Avid fan Sherman Alexie compares NBA players to Greek gods
Four days into the Sonics trial, the fans finally had their say. After hours of testimony this week from Mayor Greg Nickels, chairman Clay...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Four days into the Sonics trial, the fans finally had their say.
After hours of testimony this week from Mayor Greg Nickels, chairman Clay Bennett and number-crunching economists, avid Sonics fan Sherman Alexie attempted to "remind everybody what this is really about, and that's the fans. People who love the NBA."
The award-winning author and comedian had been a controversial witness. Sonics lawyers tried to bar his appearance in court in pretrial motions last week.
Alexie's much-anticipated testimony was at times humorous, historical, passionate and long-winded. Brad Keller, the Sonics' lead attorney, twice asked Judge Marsha Pechman to remind Alexie to stay on topic.
"The fans needed a voice at trial," said Seattle's lead attorney, Paul Lawrence.
Alexie talked for 37 minutes of his love for basketball, particularly the NBA, beginning when he was a child in Spokane. He said his father introduced him to the game, and the sport strengthened their relationship.
Alexie likened LeBron James to Hercules and said hundreds of years from now, people will talk about NBA players like today's generation talks about Greek mythology.
Alexie could hardly contain his enthusiasm. He said he enjoys the diverse crowds at KeyArena and noted the variety of ethnicities and countries seen in the NBA. Alexie, a Native American born in Spokane and raised on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Stevens County, said he also likes the NBA because "rise from poverty."
The Sonics' treatment of season-ticket holders became less customer-friendly after Bennett bought the team, Alexie said. Alexie described last year's annual seat-relocation party as lackluster. In previous years, partygoers were given popcorn and cucumber sandwiches and received special attention from the team's employees.
Keller began his cross-examination of Alexie by saying, "Thank you for your support. It is very much appreciated." Moments later, though, he added this: "I'm sorry that the locker guy didn't know who you are. I am sorry there wasn't popcorn when you came in."
When Sonics attorney Michelle Jensen asked if he would attend other college or high-school games if the Sonics were allowed to break their lease, Alexie said: "That's like telling Seattle they only get to have me as a writer and not Shakespeare."
At the end of the testimony, he made one last pitch to Pechman.
"I love this team," he said. "If they leave, I haven't been given — the fellow fans have not been given the proper way to say goodbye... . I'm hoping in those two years, if they do leave, the season-ticket holders, the fans, the city and the team will have a chance to celebrate each other.
"I want two more years of the Greek gods."
After his testimony, Alexie said he hadn't been nervous representing Sonics fans.
"I've been representing the voice of Native Americans for 15 years, so this actually felt lighter," he said. "It's a huge responsibility and I felt a lot of pressure. Since it's been known that I've been testifying ... I've gotten more e-mails in the last month probably than I have in my entire career.
"About half really supporting me. About half pep-talking me and the other half sending me quizzes to prove I'm not the fan they are. ... The intensity of the response, whether it was supportive or challenging, has been amazing from fans."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278
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