Oklahoma City Thunder and Stolen Dreams

Oklahoma City Thunder and Stolen Dreams

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One major Decision over the last three years plays a major role in what team many Americans will root for in the NBA finals. No one wants to root for someone who ripped a city’s heart out. No one wants to root for someone that was only in the game for the money and fame and not bringing a championship home. No one wants to root for somebody who took the easy way out went to place where everyone would worship him and he’d be held less accountable. That’s right, for those reasons and more; I’m rooting against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA finals. You thought I was talking about LeBron and his Decision? Not at all, I’m talking about Seattle Supersonics / Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett .The fact that most people think I was referring to LeBron James is one the reasons this country is politically going to hell.

Most everyone in the United States with even a nominal degree of pop culture knowledge is aware of “The Decision”. You don’t have to be a sports fan to know that LeBron James, super-duper-nova star of the Cleveland Cavaliers held a live press conference in 2010 and announced that after 7 years with the Cleveland Cavaliers he was “taking his talents to South beach” and joining two other All-Stars on the Miami Heat in the hopes of winning an NBA championship. The story since then will go down in sports lore as one of the most reviled decisions in history. Fans burned LeBron James’s jersey, he was called a traitor in an open letter penned by the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, sportscasters and analysts piled on him for a plethora of reasons: Joining with fellow stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh was the easy way to an NBA title. He ‘owed’ it to his sports crazed home city of Cleveland to bring them a championship. The decision itself was okay but it was HOW he did it that offends people. In the end, regardless of the veracity or logic of any of these criticisms (and they’re all bunk) they have lingered. Now almost 2 years later as LeBron makes his second attempt with the Miami Heat to win an NBA championship some still hold up the “Decision” as a reason to root for the Oklahoma City Thunder over the Miami heat. Clay Bennett must be laughing himself to sleep on a pile of money and green blood.

In case you don’t know, or remember or care to the Oklahoma City Thunder have only been in existence for 4 years. Why? Because in another more damaging, more cowardly more disgusting and far reaching Decision Clay Bennett stole the Supersonics Franchise from Seattle and moved them to Oklahoma City.  You see, the city of Seattle had been the proud home of the Supersonics for over 40 years, had seen the team win a championship in 1979, go to the finals again in 1996 and remain an important an integral part of the community. When Clay Bennett bought the team from Starbucks magnate Howard Shultz in 2006 he pledged to keep the Sonics in Seattle, he talked about keeping the public trust, and respecting the history and legacy of the Sonics. But Bennett was lying all along, after leveraging Seattle for tax breaks and sweet deals, he bolted for Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City, where he’d be the only game in town, held less accountable, where he could make money no matter the quality of the product, a decision that was ultimately about pocketbooks and pride instead of winning championships. LeBron was one man who left to win and cement his legacy; Clay Bennett left to chase dollar signs and buried the Seattle franchise six feet under. Cleveland fans still have memories of Craig Ehlo and Mark Price . The Cavs are still playing games downtown and Kyrie Irving was 2012 Rookie of the Year. LeBron hurt the franchise but he wasn’t THE FRANCHISE. Seattle Fans have nothing. And worse now they have to watch a nation of fair-weather fans swallow the narrative of the small town team against the smarmy city-slickers while driving past an empty arena every day. Bennett is obviously worse yet somehow LeBron stays the villain?

The existence of this narrative about LeBron and his Decision versus Bennett and his Decision is exactly what is wrong with the American people today. This is the mentality that allows our legal system to throw the book at a kid who knocks over a liquor store, but businessmen who steal billions of dollars from a retirement fund get stern lectures at congressional hearings. This is the mentality that allows Mitt Romney to say “Corporations are people too” and the American public barely blinks. We are mired in this backwards 20th century thinking clouded by race and class deference that allows elites to walk all over us without consequence but we blame the visible individuals forever. If anything you would think Cleveland fans would know the difference. In 1995, after 34 years Art Modell took the Browns from Cleveland to Baltimore and won a Superbowl 4 years later with basically the same squad. LeBron left after only 7 years, and whether he wins a title or not you can’t tell me he deserves more hate than Modell.

In the end, the winner of the NBA championship will be decided on the court and in the minds and plans of the coaches. But regardless of who wins or who you’re rooting for, let’s remember who the real villains are in this series. It’s not the guys out on the court who have made decisions based on wanting to win, or taking care of the families or quality of life issues. The villains are the owners who lie and cheat and hold cities hostage then bolt for the highest bidder stealing 40 years of legacy and history just to line their own pockets. Wake Up sports fans, if the Decision is driving who you root for, then get mad about the right one, and root for the Miami Heat.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Normally I would read an article like this and simply move on having just experienced another bitter, angry adolescent and smarmy tirade by someone that personifies all the things most of us like to avoid but alas, I couldn't help myself. The reason I decided to respond to this article is simply to highlight the obvious bias the writer has due to his self indulged obsession towards blaming someone else for his lot in life. Seems to be a common theme in the US these days. Just as in any relationship, it takes two or in this case, many to make things work. If one side or the other or even both sides (Bennett or Schultz) are not able to compromise then the relationship will end up in divorce.
    Simply put, had Seattle, its fans, its owners, the City Council and its investors wanted to make this work bad enough, this article wouldn't have been written and the finals might have a completely different venue right now.

    • Thanks for the pop psychology Dave, I'll try to avoid saying anything personally about you and focus on your comments. The fact is, Bennett told the city he would stay in Seattle. He promised Howard Shultz he would stay in Seattle. But emails revealed years later he never had any intention of keeping the team in the city. When one person never has any intention of negotiating in good faith then it's a little hard to 'blame both sides' for failing to come up with a deal. If you have any doubts, look up the fact that even Shultz was so upset by Bennett's lying that he threatened to so in order to keep the team in the city. So, your basic premise is wrong. Two sides can't work together when one never intended to.

  2. Dude you sound like a fucking cry baby. Get over yourself. Seattle was nothing more than a weed haven. Thank god big names like Kemp and some other random guy played there. So Grow up.

    • Jon, I have no idea if you have ever visited Seattle or not, but characterizing an entire city, (one that happens to be home to two of the largest and most profitable employers in the United States) as a week haven speaks volumes about your ability to articulate a cogent argument. My point in the article is that as a nation we have a misguided view of who villains are, and often left the real crooks hide in the background and get caught up in what is obvious and evident.

  3. If anything Mr. Emo pants … I would say the Cleveland Browns being taken from the town is the one thing to compare it too. Not LeBron. Sure, LeBron is an ass. We all know he is. But, dude … really.

    • Jon, that was my point. Losing a franchise is MUCH worse than losing a player. So why is the media coverage so focused on LeBron and Cleveland and not sad customers in bars in Seattle watching THEIR team win a championship?

  4. WAT

    How dare a business owner try and make money. I agree with Dave, had Seattle wanted the team badly enough, they could have had it. The assertion that any old pile of crap is good enough for the likes of Oklahoma City is offensive, short-sighted, and childish.

    • Yes, and how dare a superstar wanting to play for a different team, where he thinks he has a better shot at a winning a championship, exercise his right as a free agent!

      Sarcasm aside, the point of this article doesn't seem to be to say business owners can't make money. It's to say that if the logic is to hate LeBron because he is somehow a "traitor", it'd go that what Clay Bennett did was much worse.

  5. You are clearly from OKC so let me try to clarify my point. Bennett lied to Shultz, lied to the city of Seattle and never had any intention of negotiating in good faith. He told everyone, time after time, in public in press conferences that he was keeping the Sonics in Seattle, and yet emails and memos revealed later showed he never had any intention of keeping the team in Seattle. Any business owner has a right to make money if they can, but lying and manipulating tax payers to get your way for a private business is lousy. My point is that what Bennett did is actually much worse that what LeBron did but for some reason the press avoids that story. If BOTH decisions were ignored it would be fine, but to focus on one and ignore the other is one of the reasons why this nation is so easily fooled by rich elites who are always willing to sell this nation down the river to enrich themselves.

    • So if Seattle had provided financing for a new arena, what would Clay Bennett have done, Dr. Jason? Can you answer this question in detail without diving into the victim pool? The mere fact that you guys keep harping about these emails is beating the bones of a dead horse. Explain what Clay Bennett would have done if Seattle provided a new arena.

    • Granted, Bennett may have lied to the city of Seattle, this is something that I was not aware of , but what you have failed to mention is that the Owner of the team at the time asked the city of Seattle to help build a new arena or at least renovate Key Arena, the city refused both proposals and in doing so the owner relocated the team to OKC, granted he had to pay a penalty for taking the team out of Seattle, but still if Seattle really wanted to keep the Supersonics they would have found a way to do it.

    • Like Nuggets Dave above, I normally move on from such baseless articles as this one, but this guy''s"arguments are so off and devoid of factual content, I just had to reply.

      Dear "Dr." Johnson (Dr. of what, I wonder, perhaps misinformation), please get your facts straight. The team in Seattle had to have a new arena, or else it would be re-located. Key Arena was the smallest arena in the NBA, old and made the team unprofitable. Bennett made a conditional promised to stay in Seattle – IF THE CITY BUILT A NEW ARENA.. He gave the city 1 year to get a new arena deal. This was clear in the agreement and a clear directive from the league office. But, THE CITY OF SEATTLE VOTED DOWN ITS NEW ARENA.. No new arena, no team. That was why the City's lawsuit failed in court.

      Oklahoma City, by contrast, voted to tax itself to build a new NBA quality arena, WITH ONLY THE HOPE OF A TEAM SOMEDAY. The citizens of OKC were future minded enough to realize they had no chance of getting a team without a quality arena. So, they taxed themselves in a special in a special referendum and built their new arena. So, when the Hornets needed a place to play, OKC was ready and willing.

      The contrast between the two cities couldn't be greater. One had a team and chose to abuse it through neglect, and disinterest (and now cries foul), while the other taxed itself and built a first class arena on nothing but faith, and has been rewarded for its wise, forward thinking.

      For some reason, these facts are never mentioned by people like you. Instead, you choose to manipulate the truth so you can now whine about how "the Man" stuck it to the little guy again. Good grief, man, get over yourself and grow up!

  6. Jason, just sit back enjoy the game. LeBron James will always be Lebron James… The Seattle SuperSonics are no longer a team. Why would we want to talk about something that no longer exists. THUNDER UP!

  7. Schultz can claim he was deceived but EVERYONE saw it coming. The Hornets go back to New Orleans after being displaced to OKC following Katrina, OKC is left with a still brand new, empty arena and an Oklahoma City-based investment group wants to buy the Sonics… what did you think would happen?! I'm SO sick of whiny Sonics fans playing the victim. Oklahoma City passed a bond issue to build a new arena, in hopes of attracting an NBA team, nearly 10 years before the Bennett-led group bought the Sonics. Then, OKC passed another bond issue after the team was purchased for NBA-worthy improvements and an off-site practice facility. That was before OKC even knew they had a chance at hosting a pro team. In contrast, Seattle, knowing their team was on the verge of skipping town, voted down a bond issue to give the Sonics a better facility. In addition, the Sonics had among the lowest attendance for the last several years in Seattle. I feel sad for the real Sonics fans who loved their team. But the reality is that there are far less of them than there are hypocrites claiming to be the victim. After their team has been "ripped from them," they've tried for 3 years to get another arena in hopes of stealing another city's team. Take a good, long look in the mirror, Seattle. You treated your team like a step-child and they put an end to it. Now you're trying to play both the victim and the thief.

  8. It is amazing that people refuse to see the obvious. Both claims are true, but not equal in terms of the effects they had on people’s lives. Lebron's "Decision" and Bennett's "Decision" both had a negative impact on the respective cities they left. However, the scale of the impact of the "Decisions" is being ignored. Bennett's decision had a disproportionately more severe impact on the city of Seattle than Lebron's decision had on the city of Cleveland. Bennett slashed jobs and careers while Lebron slashed hopes. In the end, Lebron's decision hurt feelings whereas Bennett's decision ruined lives. From that perspective, it is clear that Dr. Johnson’s criticism of Bennett’s decision (or duplicity) is justified.

    Great column Jason!!

  9. Great article. I never thought about it from that perspective. We fans have a closer relationship to players than we do ownership (unless you've been burned) so we tend to think about winners and losers in terms of players actions. I of all people know a little something about being burned by a franchise owner. As a kid I was a Baltimore Colts fan. Then one day Bob Earsay moved the team to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. It was cowardly to say the least.

    Baltimore went over a decade without a football franchise. I didn't get over it until we stole the Cleveland Browns and bought them to Baltimore to become the Ravens. As bad as that was… at least Cleveland got to keep their name and was able to quickly replace the franchise that we stole.

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