Lifelong Sonics fan has conflicting emotions about NBA comeback in Seattle
Matt Coomes, 42, is from Marysville, where he lives with his wife and two children. He has lived and breathed Seattle sports since attending his first Mariners game in 1977, but has yet to catch a foul ball.
As the likelihood of the return of the NBA to Seattle grows increasingly greater, I find myself experiencing conflicting emotions. As a lifelong Sonics fan, I'm super excited. How could I not be?
Our team was taken from us in gut-wrenching fashion, and I was one of thousands of fans celebrating a bittersweet home win in over Dallas in April 2008, knowing full well that we had likely watched our team play its last game in Seattle under the SuperSonics moniker.
New owner Clay Bennett had no real incentive to keep the team here instead of to moving it to his hometown of Oklahoma City, and while Seattle leaders vowed to do what they could to keep the team here, most observers felt that a move out of town was imminent.
Sure enough, after much legal wrangling that ensued in the months following the end of that wretched 20-62 season, the fight was surrendered by our local officials.
Clay Bennett returned to Oklahoma City a conquering hero, with our prized Sonics in tow. Only they were to become the Thunder, and, led by emerging superstar Kevin Durant, represented the Western Conference in the NBA Finals to round out the 2011-2012 season.
I don't know about you, but for me, that just added insult to injury.
Letting go wasn't easy, and I never really succeeded. I loved our Sonics. I'd cheered for them since I was in fourth grade, attended draft watching parties, ordered ticket packages and took in games with friends I have had since high school.
I wept openly when Dikembe Mutombo and his Denver Nuggets knocked our team from the playoffs in 1994. To this day I am convinced that the only reason we didn't win an NBA title in 1996 was because of some guy named Michael Jordan.
I've purposefully avoided the NBA as much as possible since the Sonics left. I don't watch ESPN nearly as much, and an annual trek two friends and I used to make to Portland so we could cheer on the Sonics and irritate Trail Blazer fans is now nothing more than a memory. The Blazers are still there; we could go and still irritate their fans, cheering for Utah, or Dallas, but the interest just isn't there.
We hear all the time that professional sports are a business, and they are. I get that. But regular business is conducted in our lives every day, and nothing moves us the way sports do.
Few of us recall the name of the person who sold us our last bed, or helped us select a TV, or even helped welcome our children into this world, but ask a Sonics fan to recall his or her favorite Shawn Kemp dunk and you best pull up a chair or call work to tell them you're going to be late.
Our memories carry the indelible mark of Gary Payton slashing through the paint, Kemp soaring over two would-be defenders, Sam Perkins looking like a man about to fall asleep right before draining another trey.
We vividly recall Tom Chambers earning All-Star MVP honors, Dale Ellis arcing that beautiful rainbow from hand to net, the perpetual scowl on Xavier McDaniel's face that simply meant "Don't."
From Coach George Karl to Coach Lenny Wilkens, Jack Sikma to Kevin Durant, the men who donned the green and gold were heroes in Seattle for 41 glorious years.
And now they may return. A local ownership group is on the cusp of purchasing an NBA team, the Sacramento Kings. If successful, the group intends to move the team here. They'll likely change the name of the Kings to the Sonics, and our city will once again rejoice in the high-flying act that is the NBA.
A new world-class arena will be built, and we'll have at least 41 opportunities per season to take in court battles that are far more exciting than the ones waged by lawyers. We'll have new names to learn and new records to witness.
If it happens as expected, it will be done at the expense of another city losing its team. Those fans have lived as we have, with hopes and dreams rising and falling with each Kings win and loss. They deserve better.
I don't want to long for a cold, business-minded, entity (the NBA) that will work to reel me in as a fan, seduce me with their incredible product, then dump me with nary a look back should a better offer come along.
But, I do want my Sonics back. Yes, I'm conflicted, but if we're being truly honest here, it's only about which ticket package to buy once the deal has been signed, sealed and delivered.
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