Sunday, Ethan and I went to what could very well be the last Sonics game ever played in Seattle. We bought tickets for this one game on Saturday, thinking we really should be there at the bitter end.
For those who do not know (but how is THAT possible...), Ethan and I had season tickets to the Sonics for 6 years. Same section, same seats. Lots of exciting games, our share of stinkers, and some great players along the way. We gave up our tickets after the Sonics were sold to a group from Oklahoma City who swore to keep the team in Seattle (but did everything they could to move them). Unless some sort of miracle happens, and happens quickly, they ARE going to OKC.
We didn't go to any games this year. Watched a few minutes of some of them on TV, but that is it. It is/was too painful--the team we love being ripped away from us. It was very intelligently thought out--I'll give them that. So that they could claim the city didn't care about the team, they traded away ALL our experienced players and superstars. We DID draft the Rookie of the year(who will be a perennial all star), but we traded away all the talent around him so that we would suck. And we did. Worst record in the history of the franchise, second worst record in the entire league. Team threw up stinker games right and left, got blown out a LOT. Attendance lagged. Goal accomplished.
To keep those fans who didn't go to games for whatever reason from hearing about their team and getting to know the players, the team restricted all media interviews. Unlike every other year, they said interviews were ONLY available in ONE 15 minute slot after practice. 15 minutes total for the entire team. No more radio appearances, no more one-on-one interviews--only this one small time slot. We didn't hear from the players, we don't know anything about them (since they are almost all new to Seattle). Goal accomplished.
The last game of the season.
We went to the game, saw lots of great signs and banners, lots of enthusiastic people. The team came all out and played well. Very well. Against a good, playoff bound team. Throughout the game, whenever there were freethrows or other quiet moments, the entire crowd chanted "save our sonics", or alternately 'Bennett sucks'. We were loud. My throat hurts. The game was exciting, close in score, and we came back to score the final 10 points of the game, holding Dallas scoreless for the final 3 minutes, and we won. That building has never been so loud. Everyone was on their feet for one last go. The game ended (we thought), but they had to review the last play, so we waited while the referees watched the video replay. And all of us started yelling 'save our sonics', in a really cool, organized chant. They reviewed and reviewd, and we yelled and yelled. For almost 2 minutes. The players on both teams looked around and seemed in awe of the love this crowd has for this team. Seattle loves the Sonics. It is not that we don't love this TEAM, it is that a lot of us refused to go to games because we know the money is going to the thiefs from OKC, and we are not doing that.
The only possibly louder event of the evening was near the end of the first quarter when Gary Payton slipped into a seat near the Dallas bench. People saw him, and the cheering began. At the next timeout, the announcer acknowledged him, and he got a standing ovation like you wouldn't believe. They started the game up again, but we were still all cheering for Gary. He is a Seattle legend, and this was quite possibly his last public appearance here. His last chance to watch the Sonics play. I only wish he would have officially retired already, so we could retire his jersey here. It deserves to be in the rafters of the Key. He has already said that he will NOT go to OKC if they want to retire his jersey after the team moves. Gotta give him some respect for that.
So, the Sonics went out in the most fitting way. If they have to leave, this is how it should be. With a packed stadium screaming their heads off as the team comes from behind to beat a playoff contender. When Kevin Durant broke away and slammed it home with 14.3 seconds left in the game, the crowd went wild and I know I had tears in my eyes. This is how it should end, if it must end at all.
Ethan and I will be back next month for the next Storm season. With an all star lineup that is not to be believed, we must be the all out favorites to win another championship. We won the last Olympics year, so maybe it is our time again. I know I will see the Key again, and we won't ever have to give up THESE tickets, but I would be all over the Sonics again if they stayed.