You don't get much different than Seattle and Miami. The differences are as big as Northwest and Southeast, orcas and alligators, Starbucks and cafecitos, and, very literally, apples and oranges. Yet, might Seattle be the only city in America, outside of South Florida, that will be rooting for the Heat to win the championship ... or at least against the former Sonics?
Let's not forget, Cleveland lost its star player to Miami in 2010, but Seattle lost its entire NBA franchise to Oklahoma City in 2008.
The change from the SuperSonics to the Thunder still stings Seattlites. The team spent 41 long years in Washington before being sold to Oklahoma City businessman Clayton Bennett in 2006. He didn't waste much time in relocating the team to OKC in 2008. Seattle fans still can't shake the feeling that Bennett purposefully stripped down the team to low talent levels to rebuild before the move. Lawsuits and public outrage ensued, but the team took their talents from the land of lattes and liberals to a place with cowboy boots and conservatives.
It didn't help much that the team's move came just a year after the arrival of now superstar Kevin Durant. James Harden arrived a year later. Seattle looks at the team's rise to promise and think, "that could have been ours."
"This is the worst feeling I've ever had as a Seattle sports fan," Sportsradio KJR host Dave "Softy" Mahler said according to Sports Illustrated. "It's a helpless feeling, absolutely beyond helpless."
"It's especially hard to watch this team because they're a great team playing that fast-paced, in-your-face basketball like the great Sonics teams in the past did," filmmaker Jason Reid, co-director of Sonicsgate: Requiem For A Team, tells the mag. "We were robbed of that opportunity. That's something that makes me very frustrated and angry."
The Tri-City Herald, a newspaper in Kennewick, Washington, ran a headline following the Thunder's win in the Western Conference Finals with the headline, "Sonics advance to finals, oh wait" with the subhead reading, "Oklahoma City steals team, and steals game from San Antonio."
Elaborates the AP:
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What seems to irritate Seattle residents the most is hearing references to Sonics history, which Oklahoma City owns a share of as part of a settlement reached with Seattle. So when television announcers say it's the first Finals appearance for the Thunder franchise since 1996, when the Sonics lost in six games to the Chicago Bulls, it adds to the heartache.
"They're the one championship team we've had here in Seattle," said Steven Rupp, who lives in the Queen Anne area around the Sonics' former home, KeyArena, and remembers when Sonics players lived in the neighborhood. "It would have been good to keep them here."
Cleveland may have lost their star player, but at least they get a chance to rebuild (the number one draft pick last year, and a number three this year sure will help). Seattle didn't even get that. Though, there are some plans afoot to lure the NBA back to town. Until then Seattle, you're more than welcome to root for our team in the Finals. We could use a little bit of company. Maybe you can give us some tips on bringing an MLS team to town, too.