After the pain of the Sonics’ exit, when will Seattle be an NBA city again? | NBA
IIt was heckling. Unlike any time the city had seen in over a decade. When Kevin Durant, who was playing for the then defending champion Golden State Warriors, stepped onto the floor of KeyArena in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood on October 5, 2018, you couldn’t hear yourself screaming in ecstasy. You could only hear the roar of the entire crowd, which included many Seattle luminaries, from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to rapper Macklemore, deafening and loud at the same time.
Why? Because Durant came out before that NBA preseason game wearing forest green Shawn Kemp JerseyNo. 40. It was a reminder that the city hasn’t had an NBA team since the SuperSonics left town for Oklahoma City (where they became the Thunder) in 2008.
“It was just a great moment,” Kenny Mayne, a longtime ESPN SportsCenter host from the North West who was in attendance that night, told The Guardian. “To recognize Seattle basketball, and the fact that so many of us had missed it.”
To date, the city of Seattle hasn’t hosted an NBA game in 14 years – except for Durant/Shawn Kemp jersey night in 2018. That game pitted the Warriors against Durant, who was also the final pick of first round of the Sonics ever. play in the city, against the Sacramento Kings. It was a fitting contest considering the Kings were inches away from moving to Seattle in the 2010s.
In truth, the 2018 preseason game was almost cruel for Seattle basketball fans. At least it would have been if the city hadn’t been so cheerful and enthusiastic, starving for NBA attention. “It’s a basketball town,” Durant said after that contest. But Durant’s statement may have taken some by surprise. A basketball city? Seattle?
A tech city, of course. Coffee and grunge music, yes. Sir Mix A Lot and the Space Needle, of course. But basketball? It’s up to New York, isn’t it? Well, not entirely.
On October 3 of this year, the NBA will return to Seattle for another preseason game. It will feature the Los Angeles Clippers (owned by former Seattleite Microsoft billionaire Steve Balmer) and the Portland Trailblazers (the Pacific Northwest’s only current team), and will most likely sell out. Maybe Portland star Damian Lillard will step out in a #20 Gary Payton Sonics jersey! In any case, the inhabitants will be delighted.
The match will take place in the newly refurbished Climate Pledge Arena (formerly KeyArena), a 17,500-seat venue perfect for hoops. When the Sonics left for OKC, the argument was that the facilities in town weren’t modern enough. Now, as Mayne says, “[the NBA] I certainly can’t complain about the facilities at this point.”
Seattle, home to nearly 750,000 people (and 4 million in the surrounding area), is well positioned to support professional sports. This year the NHL expanded and introduced the Kraken. Although new to the league, the Kraken were No. 14 (out of 32) in attendance, averaging 17,151 fans per home game. Also, since the Seahawks and the “Legion of Boom” won the Super Bowl in 2014, football has become a religion in town. The Sounders, Seattle’s MLS team, have won titles and set attendance records. And the Mariners, the hometown Major League Baseball team, recently enjoyed a 14-game winning streak. Indeed, Seattle is also a sports city.
And as rumors continue to swirl about a possible NBA expansion, with Seattle and Las Vegas on the lips of insiders (like that of NBA podcaster and author Bill Simmons), it’s worth remembering how point Seattle is truly a basketball city. . While NBA commissioner Adam Silver has thrown cold water on these rumors, perhaps for mere negotiation purposes, they persist nonetheless. (Seattle has already been embroiled in numerous negotiation rumors.)
Although today’s Seattle may not be an NBA city, it is a basketball town. This reality begins first and foremost with the Seattle Storm of the WNBA. The franchise, which did not leave with the Sonics for OKC thanks to its local owners, Force 10 Hoops, has won four WNBA titles (2004, 2010, 2018, 2020), with legend Sue Bird as its leader. The team has three of the top 25 players in the league, according to ESPN, from Bird to Jewell Loyd to former MVP Breanna Stewart. The team is also one of – otherwise the the most – socially conscious in professional sports. And although Bird recently announced his upcoming retirement, his presence will be felt in Seattle and beyond for years to come.
Alongside Bird on the list of Seattle hoops envoys is Jamal Crawford. Not only did Crawford have a distinguished career in the NBA (and now after his career), but he is an ambassador for Seattle basketball. Crawford runs the annual local pro-am, The CrawsOver, which brings together local talent with local legends, and even Hall of Fame players such as the late Kobe Bryant, to play games in the summer for fans. Crawford, who took over the pro-am from fellow area standout Doug Christie, helped guide the city’s best and brightest during his 20-year NBA career, which included three awards of the sixth man of the year. Local NBA stars (and CrawsOver alumni) like Michael Porter Jr, Dejounte Murray, Isaiah Thomas, Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson owe a debt to Crawford’s stewardship.
“A lot of that is homegrown thanks to people like Jamal throwing his pro-am,” says Mayne, who recalls attending Sonics games in the late ’60s and seeing visitors like Wilt Chamberlain and later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “In part, with the loss of the Sonics, I think everyone took on a bit of responsibility to raise their hand and say, ‘Look at us, we’re playing pretty well here. “”
But Crawford also owes a lot to the people who came before him, from Christie to 2011 NBA champion Jason Terry, to SuperSonics stars like Kemp, Payton and Detlef Schrempf. And later, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and 2001 NBA Slam Dunk Contest winner Desmond Mason. Speaking of the Sonics, the team has an illustrious hoops pedigree. The NBA team, which kicked off its first season 55 years ago in 1967, won the NBA title in 1979 and went on to play in the NBA Finals against Michael Jordan in 1996, losing in six hard-fought games. Unfortunately for the locals, the team was sold in 2006, by then-Starbucks owner and co-founder Howard Schultz to Oklahoma native Clay Bennett, who transferred the team to OKC in 2008. Schultz later called it one of the biggest mistakes of his life.
“The Sonics were my childhood,” musician-turned-musician Cedric Walker told The Guardian. “Watching your childhood get shipped off to another city sucked.”
For Walker, 33, born and raised in Seattle, who was introduced to the game in elementary school by his mother Gaynell, a now-retired public school educator, the Sonics were his inspiration. As a teenager, he performed at Summit High School. And Walker and his mom would go to Sonics games during the week, sometimes sitting in nosebleeds, catching a glimpse of the Payton/Kemp-era team. He remembers watching the playoffs against the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz, the “electric” crowds.
Walker recalls the protests in town as news spread of the Sonics’ likely departure, with fans hoping to keep their beloved home team. “Seattle is one of the best basketball cities in the country,” says Walker. “We just got the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft [Paolo Banchero]. We have a rich basketball history, dating back to the 70s. Even though the team no longer exists, I’m pretty sure we have more playoff appearances than others still in the league.
However, perhaps the greatest feather in Seattle’s basketball cap is its association with the great Bill Russell, who passed away on Sunday. A centerpiece of Boston’s original Celtic dynasty, Russell owned more championship rings than fingers (11) and after his stint as a player/coach for the Cs in the late 1960s, Russell migrated north- western Pacific to lead the young SuperSonics as team leader. coach from 1973 to 1977. Russell, the namesake of the NBA Finals MVP trophy, lived in the area until his death.
But it’s not just the professionals. In Seattle, the game’s roots run deeper, from high school through college. Christie, Crawford, and Murray graduated from Rainier Beach High School, a perennial Washington State champion located in the south end of the city. Right downtown is Garfield High School, which Roy graduated from. There’s O’Dea High School, which produced 2022 No. 1 draft pick Banchero (now also a CrawsOver album).
Even prominent local musicians have gotten into the mix. Pearl Jam was originally named Mookie Blaylock after the former New Jersey Nets All-Star point guard. In 2009, Seattle’s Grammy-nominated rock band Band of Horses released a popular song, Detlef Schrempf. Macklemore’s recent music video features Crawford and Thomas hooping. And Grammy Award-winning rapper (and Garfield High School alumnus) Ishmael Butler was a Division 1 player under accomplished coach John Calipari at UMass.
Perhaps also, given Kevin Durant’s recent trade request to shirk his obligations with the Brooklyn Nets, the “Slim Reaper” will once again become the face of the Seattle SuperSonics and the accelerated expansion (maybe one day he will face a Vegas team led by LeBron James). Now, that would really be cause for shameless applause.