Tuesday, April 30

Seattle Supersonics vs. The NBA

Chris Hansen: You won't like him when he's mad. Aw, who are we kidding? We'd totally still love him. 
I have to admit, I was a little relieved the whole thing was over.

I was never really a fan of taking the Sacramento Kings. We'd basically be doing the same thing OKC did to us, only we were using the excuse of being honest about it. Well, just because someone warns you before they kick you in the nuts doesn't make it hurt any less.

But this was how you got a team in the harsh 21st century economic reality of the NBA. Kill or be killed. Every basketball fan for themselves. No survivors. WOLVERINES!

Sure, I wasn't real happy about how this sausage was being made, but after a few years in the NBA wilderness, I'd probably pinch my nose and eat it.

So when the NBA relocation committee (consisting of a whopping seven team owners, including good ol' Clay-face) announced on Monday afternoon they had ruled against the Kings moving to Seattle, I admit I was a little glad I wouldn't have to abandon what little scruples I had left in regards to finally getting a replacement for my dearly departed Seattle Supersonics.

The best chance we had at snagging another city's team was gone. Five years of anxiously hovering like hungry vultures over dying basketball franchises was history. And the NBA had stated clearly that expansion, the only truly guilt-free way to enjoy the Sonics in Seattle again, was not going to happen. So it was over.

Well, at least I was now free to unleash my full hatred upon the NBA. Or, you know, not watch as many regular season games. Perhaps I could finally find some peace. Or maybe even a new sport. I wonder if Seattle has a professional handball team?

But then, something crazy happened.

Monday, April 29

Seattle: A Bridesmaid Once More

Today is a difficult day for Sonic fans. Not as difficult as that dark day a half-decade ago, when the team announced it was leaving for Oklahoma, mind you, but certainly not an easy one, either.

There is an ironic twist to this bizarre story, though, and here it is: The Kings are staying in Sacramento for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that the fan base in Sacramento was energized by what happened in Seattle.

They were energized by the threat of relocation, they were energized by the Sonicsgate tale, and they were energized by the emergence of Chris Hansen’s ownership coalition.

Certainly, Sacramento’s elected officials, devoted fans, and possible new owners deserve the lion’s share of credit for what happened today (or, anyways, what should happen; who knows when you’ve got lawyers circling the carcass).

But in many ways, a major reason why the Sacramento Kings are not the Seattle Sonics today is because of the efforts of the people of Seattle. It is entirely possible that were it not for the people behind Save Our Sonics and so on, Here We Stay might never have shown up.  

Remember, Sacramento does not have a new arena, it doesn’t have a new ownership group, it doesn’t have anything. It certainly has the promise of those things, but that promise has not, historically, been worth much to the people counting chits in the NBA office. Today, though, those promises were worth enough to the league to forestall a relocation to Seattle.

And so, Sacramento, relish your conquering of the Axis of Evil.  For once, the league’s extortion tactics did not require an actual pound of flesh: just the promise of one.

Wednesday, April 24

Today in Sonics History: Rick Barry, Leonard Gray, and a Purse

What would you say is the craziest moment in Sonic playoff history?

40-something fans might opt for the arrest of Dale Ellis and Kevin Williams outside a Houston nightclub in the midst of the second round of the 1987 playoffs. 30-somethings might go for the Ricky Pierce/Gary Payton post-game battle after an inglorious defeat to Denver in the first round of the 1994 playoffs. 20-somethings may side with Jerome James donning his infamous garbage bag cape after a first round win over the Kings in 2005.

But what if I told you those were mere trifles; that the craziest moment involved a livid Rick Barry, players getting doused with refreshments, Leonard Gray’s fists, and a crazed woman with a purse?


It was April 1975 and perhaps the only thing riding higher than the Sonics were the Captain and Tenille. Coached by Bill Russell (the Sonics, that is, not C&T), the Sonics and Seattle were NBA Playoff virgins and the city was in pandemonium, caught up in the excitement of a first-round win over Detroit and what had become a terrific second-round series with the Golden State.

The Sonics had knotted the series at two with a 111-95 shellacking of the Warriors in Game 4. Sure, the team dropped Game 5 down in San Francisco, but Game 6 was looming on Thursday, April 24th at the Coliseum and the Sonics had lost all of two games at home in nearly two months.

Unfortunately for the home green and golds, Fred Brown (broken finger), Tom Burleson (knee), and Spencer Haywood (sprained arch) were all nursing injuries, meaning the team was going to need all the help it could get from its avid supporters.

With the hated Rick Barry (and you’ll see how hated later on) helping the Warriors get out to an early lead, aided by backup center George Johnson, who came off the bench to finish with 18 points and 15 rebounds, the mood amongst the 14,082 in attendance began to get grim.

But the Sonics wouldn’t quit, rallying to tie the game in the second quarter after trailing by as many as a dozen points. Haywood – still ailing, he would only finish with 8 points – watched from the bench as backups Tal Skinner and Rod Derline spurred the comeback.

The recovery was short-lived, though, and by halftime the Warriors were out in front by eight points. Golden State expanded their lead to double-digits in the third quarter, despite the best efforts of Seattle’s Slick Watts; the headbanded wonder turned in what Russell called “one of the great games in basketball,” finishing with 24 points, tying his career-high and marking only the second time all season he had tallied more than 20 points in a single game.

Watts’ tremendous play came at a price, as the diminutive young guard noted afterwards. “They hit me, knocked me around all night,” Watts told the AP later.

Not to worry; Watts’ physical abuse had not gone unnoticed by one Leonard Gray.

For that era’s Sonics, Gray embodied a role later inhabited by Danny Fortson, Maurice Lucas and Frank Brickowski – The Enforcer. While still a rookie, Gray wasn’t afraid of throwing his 240 pounds around. Tutored by Lute Olson and Jerry Tarkanian at Cal State Long Beach, Gray was a big, burly guy with a heart of gold (at least, from the vantage of his teammates and friends; Tarkanian called him “the meanest SOB I ever coached”). Seeing his point guard getting hammered and bludgeoned by the Warriors, Gray went to work, picking as his target the man everyone loved to hate – Rick Barry.

The Sonics had fallen behind by nearly 20 points when Gray and Barry began to tussle. Things got so out of hand that referee Richie Powers was forced to issue warnings to both players – either knock it off, or hit the road.

Well, Leonard Gray was never one to let an opportunity pass, and the possibility of getting the red-hot Rick (he’d finish the night with 31 points) Barry out of the game was just too tempting to pass up.

It was with that in mind that Gray issued the Rump Kick Heard ‘Round the Sound. With Barry facing the opposite direction, the Sonics’ O.G. kneed him in the hindquarters, following it up with a punch when Barry spun around, drawing an immediate ejection from Powers and, it should be noted, a roar of approval from the thousands watching courtside.

It didn’t end there. As soon as Gray exited the premises fans began pelting the court with coins and “other objects,” and events started to get crazy. Spurred on by another Sonic rally which cut the lead to single-digits, the fans were out for blood, and Rick Barry was beginning to look awful tasty.

When George Johnson blocked yet another shot in the final moments, sealing the Warriors’ series-ending victory, emotions got completely out of hand. The visitors scampered for the exits, their path blocked by unruly Seattleites intent on revenge. Half-filled popcorn boxes, beer, and soft drinks rained down on the visitors, and that was the least of it.

At one point, Barry, trying desperately to get to the locker room in one piece, felt someone pawing at him.

“I was leaving the floor and someone was kicking me and hitting me from behind,” Barry said later. “I turned around and it was a woman. I mean, I really couldn’t believe it.  I just swung around and pushed her out of the way. But if it had been a guy I would have hit her.

“This is basketball – what do they think we’re playing, soccer in South America?”

Other reports indicated the woman in question had smacked Barry with her purse and – as if that wasn’t enough – even tried to trip him. (To be fair, pretty much everyone associated with basketball in the past 40 years probably wanted to do the same thing to Rick Barry, and that includes his family). Worse, the affair turned truly ugly when fans, players, and police began to mix it up near the entrance to the Warriors’ locker room. In the end, a half-dozen fans were taken away in handcuffs.

The final side note for this crazy story would not emerge until a full six months later. On October 23, Spencer Haywood and Bill Russell settled their long-simmering feud by parting ways and Haywood was dealt to the New York Knicks for a draft choice, cash, and rookie forward Eugene Short; meaning the scant eight points he scored were his final contributions in a Sonic uniform. All the accolades, all the notoriety, all the hysteria of the Haywood Era had ended that night in Seattle with barely a whimper.

20 years later, Watts, who would emerge as a local favorite with Haywood gone, was a little less than complimentary to his teammates when he reflected on Game 6.

“The other guys didn’t come to play,” Watts wrote in his autobiography. “I came to win but the other guys just froze – they kind of choked on me. All our so-called ‘big scorers’ disappeared.”

And there you have it. A beer shower, a hailstorm of coins, Spencer Haywood’s swan song, Slick Watts’ coming out party, a purse careening off Rick Barry’s head – that was NBA playoff basketball circa 1975, and Seattle was falling for it harder than a love-struck teen with “Love Will Keep Us Together” on her bedroom radio.

Monday, April 22

New Sonics Jersey Found

There have been plenty of Sonic jerseys in history - you've got your classic championship era jersey, your minimalist early 70s jersey, your Howard schmaltz jersey of the 00s, and so on ... but does anyone else recall this one?

It's from this Ebay sale, if you're interested, wherein the prospective bidders might learn that it is from the 1992-93 season, was never worn (obviously), and is in new condition (also, if you scroll to the middle photo with the finger holding an interior tag, a delightful joke about Shawn Kemp, err, arises).

Personally, the thought is in the right place, but I think the numbering is a little poor and the tightness of the letters makes it tough to read the word 'Sonics.' Still, it ranks in the top half of jerseys, had it actually been one the team wore, and would be better than what we saw on-court during the 1996 Finals.


Wednesday, April 17

Traveler's Guide to the NBA

The NBA will be deciding the fate of pro basketball in Seattle within a week or two (or three, or four, but who's counting, right?). Since it has been a few years since the league graced us with its presence, here's a rudimentary guide to the NBA for those unfamiliar with the terrain. As always, click to enlarge.

Monday, April 8

Seattle Supersonics: 1977 World Champs?!

Someone might want to tell the seller of this ebay item to check the ol' NBA history books (not to mention logos) on this one. I wonder if this is the same person who "officially licensed" Rafael's Supersonicsoul artwork on there a couple years ago.

Haywood Saga, By the Numbers

If nothing else, the Spencer Haywood saga has certainly put his name back into the rotation of current events. Shown below is a Google trend chart tracking references to Haywood from January 2012 until this week:

 Short of having kidnapping a Kardashian, I don't think there's much more a man could do to get his name out there.

Haywood, the Hall, and a Great Big Mess

I suppose I should put in a few words about the Spencer Haywood/Hall of Fame fiasco that occurred over the weekend. What the heck, I’ve already written a few thousand about the situation, what’s 800 more?

As you are likely aware by now, Haywood’s former agent, Al Ross, told a reporter that Haywood told him that he (Haywood) had been told by someone from the NBA that he (Haywood) would be in the 2013 Hall of Fame class.

Got that?

(As a brief aside, the notion that Spencer Haywood would use Al Ross as an intermediary to the press is somewhat humorous if you know the back story of those two gentlemen. In Haywood’s first book, Ross is a hero, someone who helps liberate the young basketball star from the shackles of the NCAA and the NBA and the ABA. In Haywood’s second book, Ross is a con artist who lied about his name and background, and squandered Spencer’s income. As I said, the idea that Spencer Haywood would utilize Al Ross for anything beyond curse words is somewhat humorous.)

In any event, heading into last week, Haywood seemed most occupied in getting word out that he deserved to be in the Hall. Setting aside the fact the vote had already been taken (details, details), the former Sonic tweeted seemingly every notable NBA player of the past three decades about how he deserved to be in, as well as conducting an intense interview with a Las Vegas newspaper.

And that’s where we stood heading into Friday, at which point the Ross story broke. To make matters more confusing, Haywood was planning on being in Atlanta this weekend … but not because he expected to go into the Hall, sources say, but because he had some pre-planned business there. The fact the Hall nominees would be gathering in Atlanta for the Final Four was just a coincidence.

So, you’ve got Spencer Haywood’s new BFF, Al Ross, telling the media Haywood was going in, you’ve got Haywood in Atlanta, you’ve got Haywood telling some sources that he wasn’t going in, you’ve got other sources saying that Haywood thought he was going in, but he had been sucker-punched and he wasn’t really going in, and you’ve got other sources saying … at least point, I think we just give up.

What’s the real story? Here are the facts in evidence:

1.      Undeniable: Spencer Haywood is extraordinarily pissed off at not being recognized by the Hall of Fame.
2.      Undeniable: The Hall was considering Haywood for the Hall.
3.      Undeniable: The Hall did not induct him.

Somewhere between #2 and #3, Haywood got it into his head that he was going in. Bear in mind, this is not the first time this has happened. Haywood told the Seattle Times last year, and a few other outlets as well, that he was going into the Hall. Suffice it to say, it didn’t happen.

All of which leads me to this conclusion: Haywood is either 1) telling the truth and the Hall misled him about the induction (less likely) or 2) trying to pressure the Hall into inducting him (more likely).

I’m not saying Haywood is lying here – it could very well be that someone associated with the Hall (which, I should point out, is about as transparent about their processes as the Richard Nixon-era Republican Party) told Haywood that he was being considered and there was a chance he might get in. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to ascertain that Haywood is desperate for recognition and would cling to any branch of possibility, no matter how flimsy it might be. 

Further, for all those calling this a "tragedy" and so forth, calm down and look at this from the perspective of the Hall of Fame. Let's say you are deemed responsible for notifying the inductees. I would imagine that such person has a list of who is getting in and who is not. I would imagine that such person would then phone each person and let them know - without confusion - that yes, you are an inductee, and that you should be in Atlanta this weekend. 

In what universe does this person call Spencer Haywood? Are we to believe the Hall is so screwed up that they don't know who is getting in and who is not? That they are so badly mismanaged that the person responsible for notifying the inductees called Spencer Haywood by mistake, and then when he realized his mistake, added to the confusion by not immediately clarifying the situation with Haywood? The same Haywood who, in a previous instance, told everyone he was going in, when he wasn't? You're expecting me to believe that the Hall didn't specifically tell the notification fellow that, whatever you do, DON'T CALL SPENCER HAYWOOD BECAUSE WE DON'T WANT TO THROW ANY MORE GAS ON THAT FIRE.

I'm sorry, but I'm not buying that, and this is from someone who is as enamored with the Basketball Hall of Fame as he is with collecting Portland Trail Blazer memorabilia.

Regardless, as it stands now, Spencer Haywood is not a Hall of Famer. In my opinion, there are two parties with egg on their faces this morning: Haywood, for obvious reasons, and the Hall. The fact the Hall continues to put this man through this charade is embarrassing. I’ve said it before: Either elect the guy or don’t, but quit prolonging the agony.

Saturday, April 6

Seattle Supersonics great Xavier McDaniel: Ultimate Sonics Fan

Artwork by Rafael Calonzo, Jr. 
Seattle Supersonics legend Xavier McDaniel is just as bitter about Oklahoma as we are.

McDaniel, whose alma mater Wichita State is playing in the Final Four this weekend, had some interesting comments in this great interview with Jerry Brewer:

Lenny Wilkens and the Sonics drafted him No. 4 overall in 1985, and the X-Man averaged 20 points and seven rebounds per game in five-plus seasons as Seattle's highly skilled enforcer. 
"Trust me when I tell you that there are only three cities in my mind: my hometown — Columbia, S.C. — Wichita and Seattle," McDaniel said. "Man, I love Seattle. I played in other cities during my NBA career, but I'm all Seattle SuperSonics. 
"I don't care. I would never, ever, ever go to Oklahoma City (where the Sonics relocated five years ago). I don't care how many times they invite me. I'll hold my word to that until the day I die." 
Like nearly everyone who loves the Sonics, McDaniel has been watching the fight between Seattle and Sacramento over the Kings franchise. He wants a franchise back in Seattle desperately, but he hates the idea that Sacramento might have to be robbed for that to happen. McDaniel still hopes for expansion, even though NBA commissioner David Stern says expansion isn't an option right now.
Read the whole interview here.

Friday, April 5

BREAKING: Seattle Supersonics Spencer Haywood to join Gary Payton in Hall of Fame

Spencer Haywood
Artwork by Rafael Calonzo, Jr. 
According to several sources, former Seattle Supersonics star Spencer Haywood is finally getting into the Hall of Fame. Earlier today, it was reported fellow Sonics alumni Gary Payton will also be making the trip to Springfield, the first time two Seattle players have been enshrined in the same year.

They will be joining three other former Sonics in the Hall: Lenny Wilkens (as both player and coach), Dennis Johnson and, I guess, Patrick Ewing technically.

In 2008, both Haywood and Payton were elected to the Supersonicsoul Hall of Fame. Way to catch up, Naismith!

UPDATE: According to Fox Sports writer Chris Tomasson, it turns out Spencer Haywood did NOT make it into the Hall of Fame after all, yet another bizarre and befuddling twist in the story. 

1994 Was Terrible

On January 11, 1992, Nirvana's Nevermind hit number one on the Billboard Album charts, officially putting Seattle on the map. Just over a week later, on January 23rd, George Karl became head coach of the Seattle Supersonics. Both events marked the beginning of an unprecedented and completely unexpected period of success for the band, the team and the entire city.

And then, in 1994, it was all over.

On April 5th, 1994, Kurt Cobain killed himself in his Seattle home. A month later, on May 7th, the Sonics lost to the Denver Nuggets in the the biggest upset in NBA Playoffs history.

Obviously, someone losing their life is a much bigger tragedy than a team losing a game, and in the Big Picture, neither really affected me directly. But, being a stupid 22-year-old at the time, I was utterly devastated by the double whammy. I dropped out of school (take that, Green River Community College!) and got a job working at a video store.  I couldn't listen to Nirvana for more than a decade and barely watched the Sonics the next season, fearing they would choke again in the playoffs (they did).

And while the Sonics managed a few more good years and the Seattle music scene survived, nothing in this town seemed as good or as important after 1994.

ESPN Poll: Sacramento vs. Seattle

Sportsnation posted another poll about the Sacramento Kings drama, because apparently Tim Tebow wasn't available. Not exactly scientific, but I thought it was interesting that in California, 55% thought the Kings should move to Seattle, while 45% wanted them to stay in Sacramento. Of course, most of those votes probably came from Lakers fans.

Seattle Supersonics legend Gary Payton going to Hall of Fame

The Glove
Illustration by Rafael Calonzo, Jr. 

It's official (sort of): Former Seattle Supersonics guard and lego figure Gary Payton is going to the Hall of Fame. Congrats to the Glove on this incredible honor, second only, I'm sure, to making it into the Supersonicsoul Hall of Fame back in 2008.

Thursday, April 4

Haywood, the Hall, and Waiting

42 years ago this month, Spencer Haywood's name was at the top of every sports section in America.

The Man Who Beat the NBA, or words to that effect, were plastered across the nation when Haywood's now-famous, then-infamous lawsuit found its way the U.S. Supreme Court and, eventually, a sympathetic set of ears. In ruling that the league's 4-years-out-of-high-school rule to be illegal, the USSC made a champion out of Haywood, and - let's all say it together - paved the way for people such as Moses Malone, Kobe Bryant, etc, etc, etc.

And now, 42 years later, Spencer Haywood is hoping to, once again, be featured prominently in the sports sections of America. Today, tomorrow, this weekend ... some time before Monday night, Haywood will find out if this is the year the Basketball Hall of Fame lets him in the door.

I've written too many words about his case, and come down on both sides of the fence. On the one hand, an in-depth look at his statistics and accomplishments on the court leads me to believe that Spencer Haywood is not a Hall of Famer.

On the other, his off-court accomplishment (and there is truly only one accomplishment that merits mentioning) changes the equation. If you believe that Haywood's lawsuit was history-altering event, and that were it not for his lawsuit the NBA would not be as it is today, then I believe you have to induct him.

While his on-court contributions fall short, his off-court one - when combined, I suppose, with those on-court accomplishments - might just be enough.

For Haywood's sake, I hope so. It is clear that the man desperately wants recognition.

To his credit, he has reached a good place in his life where this recognition would merely be the icing, and not the cake itself, and for that reason, I hope he gets it.

Wednesday, April 3

Seattle Sonics vs. Sacramento Kings: The Cyborg Years

As our billionaire overlords decide whether Seattle or Sacramento deserves to give them more money, Supersonicsoul cartoonist extraordinaire Rafael "Chunkstyle" Calonzo pointed out on Twitter that our cities have a long history of pummeling each other.

Tuesday, April 2

Hansen Group Releases New Seattle Supersonics Rally Video "Bring Back the Sonics"

To celebrate going over 44,000 on their Seattle Supersonics season tickets wait list, the Chris Hanson Sonics 2.0 group released a new rally video featuring Macklemore and lots of pictures of Gary Payton hugging Shawn Kemp like the Reign Man was his long lost daddy.

Pretty good effort guys, but it's no "Not In Our House". I mean, it's not really a Sonics rap video without Gerald Paddio on the mic, right?

Monday, April 1

BREAKING: Lenny Wilkens to rejoin Seattle Supersonics as Player/Coach

Sonics legend and two-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Lenny Wilkens will be rejoining the Seattle Supersonics in the dual player/coach role he had in the early 1970s.

"I'm ready to lead, both on the court and off," Wilkens said at a press conference this morning.

Wilkens, the first man to be voted into the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach,  had served in both capacities with the Sonics from 1969-1972, leading the league in assists in the 1970-71 season. He was traded in 1972, but later returned (this time solely as head coach) and led Seattle to their only championship in 1979.

The Sonics franchise was moved to an unknown midwest location in 2008,  but the team is believed to be returning to Seattle next year, either as a relocated team or an expansion franchise. Nothing official has been announced, however, which makes any personelle moves seem a bit premature.

The man trying to bring the team back to Seattle, Chris Hansen, was asked about this peculiar move.

"Wait," Hansen replied, after spitting water out of his mouth. "What are you talking about?"

Wilkens, who turns 76 this year, appears ready to go.  When asked about the prospect of the team returning to Seattle, however, the old coach seemed more amused than nostalgic.

"You're telling me the Sonics left town? Ha! Nice try." Wilkens laughed. "I know an April Fool's joke when I hear one. Next thing you'll be telling me President Nixon resigned!"