Friday , Feb , 29 , 2008 Basketball John

Save [Y]our Sonics

Save [Y]our Sonics

If you’re an NBA fan, why aren’t you doing anything?  One of the biggest travesties in the history of the NBA is going on right underneath our noses and no one seems to care.  The Seattle Supersonics are being stolen from their city and fans and everyone seems resigned to the fact that they’re moving to the OKC.  How can this happen to a team that has been in Seattle for 41 years, that has won an NBA championship, and that has produced stars such as Lenny Wilkens, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, and Ray Allen?  We’re holding congressional hearings for steroid use and nothing is being done about this?

And why should you care?  I have to admit that when this first started up, it didn’t really matter to me.  It was unfortunate for Seattle, but I still had my Jazz.  Surely, something would be worked out and this would all blow over.  Seattle fans were told by new owner Clay Bennett after he purchased the team from Starbucks owner Howard Schultz,

    “It is not our intention to move or relocate the team. … We fully intend to fulfill our obligation to KeyArena.”

They were even reassured by David Stern that, "Seattle’s not going anywhere."  But a few months later, new minority owner Aubrey McClendon made this statement,

    “So Clay, very artfully and skillfully, put himself in the middle of those discussions, and to the great amazement and surprise to everyone in Seattle, some rednecks from Oklahoma, which we’ve been called, made off with the team. … We didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here [Oklahoma City]."

That’s a great statement.  Nothing shows more that this was out and out theft than his comment about, “ma[king] off with the team.” 

Next came the political positioning from Bennett that the team needed $500 million dollars to build a new arena.  He set the expectation so high that there was no reasonable way the city could do this.  This was to a town that had just ponied up for new NFL and MLB stadiums.  And they had just helped finance a huge renovation of Key Arena in 1995.  Sorry, they were tapped out.  But now Bennett had his reason why they needed to leave Seattle even though they had no intention of staying there in the first place. 

And perhaps even more heinous was Bennett’s long-time friend David Stern abetting in this injustice,

    “"It’s apparent to all who are watching that the Sonics are heading out of Seattle, I accept that inevitability at this point. There is no miracle here."

So getting back to my point, why should you care?  After reading up on this more, it hit me like a Malone elbow to my face, if it could happen to Seattle, it could happen to Utah.  Larry H Miller is getting up there in years and we could be seeing the sale of the Jazz within the next ten years.  Now, he’s stated that he would like to pass it on to his sons, but that’s not a given.  But what scares me is that although Salt Lake, Utah, and the surrounding area are rabid Jazz fans and support the team, we are in one of the smallest markets in the NBA.  Let’s compare the two teams:

      >Seattle Utah
    Years in market 41 19
    Number of Championships 1 0
    Population of market 3,203,314 2,050,092
    Age of Arena 13 years
    17 years


What power will we have should a new owner want to move the team if the Seattle move goes through?  It sets a dangerous precedent that no matter how much the community and fans have invested in the team, they can rip it away from you in a moment’s notice.  And I want to know if the “souless bastard owner” feature is going to be in NBA Live ’09?  After all, if it’s in the game…

The Jazz had a storied rivalry with Seattle for the better part of 15 years.  And unfortunately, Seattle got the better of us a lot of the time.  They suffered the same fate as us in 1996 when they were the best team in the league that didn’t have a player named Michael Jordan.  We both likely would have won the championship in our respective years if it wasn’t for him.

And this franchise has roots as deep in Seattle as Mt. Ranier is tall.  And they’re moving the team to an even smaller market just so some self-absorbed owners can be heroes in their home state.  Sorry Oklahoma City, you did great hosting the Hornets while they were displaced, but you don’t have the soil to hold these roots.  It’s not OK.

As a nation, the United States rallies around those that are down-trodden and struggling.  After 9/11 and Katrina, their pro sports teams became our teams.  It was okay to root for the Mets, Yankees, Giants, Hornets, and Saints even if you were fans of other teams.  Now this in no way compares to those awful events, but the Seattle Supersonics should be everyone’s team until this is corrected.

So what can you do?  A good place to start is here and here.  But don’t send the letter just to the Seattle papers, send them to your local papers and TV stations.  Send letters to your NBA team’s owner and let them know that although you’re a Jazz, Denver, New York, or other team fan, you’re an NBA fan as well.  And now you’re a Seattle fan.  And check out the letter that Save our Sonics sent to the NBA’s board of commissioners.

And if that isn’t enough to get you going, you could be writing these letters that were sent in to Bill Simmons.  Digg up those letters and this story.  Do what you can on your own blogs and websites to raise awareness.  I’ll finish with this quote from Chris in one of those letters,

    “Worst of all, I might suddenly realize that there is a full, rich world outside the Sonics and NBA basketball. And — this should be David Stern’s worst nightmare — I might not be alone in making that discovery.”