After Thunder's loss in Game 7, Sonics fans wonder if a team will ever return to Seattle
Clay Bennett moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008
While one fan base relishes every moment, another cringes.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were just one win away from upsetting the 73-win Golden State Warriors and advancing to the NBA Finals. While Thunder fans cheered another deep playoff run, the former Seattle SuperSonics fan base remains bitter about how things ended.
In an NPR Sports interview with Paul Rogers, editor and senior writer for Sonics Rising, Rogers speaks about the pain SuperSonics fans have about watching their team succeed elsewhere.
"Every Seattle SuperSonics fan right now is a Golden State Warriors fan. As a Sonics fan, we hated the Lakers, and we hated the Blazers … but yeah, we'll root for any of those teams against the Thunder," said Rogers.
In 2006, the SuperSonics were sold to an ownership group chaired by Clay Bennett on the condition he would do everything in his power to keep the team in Seattle. Bennett is a businessman from Oklahoma City and there were whispers the NBA was looking to relocate there after the city proved it could support a franchise, taking in the New Orleans Hornets in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Bennett was quick to shoot down the rumours, telling reporters "it is our desire to have the Sonics and Storm remain in Seattle," in his first press conference after purchasing the team. "It's not our intention to move or relocate the teams as long, of course, as we are able to negotiate a successor venue to the current basketball arena."
Fans in Seattle were still skeptical of Bennett, despite his re-assurances. After all, five months before he purchased the team, Bennett was quoted as saying his ownership group was "acutely interested and very focused on bringing a team to Oklahoma City."
On Aug. 12, 2007, in an interview with the Oklahoma City Journal Record, Aubrey McClendon, a member of the ownership group, added to speculation in saying "we didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle, we hoped to come [to Oklahoma City]."
Seattle was unable to get the public funding needed to replace the aging KeyArena. On Nov. 2, 2007, Bennett notified the league of his intention to relocate the team to Oklahoma City.
Despite NBA owners approving the relocation, SuperSonics fans didn't give up. Rallies were organized in a last-ditch attempt to save their team. SuperSonics legend Gary Payton was vocal in his hope to keep the team in Seattle.
It wasn't enough. On July 2, 2008, Bennett and his ownership group reached a settlement with the City of Seattle allowing the move to Oklahoma City.
It was a disappointing day for fans. Former Sonics and current Thunder forward Nick Collison recalls it being "a shock to the system." Lorin "Big Lo" Sandretzky, known as "Seattle's biggest sports fan," describes the loss of the SuperSonics as "emptiness."
Though some in the city may cheer the Thunder's Game 7 loss, it's "emptiness" SuperSonics fans will continue to deal with in the coming years. Earlier this month, Seattle's city council voted against the sale of land for a proposed new arena.
As fans in Oklahoma City wonder if Kevin Durant will re-sign following the season, fans in Seattle continue to wonder if the NBA will ever return.