Kevin Durant has left Oklahoma City, and Thunder fans feel betrayed. KD jerseys are being burned, his decision ridiculed, their love for a favorite son going unrequited. OKC has been punched in the gut, a team that was an annual title favorite is now teetering with the reality it may be stripped down for parts. The city is having an ugly cry.
“I’m a little emotional right now… I’m really, really mad.”
“I have a lump in my throat with the idea of it. I felt in my heart that it wouldn’t happen.”
“I’m a little shocked and a little disappointed… I feel for the fans.”
These certainly could be the words of Thunder fans trying to process the moment. There’s plenty of emotion rumbling to the surface in fracking country. But these are actually phrases culled from eight years ago… from those in Seattle when the beloved Sonics (and Durant) were lost to Oklahoma City.
But these were not even from the fans in Seattle. These are players that donned the uniform. The first was Damien Wilkins, Sonics swingman from ’04-’08. The second is from Spencer Haywood, whose #24 was retired by the franchise. The third? Well, that’s none other than Durant himself.
For the sophisticates who decided to torch their Durant jersey with automatic weapons and AC/DC blaring in the background? Well, that seems like a pretty ironic way to celebrate independence. More so, I wonder if any of them ever felt a tinge of remorse as they rooted for the Thunder and KD, for taking another city’s beloved jewels.
Seattle always supported its Sonics. Key Arena crowds were some of the loudest and most loyal in the league. The arena needed an upgrade. The fans did not. They didn’t deserve to have their team kidnapped. Thunder fans are some of the loudest and most loyal in the league. They didn’t deserve to see the league’s next potential dynasty be broken apart before a title. But neither side does compassion. This is the cycle of sports bitterness today. Baltimore felt betrayed by the Colts moving to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. But Baltimore didn’t show much remorse for grabbing the Browns 11 years later. Not many Ravens fans felt like sharing their Super Bowl parade with downtown Cleveland.
In the final, sad days of the Sonics in Seattle fans took out their frustration with the owner. Fans chanted “(Bleep) Clay Bennett!” T-shirts reading “Screw Clay” were being hawked outside. A sign read, “Clay Bennett’s a liar and a thief.” Bennett gave lip service to staying in Seattle when he bought the team, but always had his eyes on moving the franchise to his hometown. He spent a mere two months stumping for a new arena in the suburbs of Seattle. Bennett was as dishonest and disingenuous as the most villainous of our billionaire professional owners.
However, in Oklahoma City he is hailed as a pioneer and visionary. He was the first person to deliver pro sports to the state and made OKC big time. Did Sonics fans feel a sense of brotherhood while watching KD leave the Thunder? Not so much. Plenty of gloating and rubbing of noses in the proverbial poo pile from the Pacific Northwest. Beauty (and beast) is in the eye of the beholder.
Life is a network of entering and exiting, beginning and ending. Our exes move on to other relationships, our spouses are usually someone else’s exes. It’s interesting that the alt-rock band Semisonic is from Minnesota because one could easily imagine them singing about the basketball team that left the Pacific Northwest less than a decade ago. From the band’s seminal hit “Closing Time”: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
It’s closing time in Oklahoma City.
A new sun rises in the Bay Area.
The cycle continues.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.