Once upon a time, the middle of April had Seattle fans revved up and jostling with excitement, knowing the likes of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp would soon be tomahawk-thrilling us again.
Yet sadly a mere decade and a half later, anything mentioned about the NBA garners about as much excitement in these parts as a four hour lecture on Neutrogena Facial Moisturizers.
Seattle fans are still incensed, still hopping mad, still feeling back-stabbed by a league that once owned their hearts.
During the early 1990s, the dire and depressing world of the typical Seattle sports fan had suddenly sprung to life. The college football Huskies were national champions, and yet the professional basketball Seattle Supersonics still owned the town.
Following their defeat to their rival Portland squad in 1991, the Sonics had come to life with the hiring of coach George Karl.
The Sonics upset a heavily favored Golden State Warrior team in the first round of the NBA playoffs during the 1991-92 playoffs before being blown out by the Utah Jazz.
But the fuse had been lit.
The team gifted the city of Seattle the following year in 1992-93, with fifty-five wins and a thrilling seven game playoff series against the Houston Rockets, finished with a triple-overtime win. Followed by a seven game series against the Charles Barkley-led Phoenix Suns, in which Dan Majerle would hit shots from miles away.
Game Seven of that year still has Sonic fans miffed, grumbling about an alleged NBA conspiracy that suspiciously had officials calling phantom fouls to send that Suns team to a date with a television blockbuster against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls at the 1993 NBA finals.
The same Michael Jordan would retire the following year, while the Seattle Sonics and Houston Rockets both raced out to insurmountable 20 wins against a pittance of single-digit losses.
The Sonics put up 63 wins, their best ever at that point during the 1993-94 season, before inexplicably losing in the first round to the upstart Denver Nuggets, midst a now infamous portrait of Dikembe Mutumbo sprawled across the Seattle Coliseum floor.
But again the Sonics would be back, this time reeling off 57 wins in 1994-95 before losing three of four games to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round as they played their season at the Tacoma Dome, as their old home was being transformed into a modern NBA arena with “the best sight lines the league has ever seen,” according to one interviewed-on-video David Stern.
Seven years later Stern would change his tune.
Even with the Mariners signing a new hot-headed manager that signified a new era in baseball, the likes of which the city has never seen since, the Sonics in the 1990s were all fans in Seattle wanted to talk about.
In 1995-96, the Sonics put up a franchise best 64 win season that included winning seven of their first eight playoff games. A three of four rout over Sacramento, was followed by a four game sweep over Houston, before a raucous seven game win over Utah at the brand new Key Arena in Seattle. The only thing remaining from the former Seattle Center Coliseum was four rafters that held up the roof.
The next season had an NBA Final series against the Chicago Bulls and a recently-returned Michael Jordan from baseball, for the first time since the glory years of the late 1970’s. There was Nate McMillen, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman in rainbow-colored hair.
Seasons of 57 wins and 61 wins would follow, even as a disgruntled Shawn Kemp left town in what turned out to be a terrible trade.
For eight straight years, April was a month that started sixty days of excited anticipation in the State of Washington. Seattle fans camped out for sold-out playoff games in the midst the hoopala of “rallies in the allies” and festivals of professional basketball glee. Sports talk hosts went nuts. TV pundits traveled to cities across the land, and Sonic stories led off newscasts from April to June.
And yet a mere decade and pocket change past, the only excitement April now brings is a creepy video featuring former Sonic owner and now most-hated Seattleite Howard Schultz, cowering behind a counter like a little girl, with brutish Costco security guards chasing off any patron clad in Sonic garb.
The Mariners are in the toilet. The Seahawks are just awful. The Sounders, who replaced the Sonics with MLS league-best attendance while embarrassing the empty rhetoric of the now-departed NBA, have too, started out sluggish.
And thus gray clouds and cold showers leave Sonic fans wistfully remembering past Aprils, where nights at this time of year were spent sleepless in anticipation of soon-to-come big playoff games.
It wasn’t that long ago that the NBA dominated the Seattle sports scene. And yet today, three years later, the mere mention of professional basketball gives most fans diarrhea and stomach cramps.
“Sold out” has a different meaning on this cold and dreary spring in Seattle.
View the terrific documentary on the Sonic's move to Oklahoma City at http://www.sonicsgate.org/
Seattle's Lost Supersonics and The Ironic Message Sent By The NBA http://bleacherreport.com/articles/483219-seattle-and-the-message-sent-by-the-nba-by-banning-key-arena