By Joe Wong
The Seattle SuperSonics were ripped away from the Seattle after the 2008 season and taken to Oklahoma City by owner Clay Bennett. Christopher Hansen, a wealthy San Francisco hedge fund manager, made progress to acquire land in the Sodo neighborhood with the hope of building a multi-purpose arena that would be home to a professional basketball and hockey team. The arena is estimated to cost $500 million, with $300 million being paid by Hansen and his group. The Sonics were the only Seattle sports team to win a major championship title in Seattle and was the first of the three major sports teams to be founded.
Remember the successful years of the Sonics in the 1970s and early 1990s? In the 1970s, the Sonics won their first and only NBA championship. In the 1990s, the team was one of the best led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Even though the Sonics had fallen into mediocrity at the turn of the century, we still loved them. They stood out as the only major sports team in Seattle to win a major championship.
The Sonics were founded on December 20, 1966, by businessmen Sam Schulman and Eugene V. Klein. The team was named the SuperSonics after Boeing was awarded a contract for the SST project. The Sonics’ first season was abysmal as they finished with a 23-59 record. In the 1966 offseason, Lenny Wilkens was traded to the Sonics and he brought a great all around game. But, the Sonics only won 30 games.
In 1972, the Sonics had their first winning season led by Lenny Wilkens and Spencer Haywood. In 1975, legendary Bill Russell was hired as head coach and he coached the Sonics to the playoffs for the first time. They beat Detroit in the playoffs, but eventually fell to the champion Golden State Warriors. The Sonics made the playoffs again, but lost to the Phoenix Suns.
The 1978-79 season is the most memorable as the Sonics won their first division title and went on to give Seattle its first and only NBA championship.
The 1980s did not produce as many highlights, but was still exciting. The Sonics made it to the Western Conference Finals two times in the 1980s.
In 1983, Sam Schulman sold the SuperSonics to Barry Ackerly. Throughout the 1980s, the Sonics weren’t great, but managed to make several playoff appearances and remained respectable throughout the decade.
The Payton-Kemp era began in 1989 when the Sonics drafted Shawn Kemp. The Sonics drafted Gary Payton the year after. The arrival of George Karl as head coach in 1992 marked the resurgence of the Sonics. They finished the 1992-93 season with a 55-27 record and in the 1993-94 season, had the best record in the NBA at 63-19. However, they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Denver Nuggets. The 1995-96 roster was arguably the best as the Sonics set a franchise best 64-18 record, but lost to Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the NBA Finals. The Sonics continued to be a powerhouse in the Western Conference, but Nate McMillan retired at the end of the 1997-98 season and George Karl left.
After 1998, the team was marked by mediocrity and the Sonics eventually left Seattle. The Seattle SuperSonics have a great history that needs to not be shared with a team in Oklahoma City. They do not have any resemblance to our former Sonics. Clay Bennett robbed us of our Sonics and Hansen is our chance to bring them back. (end)
Editor’s note: This story was written by a Summer Youth Leadership Program student, not a Northwest Asian Weekly staff member.