider this the finest blog I have read all this hour. agen taruhan bola

I sent your articles links to all my contacts and they all adore it including me.http://www.carinsurancerates.com

It is very nice blog. You are the best one due to your blog. It contains very useful and interesting information. Thank you so much for sharing and please share some more informative posts. home page

Much obliged such a great amount for this data. I need to tell you I agree on a few of the focuses you make here and others may require some further audit, however I can see your perspective. decorative concrete floors

Thanks for compiling such nicest information in your blogs. Articles are very informative and hope again I’ll find more like that.
discount car insurance

Very useful post. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. Really its great article. Keep it up. best probiotic yogurt

Much obliged such a great amount for this data. I need to tell you I agree on a few of the focuses you make here and others may require some further audit, however I can see your perspective. domino qiu qiu

I would be exceptionally appreciative in the event that you proceed with quality what you are serving at this moment with your blog. probiotics that help you lose weight

I utterly attitude and revalue your bushel on each and every target. We Love Dollhouses

Your site and show the kids check out up here generally. I m fairly positive there likely to be informed a great deal of new stuff here than anyone. activated charcoal for odor absorption

I think this is a really good article. You make this information interesting and engaging. You give readers a lot to think about and I appreciate that kind of writing best nerf guns

Every week-end I used to pay a fast visit this site, because I’d like enjoyment, because this web site conations certainly fussy material Bus From Miami To Key West

I have got the superb information from these blogs finally.Virtual CEO lifestyle reviews

These are actually wonderful some ideas in the blog. You have touched good quality points here. In whatever way continue writing. shoe spray odor

Way cool some valid points! I am grateful for you making this post on hand; the rest of this website is also first-class. Have a great fun.
the quantum success coaching academy

I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. Really its great article.
resource

Well, I have got the best information from here the site is fully stuffed with the knowledgeable information. www.easyonlinepaydayloan.com

Hi buddy! This post is written quite better! Reading throughout this post reminds me of my best friend! I would forward this post to him.
payday lenders

I was looking for something like this…I found it quiet interesting, hopefully you will keep posting such blogs
best alarm systems

I'm gladsome to mature so more serviceable and informative assemblage on your website. new england patriots t-shirt

I was looking for something like this…I found it quiet interesting, hopefully you will keep posting such blogs….Keep sharing. home page