The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the NBA Finals after fittingly eliminating the team who represent the final playoff opponents for the old Seattle Supersonics. San Antonio’s era has one of the best teams in the league is probably finished, and a Thunder squad led by a 23-year-old Kevin Durant is now the clear favorite to win a title after opening their first season in OKC with a staggering 3-29 start.
All of this should’ve been Seattle’s. Durant, James Harden, Nick Collison, and GM Sam Presti were all here when the Sonics were packing their bags and leaving Seattle and bolting for Oklahoma City. Howard Schultz took one of the NBA’s top franchises and ran it into the ground. He took a championship-winning side who had been to 3 NBA Finals in the past, and when he couldn’t get his way towards a new arena deal, he gave up and sold the Sonics to Clay Bennett, who had no intentions of keeping the team here. So what if Bennett lied? He’s a businessman … it’s practically in his blood to do so! And here he is now, NBA franchise in one of the smallest markets imaginable, and the former Sonics have matured into playoff contenders and see themselves just four wins away from winning a championship.
I’ve got no real ties to any NBA team, but it would’ve been nice to see the euphoria you saw in Oklahoma City tonight occur in Seattle. This place hasn’t been that electrified with any sports team since the Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl, which was my first year living in Washington. Now, the Seahawks are promising but for now they are still mediocre, the Mariners are terrible per usual, and the Sounders are still underachieving in MLS playoff competitions (and frankly soccer is never going to grip an American city like baseball, basketball, or football).
Howard Schultz made his money and fortune off of the vastly overpriced coffee in Seattle, and he became a mere demigod in these parts. Now? He should be vilified by Sonics fans and sports fans alike, not Clay Bennett, not the Seattle government, and not completely David Stern (who is all about relocation). Schultz doesn’t care about you and never cared about the Sonics. For businessmen like him they see all of these sports franchises as a plaything, and will bail as soon as they aren’t turning over a profit or aren’t having their demands met by whomever they yell at. It’s sad for the Sonics fans, but it’s pure delight for Oklahoma City, who have shown some fantastic support for their team the last couple of years.
As for the actual basketball? The Oklahoma City Thunder are what the Nash-era Phoenix Suns should’ve been. They’re my favorite team to watch right now. It’s not just their talent, they’re so young, so entertaining, and could easily be a perennial contender over the next several years as long as they keep the core lineup of Durant, Harden, and Westbrook, no matter how often the role players and specialists like Thabo Sefalosha change.
I really can’t bring myself to cheer for the Boston Celtics and probably not the Miami Heat, so I say this without hesitation – Go Thunder!