Hooray for return of NBA to Seattle
One-time Sonics reporter has some regret, too, over grabbing another city's franchise.
My second reaction? Regret at taking another city's team, just as the Sonics were taken from us almost five years ago, and true commiseration with broken-hearted Sacramento fans for the loss of their Kings.
But mostly hooray.
I was unsure if I'd live to see professional basketball back in Seattle, and I never anticipated it happening so soon after the original Sonics were stolen away to Oklahoma City. The thought of again watching the best athletes in the world, of the extraordinary thrill and drama of a seven-game playoff series, and of perhaps having the chance to witness another championship parade gives me goose bumps.
That said, I will never forget the bitterness of losing the original Sonics, and my ill feelings for the filchers and bumblers responsible for the team's departure to Oklahoma City. Among them, new team owner and Oklahoma City resident Clay Bennett, NBA commissioner David Stern, previous Sonics owner Howard Schultz, Seattle mayor Greg Nickels, and others who allowed our beloved team to be snatched away.
I remember how much that hurt. And for that reason, yes, I have mixed feelings.
Taking the Kings from Sacramento seems wrong to me, just as it was wrong when Bennett purloined the Sonics. Sport fans spend years investing themselves emotionally and financially into a ballclub, and then some mega-millionaire with a whim for a new toy runs off with the team because he can.
When the Sonics left in 2008, I was ready to swear off the NBA forever. In fact, I've watched very little pro basketball in the past 4 1⁄2 years, save for last summer's London Olympic Games with a United States team comprised of NBA stars.
The problem was, the Sonics meant a lot to me personally and professionally, and I always knew I was missing something.
As a schoolboy during in the inaugural 1966-67 season, I went to games at the old Seattle Center Coliseum and cheered for early Sonics early like Walt Hazzard, Bob Rule, Tom Meschery and Tommy "Crash" Kron. Later, like everyone else in the Puget Sound area, I was euphoric during the team's run to the 1979 NBA championship. And for 13 seasons in 15 years from 1990-91 to 2004-05, I got paid to follow the Sonics for The Herald, which always seemed like the best job in the world.
Getting all that back is like a dream come true.
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And my regret at taking the Kings from Sacramento is tempered because I know the team's much-traveled history. Unlike the original Sonics, who had never been anywhere but Seattle, the Kings originated in Rochester, N.Y., in 1945. Known then as the Royals, the team relocated to Cincinnati in 1957, then to Kansas City in 1972 (originally Kansas City-Omaha for three seasons), and finally to Sacramento in 1985.
Few American sports franchises have been more places, though I doubt that will mollify unhappy Sacramento fans.
Neither does it erase all my own mixed feelings. But I'll get over it.
And a big reason is this. For all of us in the Puget Sound area _ the sports fans, yes, but also the population at large _ the arrival of the new Sonics means a spectacular new arena in downtown Seattle, in geographic proximity and matching splendor with CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field, homes to the Seahawks and Mariners.
Whatever they name the new building, it will be a superb venue for pro basketball, concerts and other entertainment events, and _ almost certainly at some point _ an NHL team. As a hockey fan, I'm looking forward to that, too.
But in the meantime, NBA basketball in Seattle is just around the corner. The Sonics are coming back, and we can all celebrate the return of what we had, and lost, and will have again.
To that, I say hooray.
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