Five years ago today, the Seattle SuperSonics were sold to The Professional Basketball Club, LLC.
That description, while factually accurate, doesn’t quite do justice to the events. They are instead better described by the pit in my stomach when I was told not just that the Sonics had been sold, but that the new ownership group was from Oklahoma City — the same Oklahoma City that had just successfully spent a year hosting the New Orleans Hornets and was looking for a long-term tenant for their NBA-ready arena.
I found out around 10 a.m., an hour before the balance of my Sonics coworkers took the same gut punch at an all-staff meeting. By that point, I was already at KeyArena, preparing for the Storm’s annual Kids Day game at noon. About a half-dozen people in the building knew what was going to happen, which we had to bear with stony silence. Anne Donovan, then the Storm’s head coach, was one of them. The combination of the news and finding out about an injury to star Lauren Jackson left Donovan looking like she’d seen a ghost when she met the media.
I remember Steve Kelley, the Seattle Times columnist, walking up to me and being terrified I’d give something away. He just wanted to joke about the high-pitched crowd for the game. He had no idea Kids Day was about to be rendered irrelevant.
Word broke on the Internet a little before tipoff. That’s when the emails started coming in. By halftime, the whispers had spread through the crowd, and the first of many “Noklahoma” signs appeared in the far end zone. It didn’t help matters that the Storm couldn’t get anything going without Jackson in a 13-point loss.
After the game, I made the short walk from the Key to The Furtado Center, the team practice facility where the press conference was scheduled. Thankfully, I wasn’t assigned to write anything, so I just walked around in a daze, taking everything in and trying to figure out what just happened. After I went back to the office, my big assignment was trying to find a photo of Clay Bennett where he had even a hint of a smile on his face for the frontpage of supersonics.com.
Five years, it turns out, is a long time. The two painful years the Sonics spent in purgatory as we hoped in vain for a miracle felt like a decade. Now it seems like they’ve been gone for far longer than three years. If not a different lifetime, July 18, 2006 feels like an entirely different chapter in my life. Yet the day’s events still remain vivid.
When everything was done and it was time to go home, I had an offer to join some friends at the bar. I needed to do something else. I went home, changed and went to a nearby school to shoot baskets and clear my head. An unfamiliar player, about the same age, came up and started shooting on the same hoop. Making conversation, he said he was new in town and was sad he was never going to be able to see the Sonics play, given they were about to move. For the first and only time in my life, I lied when asked what I did for a living.
I never saw that guy again, but I’ll never forget him.
- Kevin PeltonJul192011
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