What a day in Oklahoma City Sunday. The young Oklahoma City Thunder, led by superstar Kevin Durant, are no longer an up and coming team, they’ve officially arrived. By disposing of the Memphis Grizzlies in seven hard fought games, the Thunder have gone from a 23 win team to a Conference Final qualifier in just two short years, and they may not be done.
In a wide-open NBA final four, OKC has as good a chance to bring home a title as any of the other three teams standing. And wouldn’t it be fitting if they did? The last team from the Western Conference not named the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs or Houston Rockets to win an NBA Title was the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics. Why is it fitting? Have you already forgotten? The only reason the Thunder are in Oklahoma City, the only reason their fans are enjoying winning playoff basketball, is because the SuperSonics were stolen away from Seattle three years ago and transplanted to the heartland of Oklahoma.
While the fans that packed and rollicked the Oklahoma City Arena today are not to blame for this heist, this is not a time to put all the focus on the tremendous rise of an NBA team in a new city. Instead, we should also consider how Sonic fans feel about all of this success that should be happening in their own backyard, because Sonic fans were every bit as good at supporting their team as the Thunder fans were today supporting theirs.
Remember how they rocked Key Arena in the mid 90’s with Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton leading the way to multiple playoff series wins and an appearance in the 1996 NBA Finals? Or if you go back far enough to that ‘79 title team that the city fell in love with, the team that brought Seattle the first and still only major sports championship in its history? Sonic fans didn’t lose their team because they failed to support them. The Sonics cease to exist because of a two faced owner in Clay Bennett who bought the team with no intention of ever keeping them in the Emerald City. The guy is from Oklahoma City for Pete’s sake. What did David Stern and the NBA think he was going to do when he bought the team in 2006?
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Seattle also no longer has a team because the Sonics home arena, Key Arena, was used as the scapegoat to move the franchise to Oklahoma City. The building was perceived to not be up to current NBA standards, this is despite the fact that it had just undergone a renovation in 1994 and 1995 and housed a very adequate 17,072 at capacity.
The Sonics should still be in Seattle, Durant should be rocking Key Arena and the Seattle Supersonics should be getting ready to face the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday. Stern can’t deny this and Bennett certainly can’t deny this. So while we all celebrate the great success of the 2010-11 Thunder, let’s not forget how Sonic fans feel tonight. Because while Oklahoma City celebrates, Seattle is once again painfully reminded of what could have been.