Commentary

Old Sonics remind us of what we lost

Or, more specifically, what was stolen from Seattle

Originally Published: August 10, 2011
By Duff McKagan | Special to ESPN.com

It has been a few years since we've even thought of a "Sonic" in Seattle. A few years before that, we couldn't have imagined the two words "Sonics" and "Seattle" being separate. But alas, and all of a sudden, the mean ol' NBA took the Seattle SuperSonics away.

[+] EnlargeSonics-Mariners
AP Photo/John FroschauerFormer Seattle SuperSonics player Dale Ellis, left, and coach George Karl, center, sign autographs before the Seattle Mariners game July 29.

It is hard to fathom, but it seems to be that the city of Seattle has gotten used to now being just a two-sport town (major sports, that is). It hasn't been easy, as this area simply has a legion of ardent and hard-core fans of the NBA. More specifically, of a team called the SuperSonics.

The first year the Sonics were gone, people up here just sort of sat in dumbstruck disbelief. The lawsuit and subsequent trial, which labeled seller Howard Schultz and buyer Clay Bennett as the villains, would do nothing to bring our team back. I think the people up here knew that. I did. (Fans in 29 other NBA cities will get a taste of what Seattle went through if the lockout ends up canceling the upcoming season.)

The second year the Sonics were gone, the sickening quiet that can only be known to a metropolis whose love for its NBA team was only bested by its very vocal crowd presence, started to leaven and dampen our hopes.

By Year 3, we were used to it to some degree. Not cool with it, no … but getting used to it.

In sports, we are often the ones who get jerked around when business gets in the way too much. This fact could be seen no truer than when Schultz sold this team to an Oklahoma City-based ownership group. We knew then and there that they would want to move the team out of Seattle. New owner Bennett claimed he did not intend to move the team. Well, not until the next year. …

Rumor and speculation have been rearing their heads in Seattle ever since Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and company left. "Seattle would get a new team?" or "Seattle will never have a friend in the NBA until commissioner David Stern is gone!" or "Gary Payton is putting together a new ownership group to bring a team back to the Northwest," etc.

It was announced a couple of months ago that the Seattle Mariners would be holding a "Sonics Celebration Night" on July 29. Being the hard-core Sonics fan that I am, I made myself available to go to that game. I wasn't quite sure which old Sonics players were going to come, but just being around other Sonics fans, all together under one roof, was enticement enough.

Sonics games in the 1990s, more than any other Seattle sport before or since, were like attending a religious event. Around that court we would rally and rejoice and sometimes repent. But sinners or saints, we Seattlelites -- along with Nate and Gary and Shawn and George -- would gather together and weather the storm together. And it was good. Real good.

So here we were, the fans of those teams, all back together again … under one roof. The "Sonics Celebration" bit was set to happen a half-hour before the Mariners' first pitch. All-pro Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro came out on the field to announce the "Sonics legends" one at a time, we all lost our, uh, minds.

They were as follows:

Spencer Haywood
James Donaldson
Gus Williams
Slick Watts
former coach and player Lenny Wilkens
"Downtown" Freddie Brown
Jack Sikma
Tom Chambers
Dale Ellis
Michael Cage
Nate McMillan
Detlef Schrempf
Hersey Hawkins
Shawn Kemp
Gary Payton
and …
former coach George Karl

Payton came to the podium and spoke for all of the players. He told us how much Seattle meant to him as a basketball town and as a place that has always felt like a home to him. He told us how he thought Seattle got a raw deal in the team's move and that of all the cities in the United States, Seattle was the last place where it should have happened. He told us to hold tight; an NBA team would be back here, and soon! The crowd again lost its collective, uh, composure.

I want a team back. I actually want our team back, the one that is in Oklahoma City. But that would never happen. As a sports fan, I don't want to necessarily take some other city's team, but for us to get a team in that scenario, that means expansion. In this economy, expansion most likely won't happen anytime soon. So where does that leave us?

I just want an NBA team back here in Seattle. Me, and a whole legion of Sonics fans.

Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and has his autobiography due out later this year, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com. To send him a note, Click here and fill out the form.

Michael "Duff" McKagan, a founding member of Guns N' Roses, writes a weekly column for Playbook Sounds and is a passionate sports fan. McKagan is currently playing in Loaded and Velvet Revolver, is a prolific writer, including an autobiography, "It's So Easy: And Other Lies."