Tuesday , Aug , 18 , 2009 Oly Sandor

Clay Bennett, Howard Schultz, David Stern, and the NBA should fear Sonicsgate

Thankfully, I lived three hours south of the Emerald City and during Spring Break my saint of a mother drove me to Key Arena to watch the Sonics play the Miami Heat. I don’t remember who won. I don’t remember who lost (the March 13th box-score shows Miami pulled out a 106-102 victory). I do remember the players: Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Ricky Pierce, and Heat phenomenon Harold ‘Baby Jordan’ Miner …


Clay Bennett, Howard Schultz, David Stern, and the NBA should fear SonicsgateIt was 1993. Cross Color jeans, Naughty By Nature, and the Seattle Supersonics were the rage.

Thankfully, I lived three hours north of the Emerald City and during Spring Break my saint of a mother drove this grade nine boy to Key Arena to watch the Sonics play the Miami Heat.

I don’t remember who won. I don’t remember who lost (the March 13th box-score shows Miami pulled out a 106-102 victory). I do remember the players: Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Ricky Pierce, and Heat phenomenon Harold ‘Baby Jordan’ Miner.

Most importantly, I remember the feeling of a basketball mad market. It was a few years before the abomination known as the Grizzlies hit Vancouver, so the entertaining Sonics were very much the home team.

It was clear Seattle loved its team. It was also clear Seattle loved basketball. You could see it in the fan’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the game. There was also a sense these players were different, capable of breaking out the competitive Western Conference and challenging for an NBA Title.

It was a special experience. And something I will never forget because it helped foster my passion for the sport.

What happened fifteen years later was also an experience. Only it was devastating. The bond between Seattle and its Sonics broke when majority owner Clay Bennett and his partners, lured by lucrative luxury boxes and a shiny new arena, took the franchise to Oklahoma City.

Moving a professional sports team is never easy on a city and its fans. But Bennett, NBA Commissioner David Stern, former Sonic owner and current Starbucks guru Howard Schultz, and certain Seattle politicians behaved in a particularly shameful and dishonest manner.

Seattle deserved better. After all, the community supported the NBA for forty years, even basking in the glow of the 1979 championship. Legends like Freddie Brown, Tom Chambers, Dale Ellis, Gus Johnson and, my favorite, Xavier McDaniel turned the 2-0-6 into a basketball factory, which produced current NBA players Spencer Hawes, Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Jason Terry, and Martell Webster.

All that is gone. Forever.

Thankfully, Sonicsgate, a new documentary film, essentially argues that Bennett, with the NBA’s approval, planned on leaving Seattle well before citizens had a chance to vote on whether to spend $500 million of taxpayers money on a new arena.        

I hope Sonicsgate shows what really happened. And I hope Seattle gets back just a small part of that special feeling from 1993. 

(Check out the above trailer of Sonicsgate Then watch the full movie on-line in October or check your local listings for show times.)

Got thoughts on Sonicsgate? What about Seattle losing its NBA team? Let us know in the comment box below and follow Oly on HoopsVibe The Blog and Twitter. Photo courtesy of bballchico