SEATTLE — If you happen to’re a fan of the Seattle SuperSonics, jilted way back regardless of a long time of loyal love, you’re critically completely happy for the final nice expertise out of your crew.
That might be Kevin Durant.
After a 12 months spent rehabilitating a torn Achilles’ tendon, Durant now appears to be dwelling his finest life in Brooklyn because the chief of the Nets. His odds of profitable a 3rd N.B.A. title acquired a major enhance when a blockbuster commerce reunited him this week with James Harden, his shut good friend and former Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder teammate.
Durant, Harden and Kyrie Irving on the same team? Scintillating, as long as they find yourself on the identical web page.
However if you happen to’re a die-hard Sonics fan — and sure, rely me in that group — the happiness felt for one in every of basketball’s transcendent superstars comes with a flip facet.
We see Durant and are compelled to reckon with all of the unfulfilled prospects.
Recall that the slim, do-everything ahead spent his rookie season in Seattle. He was solely 19, however he led the crew by a dreary and unsure 2007-08 season. He wasn’t simply good, he was prodigiously good; so filled with expertise and pleasure that watching him made the doomsday speak of the Sonics’ attainable relocation drift away.
Then actuality hit. April 13, 2008. The final sport performed on the outdated KeyArena: a win sealed by a Durant leap shot.
Quickly the crew moved to Oklahoma Metropolis, the place it started anew because the Thunder. (Pardon the crankiness, however they’ll all the time be the Tumbleweeds to me.)
It’s been 12 years, however the stinging questions stay.
What would have occurred to Durant and our crew if the Sonics had by no means left?
And the way a lot ought to followers count on their devotion to be mirrored by skilled sports activities leagues, crew possession and the gamers we most admire?
I’m typical of many in Seattle. The Sonics will all the time be in my blood. I’m comfortably middle-aged, however I can shut my eyes and keep in mind my first N.B.A. sport: the intense colours and sharp sounds and even the smells of buttered popcorn and roasted peanuts within the outdated coliseum nestled close to the House Needle.
I used to be 6, and the Sonics had been taking part in Jerry Sloan and the Chicago Bulls. I can nonetheless really feel my father’s humongous fingers as he led me to our seats.
A number of years later, when my mother and father divorced, my father stored our connection shut by the Sonics. We went to dozens of video games, seated nearly all the time close to the rafters. We noticed Julius Erving’s first look in Seattle — all that grace and energy and coolness.
We had been there in 1978 when the Sonics misplaced to the Washington Bullets within the N.B.A. finals.
In 1979, we watched Gus Williams, Jack Sikma, Dennis Johnson and my dad’s good friend Downtown Freddie Brown because the crew gained its solely league championship.
Years later, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton fashioned a strong, legendary duo, however our hearts had been all the time with these Nineteen Seventies groups.
Another reminiscence, this one bittersweet. When my father was dying, far too early at age 75, we rode collectively in an ambulance to a close-by hospice. I held his hand once more as he spoke of our most cherished instances. “The Sonics,” he stated. Then he recalled, one final time, the wonderful, arcing accuracy of Fred Brown’s leap shot.
I do know I’m hardly alone. We bond over groups, over exceptional wins and searing losses and athletes who stay ever younger in our thoughts’s eye.
Followers everywhere in the nation, who root for every kind of groups and gamers, know that love. It’s steadfast, devoted and rooted deep into our souls.
We additionally know the chance. There aren’t any ensures that devotion will probably be rewarded with loyalty in return. (Simply ask the Houston followers who’ve stood behind Harden since 2012.)
Two years after my father’s demise, the Midwestern possession group that had purchased the Sonics moved Seattle’s first big-time skilled sports activities crew of the fashionable period to Oklahoma.
The truth that the crew had been an important a part of one in every of America’s best cities for 41 years didn’t matter. Nor did the truth that Seattle was recognized to have probably the most passionate fan bases in sports activities.
Nothing mattered however the backside line. The N.B.A. wished a elaborate new stadium, and taxpayer cash to fund an enormous chunk of it. Seattle’s political leaders balked. There was no compromise.
The town misplaced the Sonics and the one participant everybody imagined as a franchise cornerstone. The one participant who might have introduced one other title and solid extra exceptional seasons, possibly for a decade or longer.
Now we have by no means relinquished our love for Durant. He matured throughout an period of fixed participant motion that appeared to be foretold by the uprooting of the Sonics. He got here to personify the fashionable celebrity. He bounced from crew to crew to crew, profitable an M.V.P. and world titles and by no means fairly content material in a single place. However to us he’s nonetheless the wide-eyed teen who conjured our final flash of basketball brilliance. We will’t let go.
It helped that he by no means forgot the town that birthed his N.B.A. profession. When his Golden State Warriors got here to Seattle for an exhibition in 2018, he wore a classic Shawn Kemp jersey and gave the sold-out crowd all they might ever need to hear. “I do know it’s been a tough 10 years,” he stated. “The N.B.A. is again in Seattle for tonight, however hopefully it’s again without end quickly!”
Will that ever occur? To pine for it’s to be whipsawed between hope and despair.
Every time N.B.A. commissioner Adam Silver utters a single sentence that may very well be divined as giving a nod towards the Sonics’ return — as he did just lately when he spoke of league growth as “Manifest Future” and gave a tip of the hat towards Seattle — the native information goes into overdrive with tales a few attainable return.
Contractors are rebuilding the outdated KeyArena, quickly the house of the N.H.L.’s Seattle Kraken, an growth crew. They’ve gutted the outdated construction. Near $1 billion will go towards rising its measurement and prepping it for a number of sports activities — professional basketball included. The entire endeavor is led by Tim and Tod Leiweke, brothers related to the N.B.A. and Silver for many years who make no secret of their want to have an growth crew taking part in of their gleaming new edifice.
Does all this imply the Sonics are coming quickly? Perhaps. However then once more, possibly not.
So Sonics followers maintain holding tight to the one final celebrity to have performed for our crew.
He’s doing his factor in Brooklyn now.
And we’re nonetheless dreaming of the long run.
I can see it now, in two years or possibly 5, the SuperSonics again in the end. The primary massive free-agent signed to herald their return? Kevin Durant.
Sorry Brooklyn, there’s no such factor as loyalty within the N.B.A.