Aaron Brooks asks: Will Sonics' exit slow flow of Seattle hoops talent?
Houston Rockets guard Aaron Brooks, a former Franklin High School star, wonders if the loss of NBA basketball in Seattle will keep the next wave of talent from breaking across the Puget Sound region.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Campin' with BrooksHouston Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks will host a basketball camp at Seattle Academy Gymnasium, 1201 E. Union St., June 29-July 2. To register visit his website at thirty2zero.com. For a schedule of other events, and information about his foundation go to aaronbrooksfoundation.org
Aaron Brooks is on the playground. In his early teens, he is doing what so many of us did. Playing an entire game by himself, acting out every move from all of his basketball role models, dreaming big.
He is Gary Payton backing down a defender. He is Michael Jordan creating space with convincing jab step. He is Shawn Kemp rising toward the rim and hammering a dunk.
The basketball court is his second home. It is the place that allows him to dream big, the place where all things feel possible. Brooks is dream-playing his dream game on the asphalt courts of Seattle.
"I was playing five-on-five all by myself," Brooks said recently, sitting in the team room underneath the gym at Franklin High School. "I was everybody and I tried to take a piece from everybody's game and add it to mine."
Brooks' trek to the NBA began on the playgrounds of his hometown. He would attend Sonics games, get inspired by the players and play their game on his courts.
"I went to a bunch of Sonics games and I always thought it would be nice if I could play on that court and have my family watching," said Brooks, whose listed height is 6 feet. "For a kid, just seeing those guys in person, made it feel like it was possible."
He is part of the regional revolution that has made a significant impact on the league.
In this, his third season, Brooks was voted the NBA's Most Improved Player. He started all 82 games for the Houston Rockets and averaged 19.6 points and 5.3 assists per game.
Brooks was so good, the Rockets made him their good-luck charm. He represented the team at Tuesday night's draft lottery, the point guard as talisman.
"It (success) all happened all of a sudden," said Brooks. "It feels like I was struggling at Oregon just yesterday, and now it's turning into a pretty good career."
Another former Franklin guard, Jason Terry, was runner-up this season to former Rainier Beach point guard Jamal Crawford in the voting for Sixth Man of the Year.
The league has become a Who's Who of former Washington all-staters. Players like Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, Rodney Stuckey, Spencer Hawes, Marvin Williams, Nate Robinson, Luke Ridnour, Terrence Williams, Jon Brockman, Adam Morrison and Brian Scalabrine are on NBA rosters. Many of them are starters.
Brooks said the local players feel an affinity for each other. There is a fraternity of former Washington high-school kids.
"I think having a team here had a lot to do with it," Brooks said of the revolution.
Growing up in Seattle's inner city, Brooks went to Payton's summer basketball camps. He went to George Karl's camps. He got instruction from many NBA players at camps run by Jim Marsh.
But now that there isn't a team in town and there aren't Paytons and Kemps and Kevin Durants proving to local Seattle kids that making it in the NBA is possible, Brooks wonders if the flow of players into the league will be staunched.
Even though he plays in Houston, losing the Sonics still hurts Brooks.
"What gets me is that you want to play in front of your family," Brooks said. "That's the hardest part for me, not being able to come home to play. And now you go to some cities and there's no support for the team. Their stadiums are empty and there are definitely worse stadiums than KeyArena.
"Then to take away the Sonics? From what I remember we always had great fans, whether winning or losing. It seems like some of these cities don't appreciate their teams. It's sad to see that a city that really did appreciate its team is gone."
Brooks played in the summers with Doug Christie and Terry. He ran with Payton and Crawford.
In the winter he watched them inside KeyArena. He saw his possibilities in their games. Who knows if Brooks would have felt the same inspiration if he didn't have those players sharing their successes with him?
"After seeing guys like Jason Terry and Jamal Crawford and Doug Christie make it, it just made me believe it was possible for us to make it," he said. "I think players' mindsets changed after they saw those guys.
"The NBA used to be so East Coast biased and dominant. But I think Jason and Doug Christie and Jamal were the guys who broke it down for us young guys to come through."
All of them were inspired by the Sonics. Will the next generation find the same inspiration?
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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