Seattle's Long, Dark Winter Without an NBA Team

Elliott SmithCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2009

Driving around Seattle the other day, I motored past a forlorn-looking KeyArena and was struck with a palpable sense of grief.

I miss the SuperSonics.

There, I said it. I know some of you have tried to maintain a stoic front or an air of indifference while Seattle's NBA team was squired away to some godforsaken outpost.

Some of you have vowed to not watch the NBA, lest you give any credence to David Stern's megalomania. Some of you support the drastic action of shutting the league out of Seattle altogether in the future.

I can understand your anger or apathy. But as the NBA season heads into the playoff stretch run, it's not a time of excitement, but a time of wistfulness, envy, and sadness. This has been a long, dark winter.

I wouldn't describe myself as an NBA fanatic, but I had a season-ticket package for the Sonics the last few years—getting a chance to watch some of the world's best athletes is too good a proposition to pass up. I'll never forget some of the electric moments at KeyArena nor the growing dread last year when it became all too apparent that the end was near.

Yes, the NBA still goes on, but when you don't have a team, there's a ripple effect on your awareness. You see fewer games. You get less coverage in the paper. You forget there's a team in Milwaukee.

It's still incomprehensible to think about the confluence of events—the unbridled hubris of Stern, the naked deception of Clay Bennett, the seeming stupidity of Howard Schultz, and the bungling maneuvers of our government—that had to occur to get Seattle's longest-tenured pro sports team to vacate the premises.

So now KeyArena sits silent, a stark reminder of what we had and what was taken from us.

I've only seen the Thunder once this season, when they were hammered by New Orleans in P.J. Carlesimo's last game. Secretly, I enjoyed watching the Oklahoma City folks seeing their team getting a beatdown, but I also felt sorry for Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, and Nick Collison—good guys placed in an unbelievably awkward situation.

But during the second half of the season, it seems as if the Thunder are actually getting better, which is another punch to the gut of Sonics fans.

People in Vancouver still talk about the Grizzlies, and that's a hockey town. Sure, right now Seattle is a football town, and eight years ago, it was a baseball town. But if you ask people who grew up here, they'll most likely tell you it was the Sonics that came to define Seattle's sports scene.

Some people are optimistic that the NBA will return to Seattle one day, which makes sense given the size of this market and the fact some believe the league's apocalypse is right around the corner.

Some big wig will come along and fix up KeyArena with his own money, and all those people who didn't want to use tax money will be happy. The new team will wear "Sonics" across their chests, and opening night will be played before a packed house.

But it won't be the same.

The Sonics as we know them are dead and gone—and the ghosts of those Sonics will forever haunt KeyArena.