Although the Supersonics are no longer,
fans clearly haven’t forgotten. It’s been 11 years. So what happened?
What happened is Howard Schultz. Ask any Seattleite
on the street if they recognize the name and they’re likely to have one of two reactions. The first: a vague glint of recognition for “that Starbucks guy.” The second: a swift, stormy look of betrayal. That second reaction is when you know you’ve got a Supersonics
fan on your hands.
Long before the era of Silicon Valley, the Supersonics
’ name announced that they intended to “move fast and break things.” Literally, by definition, to be “supersonic
” is to break the sound barrier. This break is accompanied, through a delightful act of physics, by a thunderclap of shockwaves. Taking inspiration from Boeing’s plan to build a supersonic plane, Seattle’s
choice of name for their first major league sports team couldn’t have been more hopeful.
While the Sonics
reached the upper echelons of excellence in the league with stars like Larry Wilkens in the 70s, the 90s Supersonics
with dynamic duo Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp is the team that answered the call of their moniker.
The smaller of the two (to be clear: he’s 6’ 4”, which can only be considered small in the world of basketball), Gary Payton was known for trash-talking on the court, win or lose. In fact, according to his teammates, Gary never really stopped running his mouth. Locker neighbor Nate McMillan kept a bucket of water on hand to dump on Payton when he got too worked up.
Payton’s partner in crime, the mountainous Shawn Kemp, is known for being one of the most creative slam-dunkers in the league. Payton and Kemp shared a teamwork that only comes from being close on and off the court, and they became legendary for their alley-oops. And the love between them is real: Kemp recently credited Payton with giving the Sonics
the 90s the grit and fight that fans loved them for.
of the 90s weren’t the most disciplined or perfect team, but they were full of fight. No matter how they were playing, the Sonics
were unique because they thought there was always a chance worth fighting for, making for some of the most dynamic and enjoyable sports watching of the ‘90s. They won zero titles, but were singularly raw and eccentric in both talent and style. Throw in a dash of Squatch, the lovable mascot so indicative of the Pacific Northwest, and you have a truly beloved team.
Cutting this romantic era short, however, is our old friend Howard Schultz. In basketball’s world of teamwork, Schultz’ dogged corporate mindset simply didn’t mesh. Unable to tame team star Payton, he traded him almost immediately. He later threatened to sell the team if Seattle
wouldn’t ante up money for a brand-new stadium. And he did, soon after: to new Oklahoma City owners with the promise that they would make a “good faith effort” to remain in Seattle
Sadly, the team remained in Seattle
for a whole year before being shipped off to Oklahoma to become the Thunder. Later, emails were leaked that made it clear that the new owners had always intended to move the team to Oklahoma City. For Sonics
fans, those emails were the nails in Schultz’ public relations coffin.
11 years later, Seattle
is still without an NBA
franchise. 11 years later, the mere mention of Schultz’ name in the news will cause a slew of angry think pieces about Schultz – just look at Seattle
’s reaction to his recent attempt at a presidential run. That just goes to show you: when it comes to sports, fans never forget betrayal.