Sonics are more than just a team | Kris Hill

Monday morning as I was making my coffee I received an email to my work account on my phone that took me a little bit by surprise.

It was a statement from King County Executive Dow Constantine regarding the sale of the Sacramento Kings to a business group led by Chris Hansen, a man well-known now for his efforts to build a new basketball and ice hockey arena.

The news of the sale wasn’t surprising to me, the fact that a press release from Constantine’s office about it this morning was what caught me off guard. Rumors that the sale was all but finalized had swirled for close to two weeks. When they first began circulating I thought for sure that we were a mere 24 hours away from the official announcement.

Instead, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday for students in public schools, anyone who is in government or works for a bank, which we celebrate to honor the accomplishments of a civil rights leader, one of the first things on my mind as I head out the door to work is the Seattle SuperSonics returning.

Kind of crazy, right?

First of all, I know the heartbreak for the fans of the Kings. I became a Sonics fan at the age of 10. I remember two or three members of the team coming to Lake Hills Elementary School when I was in fifth grade. I will never forget sitting on the floor in the gym, wearing my Girl Scout uniform because we had a meeting that night, then standing up to answer a question one of the very tall basketball players asked. As a reward for getting it right, I got a Sonics team poster autographed by the guys who were there that day.

From that moment forward I was a loyal fan. That same year I became a Mariners fan. That was the year Ken Griffey Jr. began playing.

Through my years at Highland Middle School and Interlake High in Bellevue, I watched as many Sonics games as I could.

As a teen, I recall watching Detlef Schrempf train on the track at my high school during the off season. I remember leaping to my feet and shouting when Shawn Kemp would dunk, especially when the Sonics were playing the Lakers.

I was inspired by the play of Gary Payton, aka the Glove, for his ability to step into passing lanes, poke the ball away from unsuspecting opponents then score in transition. And when the Sonics made it to the NBA finals my senior year of high school, which was nine months after the Mariners miraculous comeback in the last month of the season to beat the Angels for the AL West and earn a spot in the playoffs, it was a glorious time to be a sports fan here.

And at the same time the Sonics were playing the Bulls in the championship series, I had just started dating my husband. One of the first tokens of affection he gave me was a Sonics t-shirt we saw one afternoon while shopping at Bellevue Square. He noticed how much I liked it and found a way to get it for me without my knowing.

Our love for our local sports teams is one of the cornerstones of the foundation of our relationship. No. Seriously.

So, when Clay Bennett moved the team to Oklahoma City as we all knew he would, it was like losing a part of my childhood. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to share those memories with my daughter at a game, who will likely roll her eyes at that someday, but I would rather have that than not at all.

And I know that the collective misery we felt as a region must have flowed from similar places in our shared experience as fans.

Unfortunately, I know all too well what Kings fans are going through.

But, I’m petty and selfish in some respects, and I want the team that thrilled me for most of my life to return. I wanted it not just for myself but for all the fans here who felt scorned by so many involved in the Sonics debacle.

The pain of the heartbreak suffered in 2008 has diminished. What helps me more is that this is happening before NBA Commissioner David Stern retires little more than a year from now.

I was convinced we would not see the NBA return to Seattle until after Stern stepped down given the vast array of statements he’s made on the matter, particularly the more desirable way, in my view, of bringing a team back: league expansion.

Trust me, no one wanted to see us take a team from another city after what happened to us. It’s the ripple effect of taking the Sonics to OKC. But, this is what has happened, I am not part of Hansen’s ownership group nor can I control the Maloof family’s actions. All I can do is celebrate the return of my beloved SuperSonics to Seattle, the building of a new arena, and the idea that a little piece of my childhood will always be there.

If you’re reading this and don’t understand why this is important, go watch Sonicsgate. It made me angry. It made me want my team back.

I don’t know that I’ll be able to afford to buy season tickets, but, I will go watch the Sonics again at KeyArena and anywhere else they may play. I will buy jerseys. I will get my daughter Sonics apparel.

And every day I will continue to glare at Clay Bennett, Nickels, and Howard Schultz while praying for Sacramento to get its team back.

Maybe I’ll even root for the Thunder a little bit, but, I wouldn’t count on it.

I will also think kind things about Hansen and the members of his ownership group. Bringing the Sonics back is not just about having another pro sports team in our town.

It’s about jobs, the economy, but most significantly to me, it’s about families and community.

Welcome back, Sonics. My inner 10-year-old is jumping up and down.

Reach Assistant Editor Kris Hill at khill@maplevalleyreporter.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5054.


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