The Thunder, who would move to Oklahoma City from Seattle in 2008, have now put former Sonics fans in a tough predicament, do they cheer for the team that left them for the Great Plains, or root for the flashy “Big Three” of the Miami Heat or the gritty and tough veteran Boston Celtics?
Being a native Cleveland fan, this has to feel like a proverbial sucker punch to the groin for Seattle sports fans in seeing their former team in the thunder advance to the NBA Finals with a chance to win it’s first—and the Seattle/Oklahoma City franchise’s second—NBA title and fourth overall appearance in the Finals.
With their former number one draft pick in small forward—and the real NBA MVP—in Kevin Durant, who may be—next to LeBron James—the best basketball player on the planet, there will be many Sonics fans rooting hard against their former team.
Growing up a lifelong fan of the Cleveland Browns, I was away in art college in Pittsburgh when Art Modell decided to move my team to Baltimore that fateful day in 1995, and it was even more gut-wrenching to see my former team—now the Baltimore Ravens—hoist Vince Lombardi’s trophy.
In the eyes of Sonics fans, the sight—and mere thought—of Thunder owner of Clay Bennett hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy would be pouring salt on their proverbial—and still fresh—open wound.
Much like the Browns, the SuperSonics had a long and proud championship history ranging in players from Lenny Wilkens—and former Cavs head coach—Jack Sikma to Nate McMillian and a heated rivalry with a neighbor in the “I-5” rivalry with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Much like Cleveland, Seattle is fighting to preserve it’s name and colors for a future NBA expansion team, the same way Browns fans around the world fought the NFL in court.
If you are a true Cleveland sports fan, then you can understand when I say that Modell is not—nor will ever—be worthy of Canton, let alone had no right in winning a Super Bowl.
For Seattle, I’ve always had a special affinity for the city, even though I have never been to there to see the breathtaking sight of Mt Rainier or visit Pike’s Fish Market on Pioneer Square, I was somehow drawn to watching the high-flying Sonics teams of Detlef Schrempf, Gary “The Glove” Payton and Shawn Kemp in the 90’s, the always great Washington Huskie football teams of Mark Brunell and Steve Emtman, and Ken Griffey Jr’s Mariners when they played that memorable ALCS series back in 1995 in the loud and raucous old Kingdome against my Cleveland Indians.
While Bennett is no Modell, Cleveland and Seattle now share a tight—and unfortunate bond—of watching their relocated former teams now have a chance to win a championship elsewhere.
If you’re from Cleveland, this hits close to home as you can sympathize with former Sonics fans, if you’re from Seattle, watching the next two weeks is going to be agonizing to say the least.
Who does Seattle root for?
While we make no apologies for our open hatred and revile of the Ravens when they play the Browns or James—when the Heat play the Cavs—for those former Sonics fans now sleepless in Seattle, perhaps this statement can offer some solace.
You are not alone.
Follow me on Twitter, @RobertCobb_76