Now that the season is over and free agency has begun, it seems that the biggest story of the NBA off-season so far is Elton Brand and his betrayal.  I know you are all waiting for my opinion on the NBA draft and free-agency so far, but I’m going to wait to discuss that.  However, a story, that in my opinion that has not gotten enough coverage is not just a sports story, but the story of how a city, an ownership group, and the NBA has ripped off the fans of Seattle.  To better tell this story, I asked a friend of mine from Seattle to write down some feelings:

“July 2, 2008 brought closure and heartbreak. The NBA franchise formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics and the City of Seattle reached a buyout settlement of $45 million on the final two years of the team’s lease contract at Key Arena. This stunning move ended a two year long saga and struggle between the two parties. This period of uncertainty, initiated by the sale of the team by Starbucks owner Howard Schultz to Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett in 2006, finally ended with the Sonics seeing a sad end to their professional basketball history as the team officially completed its relocation to Oklahoma City.

Bennett’s intentions were clear when he purchased the team just two short years ago, and the way the situation was handled leaves a Seattle sports enthusiast like myself genuinely sickened. Now I have a been a hard-core Sonics fan ever since I moved to Seattle in 1994 and I’ve never had any other professional basketball team to cheer for.  To me, the Sonics were the one. It pains me to read articles about the move and all the good that has come from it. How can anyone in the city of Seattle, outside of those in the politics, who are in it for the money and seemed to have devalued loyalty, benefit from such a move? The team that I have dedicated so much of my time going to games and cheering loudly for was swept away by a big shot owner whose blatant apathy towards the fans and established basketball tradition of Seattle represents the sad reality of the business end of pro sports: People are in it for the money. Bennett felt that the Sonics would lose an estimated 60 million over the next 2 seasons if they stayed in Key Arena, and tried to convince the public that this was an absolute last resort move. A man from Oklahoma City buys the team and says he will keep it in Seattle, only if he can net large sums of money. Anyone who buys that has lost the ability to process information logically.  It was a win-win situation for the apparently shrewd businessman Clay Bennett, and it looks as though he has certainly won.

The promise of a new team and subsequent financial penalty to Bennett if a team, either from expansion or relocation, is not brought to Seattle by 2013 does little to suppress the pain from a loss like this. The city may take some of the money back, but Bennett has already stripped the city and loyal sports fans of, among other things, its basketball pride and its lone men’s sports world championship. (Yes, the Supes won the NBA Finals in 1979 and no; the Seahawks and Mariners have never won a championship in their respective sports). I may not have been there to watch you capture this title, but I was intently watching in 1996, at the tender age of 7, when the Sonics almost blew a 3-1 series lead over the Utah Jazz in the conference finals, then squeezed out a four point win in game 7 to reach the NBA finals for the first time since 1979. I loved that group of players; they were my heroes. “The Glove” Gary Payton, “The Reign Man” Shawn Kemp and “Mr. Sonic” Nate McMillan. To me and all other Sonics fans, that magical ride to the Finals showed just how much the Sonics meant to us. Unfortunately, the Sonics were simply outmatched that year by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals, who were working on their fourth championship in six years, finishing off a season where they set the NBA wins record and had the best player of his era and perhaps of all time, Michael Jordan. I cried when I saw the final seconds tick away of your magical march to the top.

 Bennett’s futile “attempt” (if we can even call it that) to keep the team was unrealistic and destined to fail from the start. Several requests by Bennett and co-owner Aubrey McClendon for local and state governments to fund a $500 million arena complex in Renton, Washington, a city hardly capable of housing such a metropolitan and people-attracting establishment. After their requests expectedly failed, Bennett began his determined mission to relocate to Oklahoma City. Approval from the NBA and its owners was needed, and David Stern and the rest of the NBA owners, minus Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban who voted against it, agreed that this was the right move for the NBA. The final move necessary to move the team came on July 2, 2008, and Bennett’s famous quote “We made it” angers me the more I hear it.

This series of negative events leading up to the relocation leaves a black mark on all of the memories of the Sonics that I have. Clay Bennett should hold all the guilt in the world to the sports fans of Seattle, like he owes us all something in return. The NBA team of Oklahoma City does not yet have a name, but if you were to ask me, I would suggest the Oklahoma City Criminals.”

 

…It truly is pathetic.

 

BEARD

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