The NBA likes to pretend we don’t exist. That we don’t care about them and as a result they, in turn, don’t have to care about us. Seattle? Where’s Seattle? Is that a village or something? What is that?
We had our basketball team stolen from us and relocated a thousand miles away in the middle of God-knows-where. That was bad enough, certainly. But it was made worse by the fact that we were repeatedly slandered after the pillaging. That the thieves made off with our prized possession, then tried to convince the masses that we didn’t care about being hijacked. Seattle fans are apathetic, they said. Seattle fans don’t deserve our product. Seattle fans haven’t been showing up to games, or cheering for their team, or even giving a damn about what happens on the court with their Sonics. Seattle fans weren’t good enough, they claimed.
Like scorned lovers left out in the cold after a marriage gone awry, we were dragged through the muddy rhetoric of he-said-she-said. The National Basketball Association, led by commissioner David Stern, insulted our fanaticism. Forget forty-one years of history. Forget the World Championship, the passionate loyalty, and the Finals appearances. They took our team, then they ripped out our hearts and stomped on them. They embarrassed us to prove a horribly misguided point: that in this time of economic desperation, NO team and NO fan base is safe from the wrath of the NBA’s epically abysmal crap business model.
We all know by now that the NBA has been losing money. This has been going on for the better part of the past decade. Teams have been shuffled from city to city in attempts to try and salvage income for Stern’s wallet. The Sonics were simply the most recent — and arguably most glaring — of all the migrations. The Hornets left Charlotte, but an expansion franchise was granted to the vacated North Carolina metropolis seemingly minutes later. The Grizzlies departed Vancouver for Memphis, but did so just six years after playing their first game north of the border.
The Sonics, on the other hand, were entrenched in the fabric of our community. Even after ne’er-do-well owners had tried to extract our beloved Mariners and Seahawks from their SODO homes, our Sonics seemed untouchable. They were the one constant. Our first and longest-tenured major professional sports franchise.
There has been no healing process. No coping. Only a constant battle to bring back our team to its rightful place on the map. And now, closing in on four years since they were taken from us, there is significant talk that an NBA team could be returning shortly.
It all hinges on an arena. Ours wasn’t sufficient, isn’t sufficient. At least by the NBA’s standards. Last week, it was revealed that a group of local businessmen were in talks with the city to construct a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility just south of Safeco and Century Link Fields. The venue would be used to entice both an NBA franchise and an NHL franchise into coming here. In the case of the NHL, the rumored tenant appears to be the Phoenix Coyotes, who have struggled to make a lasting footprint in the desert (shocking, I know). With the NBA, it is the Sacramento Kings, who have called California’s state capitol home for the past twenty-seven years.
Whether or not the Kings end up leaving Sacramento remains to be seen. Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding their potential departure will be as heart-wrenching for the Kings’ fan base as it once was for ours. It hardly seems fair. Fans in every major city from here to Canada are at-risk for the same treatment we received in 2008. The league’s shaky grasp on reality and business economics would be comical if it wasn’t so damn sad. But this is the world we live in.
We may get our Sonics back or we may not. That isn’t the point, however. Win or lose, team or no team, we will never fully heal from this. Everybody remembers having their heart broken. You never love the same way the second time around. That’s what we’ll be asked to do when our team finally returns to Seattle.
We shouldn’t have been broken up with in the first place. We gave our love to that franchise and to that league and they cheated on us. They didn’t anticipate that we’d care, that we’d be so…devastated.
This is Seattle. This is a city where we escape rain nine months out of the year by finding our way into dusty gyms with hardwood flooring. Where we revel in our beautiful summer afternoons by sunning ourselves on white-lined asphalt beaches. Where we’ve produced more talented basketball stars per capita than any city in America, I’d bet money on it. Where we live and breathe hoop, live and breathe the rhythm of the dribble and the rip of the net on a jumper as pure as clean air.
We are basketball. It doesn’t make sense, I know. We’re not New York. We’re not Indiana. We’re Seattle. We’re not supposed to be a hoop hotbed. But we are. And we loved our team so freakin’ much. We loved the Sonics. They were everything to us. They were what turned us into basketball fiends. How could you take them from us? How could you act like we didn’t give a shit when they left?
The NBA underestimated us. And now they might be coming back. It will be a love-hate relationship for all-time. We’ll love our Sonics. We will love that team like they never left in the first place. But the NBA? We will always hate the NBA.
We are passionate and we will never, ever forget. Yes, we want our Sonics. Yes, we want a new arena, forty-one home games a year, the annual appeal of the playoffs, and all the amenities that come from being a major sports market. But you will never, ever meet a more furiously incensed fan base as us, as the Seattle faithful.
We are basketball. You neglected us. We’ll always hate you for it.
Now give us back our one true love.