In six years of writing for ESPN.com, this is the longest piece I've ever sent to my editors -- nearly 15,000 words of anguished e-mails from Sonics fans around the country. I spent the past 24 hours sifting through them and whittling them down the best I could. Don't print this baby out. Read it, skim through it, do whatever you need to do. But definitely check it out.
Here's why the Seattle situation should matter to everyone who cares about sports: After being part of the city for 41 years, the Sonics are being stolen away for dubious reasons while every NBA owner and executive allows it to happen, including David Stern, the guy who's supposed to be policing this stuff. I think it's reprehensible to watch someone hijack a franchise away from the people who cared about the team and loved it and nurtured it through the years. It belittles not just the good people of Seattle, but everyone who loves sports and believes it provides a unique and valuable connection for a city, a community, family members and friends.
Nobody has ever summed up being a sports fan better than the New Yorker's Roger Angell in his piece "Agincourt and After," in this passage about Carlton Fisk's famous home run in the 1975 World Series:
- It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look -- I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring -- caring deeply and passionately, really caring -- which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete -- the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball -- seems a small price to pay for such a gift.
That's what this Seattle thing is about. It's about caring, and joy, and memories, and what a franchise can and should mean to a city and a fan base. It's about the infantile and ignoble joy that causes people to drown out the PA announcer before Game 3 of the '96 Finals. It's also about naivete, for better and worse, and it's about greed and ego above everything else. I'm an innocent bystander with this whole thing, but still, I can't shake one simple point: How could David Stern allow a team that won a championship while he was working for the league to move? How could he claim to care about the league and let that happen? How could he allow one of the 30 NBA fan bases to be extorted? How is this OK?
The Bennett supporters argue that this "mess" is really about Seattle refusing to pay for a new arena, which would be fine except taxpayers helped pay to rebuild KeyArena back in 1995 -- and besides, why should citizens spend tax money paying for a new arena just to make a billionaire wealthier than he already is? If the precedent is set here -- Pay for my new arena or I'm leaving -- then really, the same thing could eventually happen to your favorite NBA team.
After All-Star Weekend, I wrote that David Stern's conviction to New Orleans would go down as his single finest moment. Well, if he allows the 1979 NBA champs to get stolen from Seattle by a longtime friend, that would go down as his single worst moment. Hands down. As for the collateral damage for fans of the Seattle Expiring Contracts, it's there and it continues to fester and build. More than 3,000 of them wrote in within 24 hours of me asking for their thoughts. We separated their e-mails into categories so unbiased observers can fully understand the impact that a potential Sonics move would have on the city.
This isn't a case that you can say, "You know, I kind of understand both sides here." There is only one side. An NBA team is getting hijacked and there's no way of sugarcoating it, defending it or justifying it. Again, if it happens to the Sonics, it could happen to your team.
That's why you should care.
Let's get to the e-mails. Thanks so much for everyone who took the time to write in.
Name: Craig Codlin
The five phases of losing an NBA franchise:
(1) Denial -- OK, maybe the team was just acquired by a group of people who are all from a minor league city who just leased an NBA franchise for awhile and now are desperate to get their own team? So what if these guys will be hometown heroes for life if they relocate the Sonics to Oklahoma? How on earth would the NBA allow such a move, given the successful history of this franchise and a lucrative Seattle market with a gazillion high-profile corporations? It'll never happen.
(2) Anger -- Now these SOBs want us to shell out tax money to pay for a new arena when we just paid nearly $200 million to renovate KeyArena a few years ago? Not to mention that the city is tapped out from the Qwest Field and Safeco Field stadium builds. Screw them! It's a bluff. Stern would never let them leave this town.
(3) Bargaining -- So what's a few hundred million dollars in the whole grand scheme of things? Can we get that stadium after all? Maybe in Bellevue? Or Everett? Come on guys. Work with us.
(4) Depression -- Thanks a bunch, commish, for working so hard to keep the team here. You really went to the mattresses for the loyal fan base in a top-tier market. I guess Seattle is nothing compared with such awesome markets as Sacramento and Oklahoma City. What's up next for you? A press conference in which you name the Dolan-era Knicks as a model of how a franchise should be operated? Screw the NBA. What? The Lakers are in town tonight? OK ... I'll go. But I won't enjoy it.
(5) Acceptance -- How much are season tickets to the new Major League Soccer team Drew Carey is bringing to town? I'll buy four seats."
City: San Jose, Calif.
As a lifetime Sonics fan living outside of Seattle, I've found that most people are having difficulty finding a way to express concern about the move. People try to say the standard, "Hey man, I heard about what happened, and I'm sorry things worked out that way," as though my wife just skipped town one day with a guy she met at a bar. But the problem is, it's not like that. It's more like my wife was kidnapped with no ransom notice. How do you deal with that? I can't think of a more disgusting situation in sports.
I've taken enough history classes to know that most actions are influenced by a struggle for power. In the case of the Sonics' relocation, the NBA owners are obviously going to side with Clay Bennett. They want to preserve their power to force cities to buy $500 million arenas for them. Sports franchises hold immense power over the communities they cater to. Look at Seattle; we gave Paul Allen and the Nintendo Corporation taxpayer dollars for two stadiums because we didn't want to lose teams we loved. Professional sports franchises will continue to exploit their hometowns until more cities like Seattle refuse to buy jerks like Clay Bennett stadiums.
I'm not saying this as someone who doesn't care about the Sonics and simply doesn't want to pay extra taxes to keep them here. I grew up watching Shawn Kemp catch oops from Gary Payton, and am one of only two people who went to Sonics HQ to protest the sale the day it happened. I love the Sonics with all my heart, but I've realized that pro sports have exerted unfair power for too long, and their greed is ruining the relationship between communities and the teams and games they love so much.
This reminds me of that scene in "The Lion King" where Nala is hunting Pumbaa and Simba recognizes her and Timon is baffled. "Whoa, whoa, timeout. Lemme get this straight, you know her, she knows you, but she wants to EAT him ... AND EVERYBODY'S OK WITH THIS??? DID I MISS SOMETHING?" Pumbaa is the Sonics, Nala is Clay Bennett, and Simba is Stern, and Timon is the small but passionate fan base trying to save the franchise and raise awareness. Only in this ending, Simba isn't going to save his friends. Pumbaa is going to get slaughtered and packaged and sent to Oklahoma.
Name: Justin Hjelm
We've been through this before, with the Mariners shopping for houses in Tampa and the Seahawks having trucks packed for LA in the mid-'90s, but this has taken it to a whole new level. Clay Bennett, with David Stern standing idly to the side, has completely demoralized a fantastic basketball town. This is a team that should create some excitement. The record is horrible, but we can watch Kevin Durant and Jeff Green on a nightly basis, and get excited for another top-5 pick next season, not to mention the other first-round picks we have coming out of our ears. There really isn't a good guy in the situation. The city and state governments have completely crapped the bed, and Bennett will never be welcome in Seattle again. In the end, as usual, it's the fans getting screwed. It is just amazing to me that the NBA would willfully exit the city of Seattle, especially as they attempt to expand into Asia, for Oklahoma City. The nonsensicalness is off the charts. Just thinking about the whole situation makes me more depressed than "There Will Be Blood."
City: New York
When the Sonics owners pretended they wanted to stay in Seattle, they forced some numbers indicating how awesome sports are for Seattle. Now that they are trying to leave, they are making the opposite argument, that Seattle wouldn't care if the Sonics left. (Their evidence? One politician that nobody likes) I used to be on my college's debate team, and in debate lingo, that's called a double turn. In real life, it's called lying.
What bothers me the most is how most columnists and commentators who know nothing about the financial history of the situation (which is inexcusable if they're going to cover professional sports) just assume it's natural to get public funding for any arena proposal and that any city who doesn't jump at the opportunity to pay for more money-making ventures for rich billionaires is automatically the one at fault. This is as shaky as the White House's "us vs. the world" logic -- you're either for the NBA or you're against it.
Look, Seattle has paid for NBA arenas in the past. In 1995, KeyArena opened and Stern called it a model arena. People quickly forget. Honestly, if the tables were turned, I wouldn't want Oklahoma City's team if it was stolen under these conditions. I don't think any decently-hearted NBA fan would want it.
Can someone please tell me how basketball teams in Charlotte and Memphis can underachieve and play like (expletive deleted) for their entire franchise careers and still have teams. Meanwhile, New Orleans can't draw 10,000 fans a game for a team on pace for 55 wins. And yet the SEATTLE SONICS are being forced to be moved? The SEATTLE SONICS, the team with an NBA championship, two other Finals appeareances, a future Hall of Famer, a 41-year fan base and a GREAT future (KD, Jeff Green, six first-round picks over the next three years) are being forced to move to OKC ... OKC!!!
Name: Steve Hamilton
Forty-one years. Our first professional team. Our only championship. And they want to take this away from us. Why? Can anybody give us a good reason? Is basketball failing here? Is the market the team is getting moved to so much larger or better? Nobody can give any good reason why this should happen except some crap about an arena. The sad thing is that the outcry over this is so muted. The Sonics owners have done a trememdous job of completely alienating the fan base. They got rid of every single person associated with the team that had any recognition with Seattle. Every player the fans liked, every executive with some history. Everyone. So now this is just a crappy team full of players we don't know. Why should we or why would we care? By the way, the real villain is Howard Schultz and his complete betrayal of every Sonics fan. Boycott Starbucks.
I had a business meeting with a member of the Seattle mayor's office early last year, and my company was offered office space in KeyArena once the Sonics left in a couple years. The mayor's office was already planning the facility's redevelopment as a non-sports-related venue. This was even before the team's management started talking to the Oklahoma City media about their plans to move the Sonics. It was clear from the meeting that the powers-that-be in Seattle government were already resigned to the Sonics leaving town. I'm not really a Sonics fan, but it was sad to hear nonetheless. I grew up in Buffalo and I remember when the Braves left town. It sucked.
If they do move, they better not even think about taking the name Sonics. I got a few ideas what they can call them instead:
OKC Lying Loudmouth Oil Tycoons
Here's to being stuck in Seattle the next two years, then having Kevin Durant bolt for New York.
Name: Erik P.
Up here in Seattle we feel like the only thing that is going to save us is a visit from Erin Brockovich. What David Stern is doing would be laughable if it wasn't so sad. You know that when Bennett was coming up with a number it would cost for a new arena he summoned Dr. Evil and put a pinky up to his mouth and said "one billion dollars" then one of his lackeys said that might be too much and he said, "Fine, make it half a billion dollars" The really sad thing is that I honestly thought that we could have a "Major League"-type season but unfortunately for us, Corbin Bernson is busy filming game shows and no one wants to peel off chunks of clothing to reveal a naked Clay Bennett.
City: Bellingham, Wash.
Name: Jon G.
I thought Seattle had reached the apex of the "soulless bastard sports owner" scale by the time Howard Schultz sold the Sonics like a spoiled punk kid who's already bored with his absurdly expensive Christmas present by New Years. But if our resident robber baron was good for an 8.5 on the "soulless bastard sports owner" scale, Clay Bennett checks in at a solid 314 ... the man is more evil than Vigo of the Carpathians (the scary guy in the painting that Bill Murray ribs incessantly in "Ghostbusters II"). To take the "Ghostbusters II" analogy further, David Stern is Janosz, the odd Eastern European museum curator who perversely aids and abbets Vigo's rise to prominence by helping him get a baby (ahem, new arena in OKC, cough cough).
The rage and sense of violation that this man hath wrought in Seattle cannot be accurately captured by words, only movie analogies. I'd rant further, but KeyArena is being enveloped by a wall of pink goo.
Name: John Young
Stern is trying to preserve the basis for the NBA's faulty revenue model by REQUIRING cities and counties to provide a facility in which to operate their business. Sports franchises are businesses, not charity cases. If every NBA team needs a handout from government to survive then the NBA has a faulty business model. It's un-American and it's insulting. Stern knows that if he caves in one city he'll have to cave in another. I think it's that arrogance that is most galling. Bennett's group was allowed to buy the Supes because Stern knows that Seattle has tapped out on publicly financed stadiums and we don't see much wrong with KeyArena as it is.
The problem with these debt-financed stadiums is that looking around the corner, nobody's going to want that debt: The bond insurers are looking bad enough to send jitters through the muni bond market. The interest rates on this kind of debt is climbing due to the increased risk resulting from shaky bond insurers. Any city or county willing to take on more debt to finance anything other than emergency aid is just going to kill themselves in the long run.
Name: Steve Montgomery
My "favorite" part of the Sonics debacle is when one of the new co-owners told the paper last summer that they bought the team to move them to Oklahoma City, even though Clay Bennett had said publicly many times that he hoped to keep the team in Seattle and was working on a proposal with the city so that the team would stay. I mean, talk about your hypocritical liars. You would think that, after David Stern worked on ridding the league of its image problem the players had over the last decade, he would expect the same standards of the owners too. As a side note, I've been a Sonics fan since I was 12, and this will kill the NBA for me.
Name: Phil Smail
Long story short -- I'm a Brit who ended up in Seattle because I love the city. I've only been here for four years and three years of that I've been a passionate Sonics fan. Ever since my friend took me to the playoff game versus the Spurs I was addicted.
I'm disgusted and surprised by the following:
• Howard Schultz for selling the team knowing they'd take them away.
• Bennett and his cronies for being such lying toe-rags.
• Stern for letting this whole mess happen in the first place. Oh, and for being Bennett's buddy (who turned up to add Bennett to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame?).
• Seattle Council for not doing enough to stop it happening.
If the Sonics leave, I will never watch another NBA game again.
There is absolutely nothing fishy about the relationship between Clay Bennett and David Stern; nothing suspicious at all. You probably won't believe me but I've heard some wild-eyed conspiracy theorists around here accuse them of collusion. Their crazy idea is that Bennett and Stern (buddies for years) made an agreement that went something like this: Bennett would buy the Sonics (with Stern's full support), make an insincere effort to force Seattle to build him an unnecessary arena, and then move the team to Oklahoma City (which, by the way, is the 45th-largest market in the country compared to Seattle, which is the 14th-largest and has supported the NBA for 41 years) while Stern stood idly by and/or made public statements in support of Bennett. As this brief chronology of quotes will clearly show, that is crazy talk:
July 18, 2006
Clay Bennett: "The No. 1 objective, our primary and sincere efforts, will be driven towards being successful here. ... It is not our intention to move or relocate the team. ... We fully intend to fulfill our obligation to KeyArena."
April 28, 2007
David Stern: "Seattle's not going anywhere."
Aug. 13, 2007
Aubrey McClendon (co-owner of Sonics): "We started to look around, and at that time, the Sonics were going through some ownership challenges in Seattle. So Clay, very artfully and skillfully, put himself in the middle of those discussions, and to the great amazement and surprise to everyone in Seattle, some rednecks from Oklahoma, which we've been called, made off with the team. ... We didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here."
Nov. 8, 2007
David Stern: "I'd love to find a way to keep the team there. Because if the team moves, there's not going to be another team there, not in any conceivable future plan that I could envision, and that would be too bad."
Nov. 8, 2007
David Stern (shortly before giving Clay Bennett's induction speech to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame): "I don't think it's a question of whether Clay put in the effort [in keeping the Sonics in Seattle], because I know he made the best intensive lobbying efforts to date."
Feb. 16, 2008
David Stern: "It's apparent to all who are watching that the Sonics are heading out of Seattle, I accept that inevitability at this point. There is no miracle here."
THE HISTORY OF THE SUPES
Spencer Haywood, Lenny Wilkens, "The Human Eraser" Marvin Webster, "Shake & Bake" Archie Clark, Jim Fox, Dennis Johnson, Lonnie Shelton, Paul Silas, "Downtown" Freddie Brown, Slick Watts, Jack Sikma, Gus Williams, Tom Chambers, Nate McMillan, Xavier McDaniel, Shawn Kemp, Sam Perkins, Gary Payton, Ray Allen ... this sucks.
City: Tacoma, Wash.
Name: Doug Enfield
When I was 4 I was toddling around in a Jack Sikma T-shirt as they brought home the one and only Seattle pro sports championship. I could name all the players on that team! I remember watching the '87 conference finals with my dad and we knew the Supes were huge longshots against that Lakers team, but we felt like the NBA elite just to be in the conference finals with them. Then GP and Kemp rolled into town and the NBA was as fun as it gets. I spent hours as a teenager lowering the rim in the driveway throwing alley-oops to my buddies. Before the '93-'94 season, Jordan retired. The Sonics finish the season with a NBA-best 63 wins. Of course, that led to Seattle fans having to look at Mutombo clutching the basketball and crying during the opening of "NBA on NBC" for the next eight years. This town absolutely bled green when we beat the Utah Jazz in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals in '96 and it was my first big party as a freshly minted 21-year-old. These moments are not just a history of a great franchise. This is my life. They are part of who I am. How can I not be that person? How do I reconcile that part of me that hears the great Bob Blackburn in my dreams?
Forty-one years ago, the NBA came to Seattle and asked us to invest ourselves in a basketball team. We did. Now that same NBA is saying the 41-year investment meant nothing.
It meant something to me.
Name: Porter S.
I am 22 years old and grew up (much like you) in the heyday of the local basketball team, the Seattle Supersonics. I grew up with Gary Payton and his ridiculous Fresh Prince flattop in the early '90s. Shawn Kemp dunking on anyone and everyone (check out top-10 Shawn Kemp dunks on YouTube). Big Smooth always looking stoned and refusing to jump on his jump shots, but inexplicably making most of them. Detlef imitating Dirk before anyone knew who Dirk was. Mac 10 providing the spark off the bench with gritty D and timely threes. And do not forget about the heart and soul of the team ... Steve 'The Chef' Scheffler, who was an 11 out of 10 on the Bill Simmons Unintentional Comedy Scale. If you were at the Key for any of those playoff games in the mid-'90s, you would understand that Seattle is a basketball town. You think the 12th man at Seahawks games are loud? Try listening to the KeyArena crowd when Karl Malone was at the stripe in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals.
PLEASE tell me why this city should get its team ripped from them? You can't hear the announcer over the cheering ... and the game hasn't STARTED.
City: Los Angeles
I tried to watch Shawn Kemp's top 10 plays on YouTube the other day without crying. Wasn't gonna happen.
City: Woodinville, Wash.
Name: Brian Van Buren
The Sonics moving from Seattle to Oklahoma City ... it's like trading Pau Gasol for Kwame, only the NBA is the Grizzlies. Oh wait, did I say "moving"? Sorry, I meant to say "being torn out of." In fact, whenever you mention this disgusting situation, say "Sonics torn out of Seattle" as opposed to "Sonics moving to Oklahoma City." That is what it feels like for Sonic fans, so call it what it is. I mean, my first sports memory was attending the Sonics championship parade when I was 6. Twenty-eight years of supporting a team, having season tickets for four years including one in the Tacoma Dome, attending some 200-odd games in my life and watching thousands on TV, hanging my Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton jerseys on the wall in homage after their trades, enduring the 1994 playoff loss to Denver in person, losing my voice from screaming so loud at the '96 Finals, and this is what I get?
Name: Chris Hafner
My rabid fandom is a result of growing up with the Sonics. I was fortunate enough to have a great relationship with my dad when I was a teenager -- thanks, I think, to the fact that we were able to defuse the typical adolescent/parent awkwardness with our shared Sonics fandom. Even if we had nothing to talk about, we could go out and shoot hoops. He'd mimic Eddie Johnson's wacky release, while I would imitate Ricky Pierce's characteristic step-back jumper. Unfortunately, neither of us could really pull off Michael Cage's jheri curl. I would love to share Sonics games with my daughter in turn -- to, in effect, turn her into a lifelong NBA fan. For God's sake, I sent out Christmas cards with my infant daughter wearing a Sonics onesie. I really don't want to have to find and burn all of those cards.
Anyway, I digress. Sonics basketball was something I could share with my dad; it's something I could share with friends at school, and it's something I had in common with the random guy on the street wearing a Sonics jacket. These days, when we are all focused on our own insular lives, sucked into our iPods and personal blogs, good sports teams are one of those things that a whole community can rally around and share. I understand that the NBA is a business; but I think the league ignores this stuff at its peril. As Tony Soprano says, you don't s--- where you eat. Well, in blackmailing their fans for expensive new arenas in market after market, the NBA is doing exactly this. Nice long-term strategy, NBA.
If the Sonics leave, I have no idea what I'll do, but I'm guessing it will involve a dark room, melancholy music, bad poetry, and some incredibly self-abusive behavior. Worst of all, I might suddenly realize that there is a full, rich world outside the Sonics and NBA basketball. And -- this should be David Stern's worst nightmare -- I might not be alone in making that discovery.
Name: Mike N.
My favorite memory involving the Sonics is Game 5 of the 1996 Finals. I was so mad that I could not watch the game because my brother's high school graduation ceremony was at the same time. The ceremony was in a building about a mile or so from KeyArena. I remember when whoever was speaking that the Sonics won, the place erupted in cheer and the pounding of feet on the stands. When the ceremony got out an hour later the streets were filled with fans and cars cheering and honking. It took an hour to even drive out of the city limits but it was one of the best hours of my childhood. If David Stern thinks that Seattle isn't a basketball town, then he is wrong. The Sonics belong in Seattle. Believe me, if that day arrives when Bennett will try to take them from us, I and many other fans will be standing in front of those moving trucks.
As the center for St. Ambrose Catholic School in seventh grade (and the first player with Reebok pumps), I envisioned myself a young Tom Chambers and fell in love with the Sonics. The Kemp/Payton era arrived and I was hooked for life. Someday, I knew I'd get to Seattle for a game and combine it with a visit to the magical Starbucks factory where disgruntled college girls swim in caffeine-flavored rivers wearing only their barista aprons. Now, the dream is collapsing and I'll have to buy a cowboy hat and boots to see Kevin Durant in person. David Stern should be sitting with Elaine, George, Kramer and Jerry in jail for not preventing a horrible crime.
AFTER YEARS -- YEARS! -- of watching Wally Walker ruin our team, we finally get a high draft pick that could be something, and an architect in Sam Presti who is bringing our team out of mediocrity and laying out a plan for future success. We suffered through years of the Seahawks being terrible, and when we finally get a chance the refs decide the Super Bowl for us (not that we should have won the way we played, but holy hell that was egregious). Remember the Sonics losing to Denver? I do, painfully. And how about '96 Sonics being the best team in the NBA ... if it weren't for Jordan. Oh, and the Mariners are in the record books for 116 wins ... and a loss in the ALCS. We lost A-Rod, the Big Unit, Griffey, we've wasted Ichiro's prime. Need I say more? OK, the Steve Hutchinson deal. Jerramy Stevens. Washington Huskies, post-Don James. The Paul Westphal era of basketball. Jim McIlvaine! Drafting Sene, Robert Sick (I mean Swift), Johan Petro three years in a row with our No. 1 picks. Brian Bosworth. And now, now we finally have the basketball gods smile on us only to have them yank back the covers and reveal Kevin Durant's superstar career could potentially move to Oklahoma City? Are you KIDDING ME?
This is insane. We need a break, if the Sonics move, I am done with the NBA. Screw David Stern -- he wants to expand into Europe, keep floundering teams in their crappy markets, and steal a team with 41 years of rich basketball history from under some of the most passionate fans in the world who already have had pounds of heartbreak.
Name: Frank Pennylegion
I was 7 years old when the Seattle SuperSonics came to town. I remember crying when Bob Rule slipped in the old Coliseum and tore his ACL and was out for the season. I remember laughing as Lenny Wilkens raised the MVP trophy over his head in the All-Star Game (much like Tom Chambers did 20-odd years later). I marched up and down Broadway when the Sonics beat the Bullets and won the NBA title. Over the years I have run into a variety of players, coaches, journalists and team executives around the city, even meeting Charles Barkley the night I got engaged because he was out to dinner with his good friend George Karl. Old Sonics have made this place their home and now their kids area going to the area schools and we get to see them play again. We are a pretty civil and laid-back place and we all have enjoyed the diversity the NBA has brought to Seattle.
How can David Stern let this happen to any city, let alone my city? How can you let carpetbaggers come in and take my team with such a preordained and orchestrated move? Is Oklahoma City the answer? Can anyone just buy a team and move it anywhere they want? What about loyalty? What about teamwork? What about NBA Cares?
I am 48 now and I have kids ages 5 and 8. They are just getting interested in team sports. My daughter wears her pink Sonics ski hat all the time. They are the same age I was when the Sonics arrived. Now I have to teach them the real lessons of life. When it comes right down to it ... David Stern doesn't care.
My grandmother watched Ray Allen and the 2005 squad completely dominate the Sacramento Kings during the playoffs on her deathbed, before she passed, one last thrill. You know how much that team meant to her? It's disturbing people from Oklahoma want to take that away. I remember my mom taking me to the airport to watch the Sonics arrive during the '96 Finals, which they lost, but it is a very happy memory. Kemp/Payton era will always remain an exciting sports moment for me as a child. Keep the Sonics in Seattle where they belong.
City: Kent, Wash.
Name: Jim Hawley
The downfall began in 1998 when Wally Walker inexplicably let George Karl go and replaced him with Paul Westphal. Karl AVERAGED 60 wins per year for five years. Putrid Paul could not even make the playoffs the next season with the same team. Of course, Wally was not done. He failed to re-sign Nate McMillan after a 52-win season and their only playoff series win since Karl. This was probably at the insistence of then-owner Howard Schultz, who became temporarily insane after buying the team. (I mean, c'mon. Like it or hate it, Starbucks is a very well-run company with an apparent social conscience. They even give medical insurance to part-time workers. But Schultz ran the Sonics like Joseph Stalin laying waste to all previous history and achievements.) And don't get me started on Wally's draft choices.
Clay Bennett was almost a relief after these morons. Unfortunately, he's a manipulative, pathological liar. And his enabler David Stern is no better. When the movie comes out it will be interesting to see which role Satan is given, Clay or David? Tough call. These guys make Roger Clemens look forthright. It's ironic that the most honest person from this group of cheap hustlers is Aubrey McClendon. Had he not publicly admitted what we they were all thinking, that they never had any intention of staying in Seattle, we might still be sitting by our phones like school girls before the prom. "Hello, Clay? Yes! I have my foam finger and banner that reads 'build a new arena' ready to go!"
PS: I was driving to my high school to play basketball in 1967 when I heard on the radio that the new NBA team was going to be called the Seattle SuperSonics. I got to the gym and went to my best friend and told him about. I thought it was such a cool name. It still is. It should not change.
City: Oshkosh, Wis.
Just over a year ago, I went to visit Seattle with my sister, who was looking at the University of Washington. The hotel we stayed at was a block from the KeyArena, and the first night we were there just happened to be Iverson's second game as a Nugget, and I talked my sister into going to the game last minute, because (a) I had never seen Iverson play in person, and (b) I wanted to see if basketball was truly dead in Seattle.
When we went over to the Arena, there was a line so long it stretched halfway to the Space Needle. This was basically at game time and we soon found out the game sold out. Lucky for us, we were able to find tickets anyway for a soldout game. Even if it was Iverson, turning away hundreds and maybe thousands of potential ticket buyers is like nothing I've ever seen attending Bucks games in Milwaukee. We went to our seats, which happened to be in the last row, and it didn't even seem like we had bad seats. And even though the Sonics sucked last season, the fans were completely behind their team the whole game. It was a great time. And it didn't stop there. Normally, my sister could care less about the NBA. After spending a week in Seattle, she was a Sonics fan. Hell, I almost was. I hate the NBA for this. The Sonics need to stay in Seattle. Period.
Name: Scott Van Amburg
The biggest shame in all of this -- Seattle is losing its only champion. Unless you count the Storm or the Stanley Cup won by the 1916-17 Metropolitans.
Thought I would share one of my most memorable experiences at a Sonics game. I was sitting in the last row of KeyArena's upper deck. When there is a great product on the floor the Key is one of the best places to watch a basketball game. Not a bad seat in the house, even with all its apparent inadequacies as Clay Bennett would point out.
Game 6, Spurs versus Sonics 2005 playoffs -- Sonics almost accomplish the unthinkable. Even though the Sonics lost, this is the best experience I have ever had at a sporting event. Ray Allen missing the last shot to win, but the fourth quarter of that game was the most exciting basketball I have ever witnessed. Sitting in the very last row of the upper deck with my brother, screaming our heads off, the atmosphere was absolutely amazing. Hugging all the people around you and cheering every time the Sonics would score in the fourth quarter. If you close your eyes and imagine this game and this atmosphere you can hear the cheer of "SUUPPEEERRR" and the fans yelling "SONICS." It gives me goose bumps just thinking of it.
I've lived in Seattle for all of my 28 years, and have been a Sonics fan my whole life. I was born eight months after the Sonics won their first and only NBA championship. I was in middle school during the rugged Michael Cage and Tom Chambers era. I was on my junior high and high school basketball teams when the Grunge Era became a cultural phenomenon, and Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp -- with a supporting cast of Nate McMillan, Hersey Hawkins, and Detlef Schrempf -- donned black shoes and inexplicably embodied the rebellious, independent nature of the city. I was in college when Gary's skills started to decline, but his pride alone carried the team, and a younger generation of Seattle ballers -- Michael Dickerson, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, Jason Terry, etc. -- gave the region the feel of a genuine basketball hotbed. After college, I watched as Ray Allen struggled to keep the team relevant in a Western Conference that was passing us by, and with ownership that was more engaged in its coffee empire than with the rich history of its basketball team. And finally, I've been floored by the brutal irony of seeing the Sonics draft a potential savior at a time when the new ownership is poised to move them out of town.
I know the rest of the country doesn't think Seattle has the passion and connection to their teams that they do, but rest assured that some of us are heartbroken. Here's hoping you never have to experience the paralyzing and debilitating diffidence of an owner, commissioner, and legislature that are slowly sapping your basketball life away from you, right before your eyes.
HOWARD SCHULTZ, TRAITOR
Name: Alex Knutson
I would like to direct this hatred toward what I believe is the true source of our communal sorrow: Howard Schultz, the millionaire crybaby who sold his boyhood basketball team to a group of owners who only want to move the team away. We all have that hometown team that we associate with growing up in our city; could you imagine growing up becoming the owner of that team and then facilitating their death? Howard Schultz has done just that, and his only reason for doing it is because owning the team didn't make him any more ridiculously rich.
City: Bothell, Wash.
Name: Nick P
Now I know how Cleveland fans felt when Art Modell sucker-punched their collective grandmothers. Seattle sports fans haven't made a lot of noise about the murder of our franchise, because we're numb from all the losing and suffering at this point. There's not a whole lot you can do when a sports commissioner comes out and publicly advises the Sonics owner to sweep the city's collective leg.
The real scumbag in this whole thing is Howard Schultz. Sure, Clay Bennett is a liar, but what did we expect? I almost, ALMOST, respect him for doing whatever it takes to bring a team to his hometown. It would be nice to have that kind of commitment to our city. Schultz bought the team and said all the right things, but when the W's and cash didn't start rolling in immediately, he grew frustrated fast and blamed everything on a crummy lease with KeyArena. WHY'D YOU BUY THE TEAM IF YOU COULDN'T MAKE MONEY DUE TO SOME AWFUL LEASE?!? We're supposed to feel sorry for a man who's built a multi-billion dollar franchise because he has a bad lease? From all accounts, I would say he's a business genius; but he couldn't wrap his head around the limitations of a KeyArena lease. Of course not. You knew the deal when you got involved!!!
I'm sure Schultz saw all the fun other prominent owners (Cuban, Buss, etc.) were having and he wanted in on the action. He thought it'd be a blast sitting courtside with his sweaters tucked in, and we'd all worship him as the hero that saved the Seattle SuperSonics. Instead, he started losing money, due to the team being mismanaged, and he started complaining and alienated a fan base. Now he's just the guy that, potentially, stole basketball from the city of Seattle by selling it to out-of-town ownership.
Is it possible that Howard Schultz is taking over as the most hated sports figure in Seattle? A title that has been held by A-Rod for about seven years now? I say yes. At least A-Rod was selling out for a grossly inflated contract. Schultz was already a billionaire, he didn't need the money, and he easily could have offered up some private money to get a deal done with the city for a new arena. If the Sonics do end up staying, I would propose that he never be allowed to attend a game again.
Name: Colin Hesse
Howie flew onto the Seattle sports scene, spending endless hours talking about his love of Seattle, of the Sonics, and the fans. Then the whining started. "We're losing money hand over foot! The Key is a horrible place to play basketball! The city doesn't care about my plight!" All I could think of at the time was: "Are you serious, Howie?" Then he blatantly sticks a huge knife into the back of Seattle by selling the team to a group of investors from Okie-ville while lying through his teeth about how they loved Seattle and would stick around. Seriously, I hate Clay Bennett, but I REALLY hate Howie Schultz, and would rate him as the biggest traitor in Seattle sports history. Greater than A-Rod. Greater than Ken Behring. Greater than Jeff Smulyan. Honestly, first you charge me $4 for five cents worth of coffee mixed in with five cents of milk, then you sell my team? You serious?
When Schultz bought the Sonics he was (ironically) lauded as the savior of a beloved franchise that could have been bought by outsiders and moved elsewhere. A local businessman with local ties and a five-year plan to bring us the championship trophy. We don't need to disect that plan or all the reasons that it didn't come to fruition (suffice to say we shrewdly nabbed a redheaded high schooler who wouldn't work out for scouts ahead of that Jefferson kid), but he started feeling a bit edgy that he wasn't making a ton of money off the deal. The crappy lease with the arena was a big part of that, so he tried to get people to vote to fund a new stadium to get him out of the crappy lease. Now, I'm all for public money being used for public sports arenas, but Seattle was still ticked off that we twice voted down Safeco Field and the politicians still said "screw it, we're building it anyways." It's understandable that the public wouldn't want to raze or build a new basketball arena when the one we have was recently renovated and is fine.
The best part? After all the whining about losing money, the guy comes out $90 million in the black after the sale!! $90 MILLION!!! I hate you, Howard Schultz. There's a special place in hell for people like you, eating the dirty money you made on earth day after day after day after day. If I meet you on the street, I'm spitting on your $600 shoes and telling you your coffee tastes like crap.
CLAY BENNETT, HOMEWRECKER
Clay Bennett's proposed arena was $500 million. Put into perspective, Seattle has built both a baseball stadium with a retractable roof and an football stadium engineered for incredible acoustical advantages for MUCH cheaper. Football and baseball have a larger field of play and seat more than twice as many fans as basketball does (assuming it was Clay's intention to field a team good enough to fill an arena). Why so much more expensive? Obviously it was his intention to create an unfeasible goal (this isn't even getting into the proposed location 15 miles south of the city and the nearly non-exsistent time frame). Being wildly unreasonable allowed Bennett to get the "no" he wanted from the city. Now David Stern can fire verbal missiles at us for being bad fans and not wanting our team. Nice to be thanked for our 40-plus years of dedication.
I understand the government's and citizens' desire to not fund an arena. We are closing schools and our infrastructure is falling apart. But I truly believe Clay Bennett never intended to keep the Sonics in Seattle. As a businessman with no connection to the area or the history of the franchise, it is a smart move. But to lie to our faces and then have his front office dismember the team for "rebuilding"? Seriously Clay, do you expect us to believe that you are trying work a deal to keep the team in Seattle? So why lie to us? I would have more respect for you if you would have come in and said "I have always wanted to own an NBA team that plays in Oklahoma. I bought the Sonics to move them." The truth is that you are just a rat-faced, lying businessman like Howard Schultz.
Do you know who Clay Bennett reminds me of? The rich Texan from "The Simpsons." I can see him meeting with his cronies in Dr. Evil's Starbucks lair with Howard Schultz scheming of new ways to screw us and doing a little happy dance and shooting off a pistol in each hand. Yeeeeeeeeehaaa!!!
City: Rjukan, Norway
While the city of Seattle is not blameless in this situation, Bennett, McClendon and their cronies are a pack of lying thieves who never, ever intended to honor their contract to make an effort to stay in the Seattle area. Funny how they demand a $500 million arena from Seattle but not from OKC, where a $92 million Ford Center is somehow a better option than a $100 million, 13-year-old KeyArena with a $200 million remodel. (This was one of the MANY options that Bennett refused to negotiate or even discuss with the area, which would have required that he match funds with the city; $100 million each, but shelling out ANY of his own money is apparently out of the question!) Plus Stern's obvious hiney kissing to this jerk ties a painful knot in my gut. After 40-plus years of support by the area, the commish stabs the fans in the back by showing absolutely no support in an obvious attempt to help blackmail the city into shelling out funds.
Name: Karen Day-Lyon, RN
What "Cash Us" Clay Bennett (Jim Caple's nickname for him) and his colleagues are trying to do to the city of Seattle is reprehensible. That this man and his business partners would come in here and buy the team, then smilingly say that every effort would be made to keep the team here, while their fingers were crossed behind their backs, is an affront to every citizen of this city who is a basketball fan. I sincerely hope that the pending case in U.S. Federal Court goes against these gentlemen, and the team has to remain here for at least the next two years, and they feel the losses of having to pay court fees, the lease monies, and any other judgments that are meted out.
Why is KeyArena not economically viable? Because, according to Bennett's arbitration document, it does not have enough restaurant/bar space. If you're counting, that's about 1,500 square feet in KeyArena versus about 12,000 in Houston's arena. So KeyArena is not viable as an NBA arena because there are not enough restaurants and bars to make money for the owners. Ohhhhh-kay.
All this talk about Clemens as a liar is small-time stuff. Clay Bennett has it down to an art form. Howard Schultz asks Seattle for a KeyArena renovation costing around $220 mil (equivalent to one B12 shot). City turns him down saying it is too expensive. Sells team to OK City businessman Clay Bennett for $350 mil (equivalent suspected HGH user). Bennett says he wants to stay in Seattle yet proceeds to ask for an entirely new arena costing $550 mil to be paid for by local taxpayers and he gets to keep the profits (my wife took HGH yet I never even talked about it with my best friend). He then amazingly acts astonished when outraged fans cry foul and says we must not really want the team. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Oh yeah, in the meantime let's trade away everyone but rookies and try to lose so many games the fans will misremember the team ever existed for 40 years in Seattle.
How can one guy come in and steal a team from an entire city? I can't believe he would even have the guts to try something like this ... until I start to think about it more. Clay Bennett picked the perfect city to mess with. We are a bunch of computer-nerd, organic-eating, coffee-drinking wussies. I can say that because I am from here, but even if I weren't, I don't think anyone would do anything about it.
City: San Francisco
Despite an ambiguous and misleading subject line, this is about the potential loss of almost a half century of men's professional basketball in Seattle. Yes, this is about the wonderful job Clay Bennett and the PBC, LLC have done of plundering the Supes from Seattle. Clay must have had a money tree in his backyard, because in the real world, where the rest of us live (sans Britney, of course), we have to work on deals, make concessions, sit down to barter and come to an agreement in a civil manner. Clay's approach is akin to the kid who sits down in the middle of the grocery store aisle and cries at the adults to give him what he wants. His little play buddy David Stern is also sitting there in the aisle. The whole problem with their approach is they didn't think the pacifist beatniks up in Seattle would put up a fight. They were dead wrong on their calculations and are now looking at losing more time and money by staying in Seattle.
Every time Clay Bennett talks about how the people of Seattle do not want the Sonics to stay because we will not give him $500 million to build an arena in a suburb far from downtown and far away from the majority of the fan base, I find myself wondering what class of a felony I would commit on him? Is this a normal thought to have when a owner is trying to steal your most historic team and the commissioner of the league is going out of his way to NOT help the city which has helped this league for 40 years?
Seatteites are boycotting games due to the current ownership. Meanwhile, I'm lovin' sittin' in $75 seats for $5, since no one's buying tickets.
Hey Clay Bennett ... I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!
DAVID STERN, FACILITATOR
City: West Lafayette, Ind.
Name: Justin Krieg
Coming from Seattle, I've seen how crazy environmentalists can get when you try to cut down a tree or kill some salmon. What would be the equivalent reaction for a Sonics fan? I was thinking of summiting the hoop and chaining myself to the shot clock. Instead I decided that I should just take all of my Sonics gear (Shawn Kemp retro T-shirt, the Payton rookie card, the Ray Allen bobblehead doll, my Seafirst Jammin' Hoops Camp T-shirt signed by Schrempf, Sikma and Slick Watts, the newspaper clippings I have from the '96 Finals), burning them in an oil drum and throwing the ashes on Clay Bennett like he was wearing fur.
I don't understand how someone in China/London/Italy is higher on Stern's priority list. I grew up loving the '90s Sonics. I actually cried when they got upset by the Nuggets in the first round; I was so upset I had to play basketball for two hours in the rain just to get my head straight (fourth grade). Whenever I make it home to Seattle during the season I go to every Sonics game possible. I think Stern is just pissed his league isn't getting a new arena when the other sports got one. Doesn't Stern realize that the Kingdome's roof had to fall down before the other teams got their stadiums; the political process takes a long time out in the Pacific Northwest (we enjoy debate). But that doesn't mean you have to steal our Sonics. I promise Mr. Stern, if you take the Sonics I'll never watch another NBA game again.
Name: Martin Mills
As I type this looking out my office window, I just saw a bum take a leak behind a garbage dumpster. Kinda reminds me of David Stern and how he's treating the fans in Seattle.
Name: Daniel Stone
Stern is good friends with Clay Bennett and in all likelihood privately promised him and OKC the Sonics or Hornets two years ago. Now, since the All-Star Game was just held in New Orleans (and was so successful) he'd look like too much of a jerk to pack the Hornets off to OKC in the Katrina aftermath, so he's sacrificing the Sonics. This is why he's only now speaking out on the issue one way or the other. Stern has done next to nothing to try and keep the Sonics in the city.
Name: Jim Allison
David Stern is the Billy King of commissioners. This millennium he moved the Vancouver Grizzlies (2.2 million population metro area) to Memphis (1.3 mil) ... moved the Charlotte Hornets (2.9 mil) to New Orleans (1.3 mil) ... expanded to Charlotte (2.1 mil) instead of San Diego (2.9 mil) ... might allow a move where Seattle (3.2 mil) goes to Oklahoma City (1.2 mil). This amounts to a total population loss for the NBA of 5.3 million people, which is more than the markets of Memphis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Milwaukee combined. It's like he wiped four NBA teams off the map. I wonder how that plays when negotiating the next TV contract.
The most upsetting aspect of this whole fiasco is, to me, the illusion of inevitability that the new ownership group and David Stern seem to be working so hard to create. Check out Stern's comments from his address at the NBA All-Star Game. Stern says of the Sonics moving out of Seattle: "I accept that inevitability at this point, there is no miracle here."
Unbelievable. Never mind the fact that a Seattle group, headed by former Sonics minority owner Dennis Daugs, made an offer to Clay Bennett and the new ownership group to buy the team back (Bennett has refused to read their offer, and maintains that the team is not for sale.) This is one of the great franchises of the NBA, one with a fan base that has generated millions upon millions of dollars worth of revenue for the league over the past four decades. As the commissioner of the NBA, respect the franchise and the fan base and at least throw us a bone here. Seattle's a wealthy city, with a serious sports heritage. We love our Mariners, we love our Seahawks, and we really, really love our Sonics. If this franchise leaves Seattle, it's not because the city wanted it that way, and it's not because the fans didn't support the team (just check the attendance numbers). No, if the SEATTLE Sonics end up in a god-forsaken place like Oklahoma City, I hope the world knows it is because Clay Bennett is trying to make a dollar, and David Stern doesn't care enough to fight for a storied NBA franchise.
City: Portland, Ore.
I am disappointed in David Stern. As commissioner he should realize it is in the NBA's best interest to keep the I-5 rivalry alive. The rivalry between the Sonics and the Blazers in the early '90s is what made me a basketball fan. Seeing Clyde Drexler and Shawn Kemp exchanging dunks. The scrappy Terry Porter battling Gary Payton. Now we have two players who will inexplicably be linked forever, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, playing on opposite sides of the rivalry. The NBA is seemingly letting something that doesn't need any marketing go by the wayside. Durant and Oden would have revitalized this rivalry, which would be a huge ratings bump, especially here in the Northwest. But now our love/hate relationship with the Sonics is going to end. With all the expiring contracts and the plausible move to the "OkC" they will resemble an expansion franchise more than anything else. I hope Oklahoma City has fun with their gutted team.
City: Brier, Wash.
Name: Danny Mero
Dear David Stern,
Enjoy your 30 pieces of silver. Hope it was worth it.
Sonics fans everywhere
(That's right, I went biblical on him.)
You mentioned last week that you couldn't understand why David Stern wasn't interested in keeping the NBA in Seattle. In the history of this league (and certainly since Stern has been head) has any city stood up to the NBA and NOT lost their team? Has any city said, "No, we won't spend a half billion dollars on a new arena" and still had a team a year or two later? I think Stern is trying to make the city of Seattle an example. If other cities stopped subsidizing NBA contracts with deals like this, the entire economics of the game would fall apart.
City: Reno, Nev.
I was a kid when DJ, Freddie Brown and Jack Sikma led Seattle to the NBA title and in college during the GP-Reign Man run. I can't go back all 41 years, but I'm confident in saying that Seattle is an awesome NBA city. I blame Howard Schultz even more than Bennett for this current situation. I don't believe Schultz couldn't have found a local buyer when he decided if the city wouldn't accept the threats of a billionaire insisting a new arena be built with entirely public funds, but he's such a baby he decided to stick it to Seattle and sell to someone from Oklahoma.
But the person I've lost the most respect for in this entire process is David Stern. Does he really want part of his legacy to be "I brought basketball to Oklahoma City (even if I had to systematically tear down a great NBA city to do it)"? Part of me hopes the Sonics do move if only so Bennett can lose a fortune and Stern can be justifiably mocked. The larger part of me, however, hopes that (like the Mariners in the 1990s when it looked like they were St. Petersburg-bound) a new owner steps forward and the team catches fire. I think it would be fun if Paul Allen's former business partner decided he wanted to give owning an NBA team a try. Just think, in four years do you really think Bill Gates would be sweating the Sonics having to pay the luxury task to get the final piece to the Durant-Rose-Green-DeRozan nucleus?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
City: Middle East
My anger for Clay and Stern right now is such that I don't think it can adequately be put into words. I could fill a book with ways that backstabbing, colluding duo have lied, cheated and swindled their way to try to get out of Seattle. But instead I will leave you with this disturbing thought:
Back in the mid-'90s, my friends and I would get to KeyArena real early for Sonics playoffs games ... when they were on the road. That's right, this city that apparently can't support a basketball team packed in thousands of people to watch road playoff games on the jumbotron. And these weren't just the NBA Finals. These were midweek conference finals games. Now, answer me, how many NBA cities could do that? If you're reading this and don't think your city could, then who is to say you won't be Stern's next victim?
City: Starkville, Miss.
I'm guessing fans in other markets will probably say "Bummer" and move on as if this is not their concern, none of their business, and completly not within their scope of control. However, from where I sit, it looks to me like this is every fan's concern, because the threat of moving a team is aimed at all markets. It is every fan's business to protect their own team that they support. The only way that owners will be convinced not to permit pillaging of successful and viable markets is for fans to send a collective message that such moves destroy fan morale beyond Seattle.
Name: Brian M.
There is no real way to explain how people who care about basketball in Seattle feel about this situation other than helpless. Then again, that's just par for the course in a league where players, GMs, owners and commissioners are not held accountable for their actions. Not former owner Howard Schultz, not current owner Clay Bennett, and most of all, not David Stern. For a sport so concerned about image and its expansion into lucrative markets, to leave a major U.S. market such as Seattle for Oklahoma City seems like a poor business decision that the rest of the owners would have to be stupid to support. The same owners who hire the Billy Kings, Chris Wallaces and Isiah Thomases of the world to run their business. Then again, what do I know? I'm just like everyone else in Seattle who drinks coffee and throws fish all day. Did you know it rains in Seattle?
I feel bad for the Seattle fans and the city of Seattle, but I feel worse for the fans of the NBA. The first thing that Durant is seeing as a pro is that the game is a business that it is unconcerned with loyalty to cities and its fans. Nice to see that the best rookie prospect in a decade is learning first-hand how to screw over an entire city. So, thank you, Sonics owners, for likely depriving all NBA fans of seeing the next great NBA player.
City: Renton, Wash.
For some reason there are people out there who think that the people of Seattle aren't doing enough for their team. Can you please tell everyone that if we have to put up a new arena, then that means we have set a precedent that an NBA team needs a new arena every 13 years? This makes no sense. Why doesn't David Stern or the general public realize this?
City: Johnson City, Tenn.
Name: Jason Horne
Moving basketball out of Seattle is going to make all of the Xavier McDaniel references in "Singles" seem really weird to viewers in the future. I think a child who is born today who watches the movie will probably think that the Seattle SuperSonics are a made-up team and "The X-Man" is a made-up guy and a loose reference to the X-Men, which will cause all sorts of confusion. In short, moving Seattle will make '90s pop-culture references more difficult for future generations to grasp.
NOVEL STRATEGIES AND SILVER LININGS
City: Santa Cruz, Calif.
Name: Jason Jenks
Let me paint you a picture: Last game of the season for the Supes is against Portland on ESPN. As ESPN goes live ... the arena is completely empty. The place is totally silent. Where are the fans? Outside at a pregame rally with former sonic greats such as GP, Shawn Kemp, Lenny Wilkens, Slick Watts, etc. After tip-off, fans head to their seats chanting SAVE OUR SONICS!!! Then during a TV timeout, Mr. Sonic Nate McMillan walks out onto the court, holds up a sign saying "SAVE OUR SONICS" and Payton, who is sitting courtside, joins him on the court! The place would go freakin' BALLISTIC!!! It would create national attention and go down in Seattle sports history as being one of the most amazing sports moments ever!
Name: Matt B.
As a longtime Cleveland fan, I can understand what Seattle fans are going through (the way the Browns left town in 1995 was a disgrace). I would suggest that the Seattle fans protest outside of Sonic headquarters. At least demand that the team's name, uniform, and records stay in Seattle and hope for an expansion team, like Cleveland fans did. It is better than nothing.
City: Mukilteo, Wash.
What are your thoughts on staging a protest against Clay Bennett where no fans show up to a game, ideally a game that is already scheduled to be nationally televised. I think that would be sure to garner national attention and maybe get other fans to realize our situation. And if we are lucky, it would be during a Thursday night TNT game and we could hear Charles Barkley chime in at halftime. Plus, that equals less money and one PR nightmare for Bennett and Stern, respectively. Just think of the possibilities here. I am so sick and tired of not being able to do anything except send repetitive e-mails to my legislators while my team gets highjacked because I don't have an extra $500 million lying around to build a new arena.
I have a solution to the Seattle problem hopefully both sides can agree on. The problem is their owner is cheap and wants a free arena, but Seattle doesn't want to pay this crook all the money. My solution is to take the Seattle owner and put him in one of the old-school wooden holding blocks where your arms head go through the holes and you're kneeling down, then allow Seattle fans to pay $25 or a $100 or whatever is deemed fair and allow them to give him a kick in the ass. It would be like a dunking booth but 100 times better. I would almost guarantee the revenue from this would build a new arena.
City: Mobile, Ala.
I don't look at Seattle in the crapper as a bad thing. Think about it. This could inspire a whole new level of angst music and could give birth to a music phenomenon that surpasses grunge. I think we're ready to step away from "American Idol" pop (and by pop I mean crap) and find a new Cobain.
What do you think of some of this movie idea to keep the Sonics in Seattle? A Sonics fan pushed to the brink kidnaps Kevin Durant, and in exchange for his release, demands that David Stern broker a sitdown between Clay Bennett and the Seattle city council. I think McNulty from "The Wire" would have to be included as either the seen-it-all police negotiator with a drinking problem who gets underminded by a micromanaging police chief, or as the seen-it-all hostage from accounts payable who puts off his drinking problem long enough to help the hostages escape through a conveniently discovered tunnel beneath the arena, right before being shot to death by a maniacal city councilman (played by Phil Leotardo with a dodgy Texas accent), who had been promised a suitcase full of money by a shady Oklahoma oil tycoon.
The end result could be that Sonics owners had planned on burning down KeyArena to release them of any obligations to the city, but the end result could allow for the insurance money to be spent on a new, luxury box-laden arena. Kevin Durant could play himself, in exchange for a scene where he gets to run down a hall while being chased by a cinematically slow fireball.
A CITY DEPRESSED
Keep in mind that Clay Bennett isn't only stealing our beloved Sonics, but he's leaving the WNBA Storm in town. Gee, thanks, Clay! That's the equivalent of having your girlfriend move out of your place for some other guy and taking all of the essentials like the TV, stereo, and XBOX live subscription, while leaving her pink throw pillows and Hugh Grant DVD collection.
This season is like watching "Major League" -- except the evil plan actually worked.
Name: Sam K
I just watched the Sonics close out a game with a lineup of Mickael Gelabale, Ira Newble, Adrian Griffin, Donyell Marshall and Francisco Elson. I guess Willie Mays Hayes and "Wild Thing" were unavailable.
City: Tempe, Ariz.
Let's look at the bright side: At least they have good weed in the Pacific Northwest!
I live in Seattle. I love the Sonics. Obviously, I hate the new ownership and am saddened by their imminent departure. I used to go to games all the time, wear the jerseys, and get enough beers in me to force the camera crew to put me and my friends on the jumbotron during "Fan Dance." Disheartened, I now sit and watch home games on TV while KeyArena is clearly visible from my apartment window. Sad? Yes, but I couldn't help but wonder what the dating-world equivalent of this type of apathy would be?
I have decided that if the Sonics leave, I will embrace a bitter hatred of Stern and the NBA, and will pass it down to my children.
City: Tallahassee, Fla.
You know what the worst part about Seattle getting robbed? After all these years, we finally have an actual plan for contention in place. Sam Presti was an inspired hire, and every single one of his moves has been excellent. He's clearly doing everything right for the future, shedding all the bad contracts, building cap space, accumulating first-round draft picks, and positioning the team to get Derrick Rose or O.J. Mayo in this year's lottery. And now we get to watch as another team gets to bask in the glory of that bright future. Screw you David Stern, and screw you Clay Bennett.
City: San Francisco
As a displaced SuperSonics fan, I have never felt so compelled to write in for this Seattle mailbag as I am now. In fact, as soon as I saw that question, I determined to send in at least 4-5 versions of my post, hoping that my writing improves enough by the fifth submission that it'll see the light of day. Or I'll send just this one, knowing that no matter how much effort I put into it, nothing's going to change. All of the anger I've felt over the past few years has dissolved into this sad state of resignation.
Well, it's another standard dreary night in Seattle. We lost by 42 points to the Nuggets at home, Kevin Durant had an ordinary night of 16 points on 4-17 shooting, it's 40 degrees outside with a slight drizzle, and somewhere Clay Bennett and Satan are tapping martini glasses. Hooray for Seattle!
I haven't felt this bad about Seattle sports since I saw Chevy Chase in "Man of the House" wearing a Seahawks hat.
City: Federal Way, Wash.
Being a Sonics fan right now is like dating a girl who you know is cheating on you with a much less attractive guy. I know what is going on, and yet I still remain loyal and hope that she will change her mind and remember all the good times we had. But her friends (David Stern) keep telling her that we are bad news and she should go with this less attractive, pompous jackass. And like a relationship ending, I will be bitter. I will want them to fail and applaud for injuries and become a horribly bitter person who is cynical about anything that has to do with the NBA. Then I'll see them play the Blazers and Ill act like everything is fine, even as inside of me a hatred boils. I'll be at the bars with friends discussing the glory years of Payton, Kemp and Karl. Then as I lay down at night, I will drunk dial them in Oklahoma and sob uncontrollably and tell them I love them and I'm sorry I hurt them and they should just come back. Yup, go Mariners.
Name: Nick T
I feel like Happy Gilmore when he sees Shooter McGavin pop up from making out with Grandma Gilmore wearing that Gene Simmons mask. I don't know what's worse: the Sonics moving from dynamic and sports-friendly Seattle to OKLAHOMA, Mike Holmgren's impending lame-duck final season with the Seahawks, or the Mariners missing the playoffs due to the inevitable Barry Bonds signing and circus of distractions. Winters in Seattle, suicide capital of the world, just got a whole lot darker.
I have this vision of how this problem with the Seattle SuperSonics will end. It goes as follows: 5-7 years from now, Kevin Durant and teammate [Michael Beasley/Derrick Rose] look at each other and smile, holding up the NBA championship trophy in Oklahoma City Sonics jerseys. Clay Bennett smiles ear to ear while weeping uncontrollably. Meanwhile, every single Seattle fan throws up in their mouth and then shouts aloud ala William Shatner in "Star Treak II: The Wrath of Khan":
Now, if you'll excuse me I'm going to go and stick my hands in the toaster and my head in the oven.
I'm sure they do this other places too, but at KeyArena they put a microphone on the back of the rims. So for every ill-advised jumper that clangs off the rim, there is an empty hollow sound that we get the pleasure of hearing over the stadium loudspeakers. Not only do you have to watch the Sonics suck, you have to listen to it too. Thanks again, Clay.
City: Vancouver, Canada
I'm from Vancouver and I'm a Sonics season-ticket holder. Now, I'm a working-class guy, and let's just say season tickets are a high percentage of my yearly income. And I live in Canada. And I'm Persian. So essentially, I drive 3-plus hours and nearly get molested by border guards 40 times a year so I can watch Kevin Durant and a bunch of expiring contracts. And, frankly, I'm watching Kevin Durant before he learns that posting up 6-foot-5 shooting guards is more effective than jacking up threes with 18 seconds left on the shot clock. I'm a bloody Persian Canadian who comes over an AMERICAN BORDER (as a PERSIAN) to see a bunch of bums playing! And I buy tons of merchandise. What the hell does this owner (I choose not to use his name) want from his fans? Not only am I bitter, but I'm also sad that I'm going to have to watch KD be a monster when I was the one who paid for his bad years. That's like ordering a "bride by mail" from Ukraine and then seeing her divorce you and marrying your worst enemy.
Fantastic. The NBA, where not caring about your fans happens!
I can't do this ... I'm near tears right now ...
City: Portland, Ore.
You asked for it, so I'll give you my two cents on the Seattle Expiring Contracts. I will never understand why no one outside the Northwest really seems to care that a franchise with 40 years of history is being packed up and moved. I thought that my worst Sonic memory was seeing Mutombo clutching the ball at end of Game 5 in the 1993-'94 playoffs, but now my worst memory will be reading and seeing pictures of the Sonics gear, offices, and team being moved on trucks out of Seattle.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his "Sports Guy's World" site here.