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Originally published Monday, February 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Steve Kelley

Don't even try to call Bennett's team Sonics

His Royal Smugness sat at a podium in New Orleans this weekend and, without a twinge of emotion, without an ounce of understanding, declared...

Seattle Times staff columnist

His Royal Smugness sat at a podium in New Orleans this weekend and, without a twinge of emotion, without an ounce of understanding, declared NBA basketball in Seattle dead.

Commissioner David Stern said he expected the Sonics to leave Seattle either this year or in 2010.

"There is no miracle here," His Royal Smugness said.

He said the Sonics will relocate to Oklahoma City.

Now let's get one thing clear. This team that is owned by Clay Bennett, Aubrey McClendon and the rest of the rustlers from Oklahoma City is not the Sonics.

If Stern, in all his arrogance, wants to find the proper nickname for this franchise that doesn't want to be here, he can call them the Hijackers, or the Battling Bennetts.

This franchise Bennett wants to move to a remodeled OKC corral isn't the Sonics — not even close.

The Sonics belong to Seattle. They belong to three generations of NBA fans.

The Sonics are all those times we've listened to the voice of Kevin Calabro warming wet winter nights with his combination of enthusiasm, showmanship and love of the game.

Calabro has been calling games here for 21 years. Calabro is a Sonic, not Bennett.

Walking out of dinner on Saturday night, a friend of mine said the three-year run of the George Karl, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp Sonics, between the 1993-94 season and the 1995-96 season, remains the best three-year span of his life as a sports fan.

My friend is a Sonic, not Bennett. Karl and Payton and Kemp always will be Sonics.


The Sonics are the players whose uniforms hang from the rafters of KeyArena.

Lenny Wilkens, the first true Sonics All-Star and the coach of Seattle's only NBA title team, is a Sonic.

And the Sonics are Fred Brown and Gus Williams, the shooter and the scooter, who still are revered here, almost 25 years after they played their last games.

Nate McMillan is the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, but he always will be a Sonic. From point guard-leader, to assistant coach, to head coach, McMillan was a reliable fixture in this city for 19 seasons.

And Bob Blackburn, the franchise's first voice, who before cable made the game and the players come alive on the radio, is a Sonic.

Bennett? McClendon? They'll never be Sonics. Money can't buy the integrity and history of this team.

Stern can sit in New Orleans and talk about the Sonics leaving Seattle, but he doesn't know the Sonics. Frankly, he doesn't care.

He and Bennett can lie about all of their "good faith" negotiations with the city and state, but all they've really done is make outrageous demands. They've never negotiated.

Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis is correct when he says, "David Stern hasn't lifted a finger since Clay Bennett bought this team to do anything to try and keep it in Seattle."

Ceis called this evil collaboration between Stern and Bennett an ongoing conspiracy to hijack the franchise out of Seattle.

They are the Hijackers, not the Sonics.

Another friend, a true Sonic who still has season tickets and still attends most home games, admits he recently watched a highlight reel of Kemp on YouTube.

He said the emotion he felt watching Kemp run and rise and dominate the likes of Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman was so exhilarating, it almost felt illicit.

The Sonics are nicknames like J.J. and D.J., Reign Man and The Glove. They are Big Paper Daddy and Big Smooth. Mac 10 and Bones.

The Sonics are Seattle, not Oklahoma City. Stern knows that, even if he can't admit it in public.

How dare His Royal Smugness disrespect Seattle and Sonics fans?

The city rejected the franchise's $26 million bribe, er, buyout, to let the team move to Oklahoma City. Doesn't that say something about Seattle's commitment to keeping its team?

How dare Stern call the franchise owned by Bennett the Sonics?

The Sonics are the team Sam Schulman brought to Seattle. Schulman understood how to sell the game and knew how to turn the Sonics into players in the NBA.

The late Sam Schulman is a Sonic.

So is Jack Sikma, who even though he now is an assistant coach in Houston helped this franchise to greatness. So is Dwane Casey, who was an assistant coach here under Karl and Paul Westphal and McMillan.

Nick Collison is a Sonic. You think he wants to move to Oklahoma City? And rookie Kevin Durant is a direct descendant of the line of Sonics from Haywood to Sikma, to Xavier McDaniel, to Kemp, to Ray Allen.

These, and hundreds of others, like Slick Watts, Dale Ellis, Tom Chambers, Derrick McKey, Rashard Lewis, Detlef Schrempf, Bernie Bickerstaff and Bob Weiss are the true Sonics, the Seattle Sonics.

Despite the proclamation of His Royal Smugness, the Sonics belong to Seattle.

It's a crime he can't admit that. It's a crime he refused to do the work to keep the franchise where it belongs.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation. | 206-464-2176

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