In theory, the Oklahoma City Thunder represent all that is good about the NBA—a young, aggressive and hungry team built from scratch that’s willing to do whatever it takes to win; one that remains unfazed by the daunting challenge of being an eight seed against the defending NBA champs.
In reality, I can’t stand them.
Rooting for the underdog is a time-honored tradition in sports, and a large majority of sports fans would love to see the Thunder take out Phil, Kobe and the Lakers, but there’s that small minority that just can’t bring themselves to do it.
Forlorn Seattle SuperSonics fans.
This should still be our team, the one we saw coming together before our nincompoop mayor capitulated to the demands of a carpetbagging owner and the duplicitous commissioner. Key Arena should be rocking as Kevin Durant and Co. make the Lakers look silly. Seattle should be the city bursting with pride as its young team tries to shock the sports world.
Instead, we’re still either filled with rage or apathy at the way the whole fiasco went down. Most have turned their backs on the NBA. Others, like myself, have tried to do their best to ignore what’s going on with the Thunder, although that became much harder this year as they blossomed from ugly caterpillars into ball-hawking butterflies.
What makes this whole scenario worse is that OKC is playing the one team that most Seattle-ites could never, ever root for under any circumstances—the hated Lakers.
If the Thunder were playing the Mavericks in the first round, heck, I’d be pulling for Dirk Nowitzki like there’s no tomorrow. Anything to wipe the smug smile of Clay Bennett’s face would be good enough for me. But rooting for the Lakers just feels dirty. There’s no way I can do it.
And so, this year’s most compelling playoff series is merely a blip on my radar. I can’t watch the games, because I refuse to provide any sort of support to that bum Bennett, and there’s no way I could throw my weight behind the odious Lakers—anyone who lives outside of L.A. that roots for the Lakers also probably likes the Yankees and Cowboys, and is the worst kind of sports fan.
This has nothing to do with the players—guys like Durant and Nick Collison, whom I covered when the Sonics were still in town, are good players who got caught up in a situation well beyond their control—and all to do with the shady dealings of Bennett, for whom I hold out hope will get his karmic comeuppance one day.
You can’t even blame OKC’s fan base, which has done its part to create a great home-court advantage—but then again, who wouldn’t want to root for this team? Seattle folks sure would. But we didn’t really get a chance once Bennett got his hooks in.
In the end, I remain torn. I can’t say "good luck to the Thunder" or "get rid of ‘em Lakers." So I’ll have to turn to my next best option.
What channel does hockey come on?