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

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A final memory: team brought family together

My love of the Sonics began when I was 8 years old in 1972. My aunt, who worked at the team's ticket office, got me a basketball signed...

My love of the Sonics began when I was 8 years old in 1972. My aunt, who worked at the team's ticket office, got me a basketball signed by all the players. That ball is in my oldest son Taylan's room now, and while most of the names are faded, it still takes me back to my younger days. I remember the posters in my room of Spencer Haywood and Lenny Wilkens, and a photo of the team posing on the stairway of a Boeing 747.

My friends and I skipped school to cheer the Sonics at the championship parade in 1979. I had a broken leg, in a full cast, but that didn't stop me from hobbling up a lightpost for a bird's eye view. It was a day that will forever stay with me.

Fast forward to 2006, when my youngest son Tegan was old enough to attend games at the wee age of 3. He was instantly drawn to the team. All he would wear to preschool was his Sonics jerseys and shorts. My wife was worried that the other parents would think that this poor child had nothing else to wear. We would wash those jerseys every other day and after each season they were so faded we would have to get him new ones.

This past year was hard as we prepared him for the inevitable — that the team could leave. But it was also a season for lifelong memories for Tegan. He got to meet Kevin Durant twice, who lived about a mile from our home on Mercer Island.

On Halloween, we went trick or treating and stopped by Durant's house, even though we knew he was playing his first NBA game in Denver. There was a huge bowl of candy sitting outside his door. All the children in the neighborhood were excited, talking about how it was his house and grabbing candy. My oldest son saved that piece of candy and has it on his shelf like it is some kind of trophy.

On one of the final games this year, we stayed after to watch the team hand out autographed shoes as part of fan appreciation night. Mickael Gelabale walked onto the court as the fans cheered and Tegan stood there in awe as he handed him one of his shoes.

Since the news broke about the team leaving, Tegan has turned his room into a Sonics shrine. He hangs all his jerseys on his bunk bed. He has a pair of autographed Johan Petro shoes on his TV, and more than a dozen Sonics balls and framed pictures adorn his walls and shelves.

The Sonics have been a bonding experience for our family. We'd watch the games together whether at the court or on TV. We'd go outside and pretend like we were part of the team and count down the clock as my son would say "Kevin Durant turns and shoots and scores. Sonics win!"

Hopefully we'll be able to put some time back on that clock in the future for my son's sake.

Mark Yuasa, Seattle Times staff

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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