Every so often, we here at A Royal Pain feature content sent to us by fans and friends. One recent piece we received was from Corbin G., a Seattle Sonics fan who wanted to let know King fans know – at least in his mind – there’s no blood in the water between the two fan bases. Corbin did a wonderful job on his piece and I highly recommend the read.
It was December 2008 and I remember lying in a hotel restlessly thinking about how terrible the Oklahoma City Thunder was playing. Did I get any cheap gratification out of their struggle? Not really. I just terribly missed the Seattle Sonics. Terrible basketball will always be better than no basketball.
Fast forward 4+ years later and with ‘a’ team on the cusp of returning… I do not feel any guilt in how history is seemingly repeating itself. Why? Simple. I desperately want the Kings to remain in Sacramento. Sacramento is now Seattle… whereas the Sonics are the Kings five years past. Two cities, two franchises intertwined by a story that, unfortunately for us, has always seemed destined for the national narrative’s back page. Of course, some of the actors have changed but for the most part, the theme of the script remains relatively the same. An important vestige of a city is being wrongfully torn away and the question is why…? Business. However shady it may be.1 To the legion of both franchises’ fans hanging on every report “this is not personal.” It is frustrating knowing that no matter how integral fans are to the pro sports’ business model, they are powerless in the grand scheme of it all. In a day and age where loyalty is fickle and fleeting and courage comes not from the heart but from behind a keyboard, this is a Shakespearean tragedy made for even the non-sports fan. Okay, I admit that is probably hyperbole I just enjoy the romanticism of the game. At 24, how I wish I was alive for the NBA’s golden age. The era when players legitimately disliked each other and there was not a new bandwagon for many to shamelessly board each year. Still, the ramifications of this “stay-or-relocate” go far beyond the hardwood. It seems inevitable that regardless of whom the team is sold to, the Maloofs’ are going to reap a King’s ransom (terrible pun intended). I, as only one Sonics fan, just hope it is not at the expense of Sacramento’s only professional sports team. “Somebody Else’s Problem” should not be Seattle’s solution.
However this resolves, one city’s heartbreak is going to be another’s lifeline but I now ask can Seattle truly have its heart ripped out again when its heart was already transplanted to OKC? This is not to say I do not yearn for a Sonics revival but when such a return is contingent upon the Kings’ demise I cannot support it. It is merely based on principle and the great respect I have for the Kings organization. Growing up I remember how my dad and (not coincidently) myself could not stand (what we thought was) Reggie Theus’ biased commentary during Kings games on TNT. How can any basketball fan in the early 2000s forget the cowbell? Maybe none of this would be happening if it were not for Tim… I will not even go there. That being said, if not now when will Seattle’s next chance at the NBA be heaven-sent?
For now Gary Payton’s jersey remains unretired. Am I okay with his jersey being raised to the rafters all the while lowering down and putting the Kings #4 in a box to be stored away? Then again, why not keep Webber’s jersey hanging next to Mitch Richmond’s as a salute to the Kings’ past. That could be a way to respectfully remember the roots of the franchise. Certain Sonics fans might agree.2
Many Sonics fans undoubtedly find themselves in a perplexing situation, one in which they find their statements needing to be prefaced with sentiments of empathy yet concluded with handwringing justification:
‘I feel terrible for Sacramento… and I really only support expansion… but it’s not an option unfortunately.’
‘This is different. Hansen has been upfront in his intentions to relocate to Seattle…you are not being duped… to the extent that we were.’
‘The Sonics were in Seattle for 41 years… the Kings? They’ve already moved, and moved… and moved again.’
I remember sitting in that hotel room back in December 2008 thinking about when the Sonics would return. There has never been any doubt that they would. I miss the NBA and I miss the Sonics. Unfortunately for the fanatic within me… I can wait for that return.
Once again Commissioner Dave Stern has once again pitted two fanbases and cities against one another all the while not taking the responsibility of acknowledging how franchise relocation is the worst outcome the position he holds can oversee. Forget the the work stoppage argument by the way. In those instances, a puppet is simply posturing at its masters’ command. And by the way… Donald Fehr? I prefer Billy Hunter’s nepotism. To get back to the point, the packing of the Mayflowers should always be the last resort. A result only reached when every course of action has been exhausted. In this case, maybe it has or maybe it will be but it still does not make it right just like it did not make it right half a decade ago.
Forgive my subtle dig at the makers of “Sonicsgate” above. Such immaturity on my part is not constructive to the crux of what I am trying to say. I really enjoyed their documentary. Riveting filmmaking. I can safely say that they care more about the Supes than anyone and that the genesis of a possible return must be attributed to their blue-collar persistence and grassroots dedication. I have not watched “Small Market, Big Heart” but in a way I already have. The city of Seattle was undoubtedly screwed yet now that the time has come for the city to be a beneficiary of another screwjob… I just cannot watch unabashedly as it happens. It is hard to explain being victimized by circumstances out of your control until it happens to you. Of all fans, Sonics fans should feel that emotion, the ones they harbor deep down, the ones they felt watching that ominous thunderstorm on July 2, 2008. Sacramento, the capital city of the most populated state in the United States of America, would be without a professional franchise sans the Kings and I do not want to pass on to them that empty feeling we have been left with since 2008.