I generally try to refrain from being a resentful Seattle sports fan who cries about losing his pro basketball team to
After Kevin Durant completed his superhuman fourth quarter to will OKC to a series-clinching victory, TNT displayed a graphic proclaiming that this was Oklahoma City's first playoff series win since 2005. Well, TNT - allow me to provide some historical backgroud - the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise did not exist prior to 2008.
Alright, that's just me being bitter. Of course I know the station was referencing the Seattle Sonics' 4-1 victory over Sacramento in the first round six years ago, but Oklahoma can't lay any claim to that series. I get that it's technically the same franchise with shared records, so TNT isn't "wrong" per se. But everything that has transpired throughout the whole relocation process gives Oklahoma City no right to call anything the Sonics accomplished their own.
I believe that OKC owner Clay Bennett forfeited that right somewhere between promising to keep the team in Seattle, demanding the city build him a new arena on their dime, the now-infamous "I am a man possessed!" e-mail, and ruining 41 years of basketball tradition in Seattle. (The documentary "Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team" provides much more detail on all the injustices that took place in the relocation saga. I recommend it.)
But the real problem for me at the moment isn't TNT running that particular graphic. It isn't even with Clay Bennett stealing my city's team, my team. The problem I'm facing is simpler: the Thunder are really really good, and I'm having trouble restraining my urge to become a fan.
In 2008, when Clay Bennett
Nick Collison was a fan favorite in Seattle. We respected his hustle on the court and his blandness off of it was endearing in an ironic sort of way. Seattle fans loved him like America loved McLovin in Superbad. Both played the role of the charming goof, the guy whose skills were limited, but that you pulled for anyway. Rising stars Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka never donned the green and gold, but every time we see Westbrook's high-flying dunks or Ibaka's thunderous blocks Sonics diehards know that those are our 2008 number 4 and 24 picks out there (and no, I didn't have to look that up. It seems us Sonics fans aren't very forgetful about the past.)
And then there's Kevin Durant.
I was first amazed by Durant when I passed by him at a hotel restaurant in Spokane, Washington during the 2007 NCAA tournament. He was successfully taking a phone call in his left hand while texting one-handed on a Sidekick with his right. A Sidekick, that's a QWERTY keyboard.
I should have known he was destined for NBA stardom at that very moment.
In May '07 when the Sonics were awarded the second draft pick in the lottery, I immediately grabbed a green sharpie and drew a #35 jersey onto a plain white tee so I could be the first one representing Durant at school the next day.
In Durant, we had the future of basketball playing in our backyard and we embraced him even though our '07-'08 team had little else to brag about. We may not have had many wins, but we had the second best thing, hope.
Then the whole city had the proverbial rug yanked from beneath us and next thing we knew the Durantula was a Thunderclap, or Thunderbolt, or whatever the hell you call one individual unit of Thunder.
At first, my loathing for Clay Bennett and bitterness toward the whole relocation debacle made it easy to resent the Thunder. I put aside the reverence I held for Durant & Co. and put full force behind scorning my former franchise. I made it through the first two seasons of Thunder basketball in that mindset without wavering.
But something different happened this year; OKC rose from a team content just to make the playoffs to a true contender in the West. Along the way they began playing an exciting brand of basketball characterized by Westbrook's high-flying dunks, Ibaka's defensive dominance, Durant's elite scoring ability, and James Harden's awesome beard.
It became increasingly difficult for me to see them play and fight off the urge to enjoy what I was witnessing. I watched Durant explode for 44 on Christmas Day and I caught myself sneaking guilty fist pumps after a dunk or clutch 3. Since the playoffs began, it's become even tougher on me. Durant is still the same guy whose handcrafted jersey I wore so proudly just three years ago, how can I be expected to deny his heroics just because I dislike the guy who cuts his paychecks?
This is the dilemma of a Seattle Sonics fan in 2011.