Thursday, December 7

The X Factor

Our good friend Eric Neel from ESPN (the man Nussbaum once berated for his "Steve Nash for MVP" article) is working on a story about the Sonics 40th Anniversary, and has kindly asked us to share our most personal (and often times painful) Sonics memories. This is the first in a series of articles about how the Sonics have effected us over the years. Feel free to add your own tales of Sonics pride and/or despair in the comments. -PM

As the rumors continue to swirl about a Rashard Lewis deal, today marks the anniversary of a trade that sent a Sonics legend and Seattle icon packing. On December 7th, 1990, the Seattle Supersonics sent Xavier McDaniel to the Phoenix Suns.

The trade, of course, turned out to be one of the best in team history, netting the Supes Eddie "not the child molester" Johnson and two first-round draft picks for an unstable player who was clearly past his prime. At the time, however, it was a dagger in the heart of the few Sonics fans left following the team in those bleak post-Lenny, pre-Karl years. X was the soul of the Sonics &mdash the antithesis of the squeaky-clean era of Magic and Bird. The one cool thing about an otherwise crappy team.

We all have our own favorite X-man moments. His spectacular rookie year (in which he was robbed of the Rookie of the Year award by Patrick Ewing, who was injured most of the year). His thundering dunk against the Showtime Lakers in the '87 Western Conference Finals. Choking Wes Mathews.

One of my favorite X-man memories, strangely enough, was after he left Seattle. In 1992, X was with the Knicks, taking on Chicago in the playoffs. The Bulls were at the start of their dynasty and Jordan was at the peak of his untouchableness. Did this intimidate X? Maybe this picture will tell you. X didn't back down to anyone, even His Airness.

To this day, when I see Ray Allen, I still think "How dare he wear number 34. Doesn't he know whose jersey that is?" That's how crazy I am about X.

And the Sonics traded him.

Painful trades, though, have always been part of the re-building process in sports, and the Sonics have been no exception. Trading Gary Payton helped build the miracle team of 2004. Trading Slick Watts helped build the '79 Championship team. Trading Jack Sikma cleared the way for the Chambers/Ellis/McDaniel years. And X-man's exodus ushered in arguably the greatest era in Sonics history &mdash the gold-rush years of Payton and Kemp.

It's just too bad X wasn't around to enjoy it.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good call on the #34 - it's always bugged me, too. What's going to happen when Ray retires - will they retire it and just drive the nail through our hearts once and for all?

TheBigO said...

There's a fair way to settle it. Whoever scored more points while wearing that # as a Sonic gets it retired in his name.

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Nuss said...

Nice write-up, Paul. Of course, you could have just written X-Man 375 times and I would've called that a good write-up as well. Basically, anything involving 'Xavier' and 'McDaniel' is good with me.