It has been over six years since Clay Bennet and a group of investors from Oklahoma City effectively stole the Seattle SuperSonics from the Pacific Northwest, and fans around the league are still not happy. Fans in Portland miss the Interstate 5 (I-5) rivalry and want to see a return of a team to the Emerald City.
Joseph Rose of The Oregonian wrote a couple of articles recently about the missing Sonics team. In one article, Rose talked about being a NBA fan in Rip City after growing up as a fan of Slick Watts, Fred Brown, Gary Payton and the rest of the team in green and gold up the freeway from Portland.
After writing that article on October 26, Rose discovered that he was not the only fan who misses the Sonics. SuperSonic fans started responding to him telling him that the Northwest division of the NBA has not been the same since the team was stolen from Seattle and the faithful followers.
This response generated a follow-up article from Rose asking the question if readers missed Seattle Sonics and the I-5 rivalry. In this article, Rose documents many of the comments from fans who miss traveling up to Seattle for the rivalry games. Longing for the days of a Payton no-look pass near the rim for an earthshaking alley-oop dunk from the Reign Man, Shawn Kemp, or a game winning three by Dale Elis.
Since the Sonics left Seattle against the fans’ wishes, faithful around the league show up at games the team now in Oklahoma City is playing in, specifically television or playoff games, wearing jersey’s, hats, even a Bigfoot costume representing the last mascot for the Seattle team, Squach. The fan’s position themselves around the arena, holding signs that say “Seattle Drafted Durant”, talking about Oklahoma City’s superstar Kevin Durant. or signs early on saying “SOS” or “Save Our Sonics”.
Soon after the Sonics pulled an Indianapolis Colts move, a group of filmmakers in Washington put together a documentary about the Sonics leaving for Oklahoma City. The film, Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team, was released in 2012 and has received national coverage from ESPN and CNBC.
The goal of Sonicsgate was to show that a huge group NBA basketball fans loved the Seattle team more than anything. When the Sonics left in 2008, it was not due to any lack of fan support. According to the filmmakers, it was a perfect storm consisting of corporate posturing and political circumstances that allowed the team to head off to Oklahoma City. The film is intended to educate the public about how the fans in Seattle actually lost their team. The original hope was to build a movement to bring either an existing NBA team to Seattle or earn a potential expansion team to restore the 41-year legacy that is the Seattle SuperSonics. This would restore the SuperSonics name, the green and yellow/gold colors, and the official records and history that are currently in the hands of the Oklahoma City team. Filmmakers state that they will not rest until the day the SuperSonics’ jerseys of former players and championship banners are once again hanging in the rafters of a arena in the Emerald City.
A glimmer of hope occurred when an ownership group in Seattle appeared and have a new arena plan ready to go. However, hopes got dashed when former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, one of the key money members of the group bought the Los Angeles Clippers after the Donald Sterling racial debacle, taking his wallet away from the hopes of Sonics faithful fans around the league. However, fans in Seattle and around the league do still hold hope that the NBA will be restored to order with thundering dunks coming out of the Emerald City and the voice of Kevin Calabro announcing a player has jumped on that magic carpet on the airwaves once more.
Commentary by Carl Auer