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Originally published Thursday, July 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Sonics timeline

Dec. 20, 1966: The NBA awards Seattle its first pro sports team. Team owners Sam Schulman and Eugene Klein borrow money to pay the $1.75 million expansion fee. Oct...

Dec. 20, 1966: The NBA awards Seattle its first pro sports team. Team owners Sam Schulman and Eugene Klein borrow money to pay the $1.75 million expansion fee.

Oct. 13, 1967: Sonics play their first game, losing 144-116 at San Francisco.

Oct. 20, 1967: Sonics play their first home game, an event witnessed by 4,473 fans who could be bothered to show up at the Seattle Center Coliseum. The Sonics lose again, something they did a lot that first season, finishing with a 23-59 record.

Oct. 12, 1968: Sonics trade Walt Hazzard to the Atlanta Hawks for Lenny Wilkens.

Dec. 30, 1970: Schulman signs ABA star Spencer Haywood to a six-year, $1.5 million contract, in violation of NBA rules that state a player can't join the league until he is four years out of high school.

March 1971: The U.S. Supreme Court rules against the NBA in the Haywood case, establishing the "hardship rule" for the NBA draft.

1971-72 season: Sonics fall short of the playoffs, but have a winning record for the first time (47-35), led by Haywood, Seattle's first pro sports superstar.

Aug. 23, 1972: Wilkens, who wanted to remain as player/coach, was traded to Cleveland for Butch Beard in a very unpopular move. (There is no truth to the rumor that Wally Walker, about to enter the University of Virginia at the time, masterminded the deal).

May 11, 1973: Schulman makes Bill Russell the highest-paid executive in the NBA, hiring the former Celtics star as the Sonics' coach and general manager.

Jan. 15, 1974: Sonics host the All-Star Game at the Coliseum.

1974-75 season: Sonics make the playoffs for the first time, beating Detroit in the first round, then losing to Golden State.

Nov. 30, 1977: Sonics, 5-17, fire new coach Bob Hopkins and replace him with Wilkens. Winning ensues. Sonics reached the NBA Finals that season, losing to the Washington Bullets in seven games.

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Oct. 13, 1978: Sonics move from the Coliseum and begin the first of seven seasons at the Kingdome.

June 1, 1979: Sonics win the NBA title, taking Game 5 from the Bullets in Landover, Md., as fans celebrate in the streets of Seattle.

Oct. 15, 1983: Schulman sells the Sonics to Barry Ackerley for $13 million, plus $8 million in liabilities that Ackerley assumes.

Jan. 5, 1986: The Sonics return to the Coliseum for the 1985-86 season, and host the first game "rained out" in NBA history, thanks to a leaky roof.

Feb. 8, 1987: Sonics host the All-Star Game at the Kingdome, and Tom Chambers scores 34 points to win MVP honors. Chambers, Xavier McDaniel and Dale Ellis each averaged at least 23 points during the 1986-87 season.

June 22, 1987: Sonics draft Scottie Pippen with the fifth pick and trade him to Chicago for Olden Polynice. Oops.

June 27, 1989: Sonics draft 19-year-old Shawn Kemp, who never played college basketball.

June 17, 1990: Sonics draft Gary Payton with the second overall pick. Kemp and Payton form the core of the team that eventually played in the 1996 NBA Finals.

Jan. 23, 1992: Coach George Karl arrives, and goes on to win an average of 58 ½ games in six full seasons with the Sonics.

1993-94 season: Sonics finish with league's best record — 63-19 — but lose in first round of playoffs to Denver Nuggets, the first time a No. 1 seed had lost to a No. 8 seed in the NBA playoffs.

February 1994: Sonics demand the Coliseum be renovated. In exchange for the city issuing 20-year bonds to pay for the $100 million renovation, the Sonics agree to a 15-year lease.

June 16, 1994: Construction begins to renovate the Coliseum. Sonics play in the Tacoma Dome during the 1994-95 season.

Nov. 4, 1995: Sonics play their first game at KeyArena. NBA commissioner David Stern attends, and says KeyArena "is very special to me," and that everyone in Seattle should be proud of the "beautiful building."

June 16, 1996: Sonics, 64-18 during the regular season, are defeated by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Sept. 25, 1997: Kemp, who had threatened a holdout and demanded a trade, gets his wish, dealt to Cleveland in a three-team trade that brings Vin Baker to Seattle.

May 26, 1998: Sonics decide not to rehire Karl, replacing him with Paul Westphal.

Jan. 11, 2001: Ackerley sells the Sonics and the WNBA's Storm to a group led by Starbucks boss Howard Schultz for $200 million.

Feb. 20, 2003: Payton is part of a three-team, nine-player trade that brings Ray Allen to Seattle.

2004-05 season: Sonics surprise by winning their division, beating Sacramento in the first round of the playoffs and then scaring San Antonio in the conference semifinals.

July 6, 2005: Coach Nate McMillan leaves for Portland, signing a five-year, $30-million deal.

July 18, 2006: Clay Bennett and a group of Oklahoma businessmen buy the Sonics and Storm for $350 million, pledging a "good-faith" effort to keep the team in Seattle.

November 2006: Seattle voters overwhelmingly approve an initiative hostile to the Sonics, severely restricting any city tax subsidies for professional sports teams.

April 2007: The state Legislature rejects the Sonics' proposal to build a $500 million arena in Renton, paid for mostly with an extension of taxes currently paying off Safeco and Qwest fields. In response, Bennett threatens to relocate the Sonics and the Storm.

June 28, 2007: Sonics, with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, select Kevin Durant, who goes on to easily win the league's rookie-of-the-year award.

August 2007: Sonics part-owner Aubrey McClendon confirms the suspicions of many Sonics fans when he tells an Oklahoma newspaper, "We didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here." The NBA later fined McClendon $250,000 for the remark.

Sept. 10, 2007: The Seattle City Council votes 8-0 to strictly enforce the Sonics' KeyArena lease, rejecting any early buyout.

Sept. 13, 2007: Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels enlists former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton to help enforce the KeyArena lease. Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis says the city is "lawyering up" and is ready to spend $1 million on legal fees.

Sept. 21, 2007: Sonics owners file for arbitration on KeyArena, seeking approval to pay a cash settlement instead of playing out the final two years on the team's lease.

Sept. 24, 2007: Seattle files a lawsuit seeking to hold the Sonics to their KeyArena lease through 2010.

Nov. 2, 2007: Bennett announces he is seeking NBA permission to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City. He says the Storm can stay in Seattle.

Jan. 8, 2008: Bennett sells the Storm to four Seattle-area women.

2007-08 season: Sonics finish 20-62, the worst record in team history.

April 18, 2008: NBA approves the Sonics' move to Oklahoma City.

June 16-26, 2008: U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman listens to testimony during a six-day bench trial to settle the issue of the Sonics' lease. The entertaining highlights include accusations of bad deeds on both sides.

July 2, 2008: The Sonics reach an agreement with the city, buying out the last two years of the lease at KeyArena for $45 million. The team will play in Oklahoma City next season. If the city is successful in getting financing for a KeyArena remodel from the state Legislature in 2009, and does not get another NBA team by 2013, Bennett and the other owners will have to pay the city another $30 million.

Bill Reader

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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