SEATTLE — When you’re a fan of the Seattle SuperSonics, jilted way back regardless of a long time of loyal love, you’re severely comfortable for the final nice expertise out of your workforce.
That will be Kevin Durant.
After a yr 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 obtained a major increase 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 should you’re a die-hard Sonics fan — and sure, depend me in that group — the happiness felt for one in all basketball’s transcendent superstars comes with a flip facet.
We see Durant and are compelled to reckon with all of the unfulfilled potentialities.
Recall that the slim, do-everything ahead spent his rookie season in Seattle. He was solely 19, however he led the workforce via a dreary and unsure 2007-08 season. He wasn’t simply good, he was prodigiously good; so stuffed with expertise and pleasure that watching him made the doomsday speak of the Sonics’ doable relocation drift away.
Then actuality hit. April 13, 2008. The final recreation performed on the previous KeyArena: a win sealed by a Durant soar shot.
Quickly the workforce moved to Oklahoma Metropolis, the place it started anew because the Thunder. (Pardon the crankiness, however they’ll at all times be the Tumbleweeds to me.)
It’s been 12 years, however the stinging questions stay.
What would have occurred to Durant and our workforce 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, workforce possession and the gamers we most admire?
I’m typical of many in Seattle. The Sonics will at all times be in my blood. I’m comfortably middle-aged, however I can shut my eyes and bear in mind my first N.B.A. recreation: the intense colours and sharp sounds and even the smells of buttered popcorn and roasted peanuts within the previous coliseum nestled close to the House Needle.
I used to be 6, and the Sonics have been taking part in Jerry Sloan and the Chicago Bulls. I can nonetheless really feel my father’s humongous arms as he led me to our seats.
A number of years later, when my dad and mom divorced, my father saved our connection shut via the Sonics. We went to dozens of video games, seated nearly at all times close to the rafters. We noticed Julius Erving’s first look in Seattle — all that grace and energy and coolness.
We have 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 workforce received its solely league championship.
Years later, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton shaped a strong, legendary duo, however our hearts have been at all times with these Nineteen Seventies groups.
Yet one more 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 occasions. “The Sonics,” he stated. Then he recalled, one final time, the fantastic, arcing accuracy of Fred Brown’s soar 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 all types of groups and gamers, know that love. It’s steadfast, devoted and rooted deep into our souls.
We additionally know the danger. There are not any ensures that devotion shall be rewarded with loyalty in return. (Simply ask the Houston followers who’ve stood behind Harden since 2012.)
Two years after my father’s loss of life, the Midwestern possession group that had purchased the Sonics moved Seattle’s first big-time skilled sports activities workforce of the fashionable period to Oklahoma.
The truth that the workforce had been a significant a part of one in all America’s biggest cities for 41 years didn’t matter. Nor did the truth that Seattle was identified to have one of the vital passionate fan bases in sports activities.
Nothing mattered however the backside line. The N.B.A. wished a flowery new stadium, and taxpayer cash to fund a giant 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 cast extra exceptional seasons, possibly for a decade or longer.
We have now by no means relinquished our love for Durant. He matured throughout an period of fixed participant motion that gave the impression to be foretold by the uprooting of the Sonics. He got here to personify the fashionable famous person. He bounced from workforce to workforce to workforce, 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 are able to’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 may 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 perpetually quickly!”
Will that ever occur? To pine for it’s to be whipsawed between hope and despair.
At any time when N.B.A. commissioner Adam Silver utters a single sentence that could possibly be divined as giving a nod towards the Sonics’ return — as he did lately when he spoke of league enlargement as “Manifest Future” and gave a tip of the hat towards Seattle — the native information goes into overdrive with tales a few doable return.
Contractors are rebuilding the previous KeyArena, quickly the house of the N.H.L.’s Seattle Kraken, an enlargement workforce. They’ve gutted the previous construction. Near $1 billion will go towards growing 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 linked to the N.B.A. and Silver for many years who make no secret of their need to have an enlargement workforce 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 hold holding tight to the one final famous person to have performed for our workforce.
He’s doing his factor in Brooklyn now.
And we’re nonetheless dreaming of the longer term.
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.
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