7.03.2008

A Quick Dove's Cry for Seattle



Consider this the flitting Sonics post for all non-Seattle residents. Also peep Shoals' thoughts below

So much electronic ink has been spilled on the Sonics affair that saying my piece is probably the most superfluous and egocentric thing I can do. Nonetheless, the whole situation makes my stomach drop. I come from a state where the only championship-winning pro sports team in the last millenium, the Minnesota Twins, was almost contracted a few years ago. Timberwolves fans have been exodus-ing by the 1000s over the past four years. And even the beloved Vikings are constantly being talked about as potential candidates for reestablishing an NFL franchise in LA. Oh, also, OUR MOTHERFUCKING HOCKEY TEAM was moved to Dallas in 1994. Think: transporting all of the croissants in France, to Italy.

Bottom line is that I want to echo what everyone else has been shouting to all of the non-residents of New York and Boston: It could happen to you, and F that.
















For the first 23 years of my life, I knew exactly one person from Seattle, but I believe--and feel free to back me up here--that everyone who grew up in the 1980s who paid any attention to basketball felt some odd connection to the Seattle Supersonics. I think it was the colors. They drew you in the same way the LA Rams and Milwaukee Brewers 1980s uniforms did, on some weird synaesthetic experience. I remember seeing that green and gold on an Xavier McDaniel basketball card I received when I was eight years old, and I remember liking that card so much that I would carry it around with me places. There is something about that color scheme that I strongly believe resonates with our childlike nature.

When Shawn Kemp came on the scene, we--Sports Illustrated for Kids devoted readers all of us--lost our minds. We had never seen anything like that before. Sure, Jordan was superhuman, but he was also too fucking smart. He could pass the ball and play defense and motivate his teammates. A Shawn Kemp dunk, on the other hand, took no thought to process. Again, it touched at some automatic emotional component inside of us that had been present since we were babies. Shawn Kemp dunking was the physical manifestation of that green and gold.

So, a thousand pardons for the sopping cliche, but for my generation of sports fans: losing the Sonics = losing youth.

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49 Comments:

At 7/03/2008 1:04 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

DLIC speaks truth! I was in 8th grade when I got my first basketball poster, and it was not Spud Webb, but Dale Ellis. It was a great example of how they did posters in the 80s. There was the whole Oswald theme, Ellis was standing by a window overlooking a goal with one guy playing alone, with a digit to his lips in a fingerless glove. I used to get so much more done with him & the Sonics on the PC game Lakers Vs. Celtics than any other team but the Suns, I think.

 
At 7/03/2008 1:08 PM, Blogger Five Pound Bag said...

Steve - don't come yet!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiHxIdkjA5U

 
At 7/03/2008 1:29 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

When I was 10, I had the privilege of seeing the X-Man/Dale Ellis/Tom Chambers Sonics in Boston Garden against the classic, Simmons-hardon-spawning BirdMcHaleParishDJAinge Celts. Being from New York, I didn't have a horse in the race, and not being suicidal I refrained from doing anything other than clapping for the Celtics, but I really liked that particular Sonics team. Xavier in particular was the baddest motherfucker alive for a while there.

Then, of course, the above-mentioned Kemp/Payton team, who aside from the D'Antoni Suns were the only team I ever cheated on the Knicks with. Here's hoping the NBA does something similar to what the NFL did with the Browns: "Hey, sorry we raped your city, here, let's start over."

 
At 7/03/2008 1:36 PM, Blogger S.LaJolla said...

What's funny is that I've been so disenchanted with the pro-game lately I spent most of last weekend youtubing old Shawn Kemp clips. Just to see if I could feel the awe and spark of yesterday.

If you go to some of #40's personal websites, they have a picture of him at a recent charity tournament. Looks like he is in decent shape.

Also, the only way you could stop him on NBA Jam Tourney Edition was to unplug the machine.

 
At 7/03/2008 1:42 PM, Blogger 800# said...

Note: Even Brooklyn lost the Dodgers back in the day. No one is safe.

 
At 7/03/2008 1:48 PM, Blogger dickey simpkins said...

No pro team is safe. LA lost a football team a few decades ago, and no one has come and replaced them yet. 20 years ago this week, Jerry Reinsdorf almost moved the White Sox to Florida.

People need to realize that there was blame on both sides of this debacle. No owner should ever be able to hold a fanbase hostage for a new arena. I've been to Seattle so many times over the years, the Key Arena was the loudest arena I've ever been to outside of Chicago. The talent of those teams were just amazing. What the fuck are Sonics fans supposed to do now? Root for Durant in OKC? Jump on the Blazers bandwagon when Portland fans have been arrogant douchebags for several years now?

I will laugh my ass off if OKC and its 60th largest media market doesn't support their pro team with the fervor that everyone assumes they will. Let's see how many sellouts there are when they realize the team is still shitty, and some years from being respectable.

 
At 7/03/2008 2:05 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

As a youth, I didn't believe Shawn Kemp was real.

Some other thoughts of mine:

Humor about it, part 1

Humor about it, part 2

Wow this team is bad

 
At 7/03/2008 2:20 PM, Blogger Penny said...

The Sonics were THE best team on NBA hangtime and JAM. Shawn Kemp being the best player on the game. -->I'll role with Hersey Hawkins any day.

 
At 7/03/2008 3:28 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Maybe the best news is that if the NBA does give Seattle the neo-Sonics, an expansion team will be better than what just left.

 
At 7/03/2008 3:42 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

I completey agree about Shawn Kemp being one of the most incomprehensible sports figures of my youth. My love for his freakish explosiveness and the gum-chewing, ihst-talking, jaw askew GP spead to include sleepy eyed Sam Perkins and even the robotically cool Detlef Schrempf. I really felt some unity with the city of Seattle beacuse of those teams. It might have been the colors but it was most definitely the Supersonics who owned my young heart.

 
At 7/03/2008 3:53 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

Man Kid Sensation's "Seatown Ballers" totally just took me back to The Spurs-commissioned remix of Montell Jordan's "This is how we do it" Man that was awesome.

 
At 7/03/2008 4:42 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

DLIC, Karl Malone just missed a free throw in your honor. "1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 … 9 … 10."

 
At 7/03/2008 4:50 PM, Blogger johnny5 said...

Always liked the Sonics in the 80s, but saw them too much as a rival to my Suns to really fall in love, as my sis did with Gary Payton. We did eventually take their players, starting with Chambers and X-Man, then the reincarnation of pre-baby-daddy Kemp in Amare. Sleepy-eyed Perkins, cussed that sonbitch for the cold 3s he'd drain.

At least Stern666 reopened the possibility of getting a franchise back in Seattle. Maybe after OKC gets bored, they can go back. My secret dream is that they'll get a new franchise (do they really need one in Memphis?) in time to get Durant back when he hits free agency.

 
At 7/03/2008 4:52 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

I think Ty might have mentioned this before, but Sonics-era Detlef is our roommates favorite player even though he's never seen him before.

I had never really thought about it, but the Sonics and Mariners were always my favorite non-LA teams. Maybe it was because my grandparents lived there, or maybe it had something to do with Eddie Vedder, but next to my Magic memorabilia and Team USA poster, there was the Kemp/Glove penant, like some embryonic form of liberated fandom.

 
At 7/03/2008 5:02 PM, Blogger t said...

This is truly shameful. The theft of the original Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, where they are now the Ravens, was horrific. This is heinous too. But if we whine about it and don't do anything, they're less honest tears. Want to do something? Check out Ralph Nader's project League of Fans which doesn't discourage support of your team, but also encourages vigilance. And yeah, one of my favorite Youtubes (one of a series of Tubes) is this of The Rain Man's best dunks. Fearsome. Michael was Michael, and Dominique was more ferocious and explosive, but when Shawn Kemp dunked, I think an angel died. That and about 20,000 kids became new fans. The Nate McMillan/Glove/Kemp/Schrempf teams which lost as a 1 seed in '94 to Mutombo's 8th seeded Nuggets was bad at that time. And as a long time Laker fan, one of only two Laker home games I've gone to was my 12th birthday when I got to see Chambers/McDaniel/Ellis/Alton Lister take on the Worthy/Scott/Magic/Kareem Lakers. Magic had a triple-double, Kareem had over 20, Worthy over 25.....and though I wasn't rooting for the Sonics, they put on a show and made the Lakers work for it. Overlord Stern and the two putzes who absconded with this team really have a hot place in hell kept for them.

 
At 7/03/2008 5:18 PM, Blogger Carlos Detrroyo said...

The mid-90s Sonics are the one team with that strange "hipness" (never won it all, but were fun as hell to watch,) who remain cool to this day. Orlando, Charlotte, and the D'Antoni Suns all had it at one time, but Shaq's circus, Zo's flexing, and... Shaq's circus have forever tainted all three for me.

But once Kemp left and became a punchline in Cleveland, and Vin Baker fell off the wagon, the Sonics mystique went up in flames so quickly that it seemed like a different team. The late-90s Sonics were never the same.

Not to get too Simmons-y here, but doesn't Seattle's rise mirror the grunge music, with a couple years' separation? Surprising early success (Kemp's first years, Bleach,) meteoric rise (the '96 finals, Black Hole Sun,) the fall of Icarus (Kemp leaves, Baker drinks, Cobain dies,) hyenas tear apart the carcass (Vernon Maxwell/Ruben Patterson, Layne Staley found dead of heroin.)

Bit of a stretch?

 
At 7/03/2008 5:32 PM, Blogger t said...

Sorry here's that great Kemp dunk highlight reel.

 
At 7/03/2008 5:48 PM, Blogger S.LaJolla said...

sk40.com is the website I referenced earlier.

Hersey Hawkins was nice on NBA Jam Tourney Edition, but only Shawn could launch himself 30-feet into the air from the free-throw line, tuck his knees to his chest, complete several rolls, and still throw down!

I belive it's called "boomshockalocka!"

 
At 7/03/2008 5:49 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Entirely off topic, but his is the most recent post ... Most of you have probably seen this picture already today. Most interesting to me: LBJ is noticeably taller than Melo and as tall at the shoulders as Boozer. We've all commented on it, but it's worth say again: DUDE'S A FREAK OF NATURE.

On topic, in an alternate universe, Durant has an inflexible sense of honor and a love of Italy that motivate him to enter into a lucrative contract in Europe as a means of communicating to Stern, Bennett and the latter's Swift-Boat-Veterans-for-Outright-Lies-supporting neocolonial partners that he considers them too dirty to do business with.

 
At 7/03/2008 6:29 PM, Blogger Melvin Dumar said...

I've always thought Kemp was the only real precedent for LBJ's combination of power, height and speed. By necessity, he had a marginally more prominent post game than LBJ, since LBJ doesn't post much because of his handle and range. Which, of course, are primary two factors-along with his ungodly court awareness / passing-that put LBJ in a different class. But slim Kemp was lithe on the break like no other on his side of the tayshaun<->moses spectrum. Until LBJ.

How much did baby kemp weigh? anyone? I know he bubbled up above three bills post-prime, but the comparison to draft age kemp is a bondsworthy career contrast.

If an evolutionary psychologist looked at Kemp, would they deem his ballooning weight as a pre-emptive defense against the long, lean winter of double-digit alimony payments?

 
At 7/03/2008 6:33 PM, Blogger Melvin Dumar said...

rather, child-support payments; i've never heard that kemp had the marrying bug, just the fathering bug.

 
At 7/03/2008 6:48 PM, Blogger Stumbleweed said...

Kemp was always my favorite player growing up and remains my favorite to this day. Watching that Top 10 gave me shivers on every dunk... just unreal. I love Amare, but Kemp... just wow... not the same at all.

 
At 7/03/2008 6:57 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Kemp in his prime was 6-10 and between 230 and 240. That doesn't seem all that big, and it's tempting to think, "well, dudes were just smaller" until you recall games where he'd be going up against Shaq on some unstoppable force/immovable object shit. He used to fuckin own Patrick. Oakley would step aside like, "this motherfucker's crazy, life's too short" which NEVER happened with anyone else.

Shit, stop me before I get out the whiskey bottle and the Sub Pop catalogue.

 
At 7/03/2008 9:18 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

Mother of god.

That #1 dunk that T posted brought me out of my seat. Seriously, I was standing up pounding my chest alone in my room.

The attack instincts there do remind me of Amare - gather the ball, then volcanic explosion to the hoop. Unreal.

 
At 7/04/2008 1:49 AM, OpenID gpietras said...

Does anyone else think it's funny that Seattle fans' most likely hope, at this point, is ... taking another city's team?

I do understand that having a team where basketball has history, in a large market, and in a vibrant, young city makes it more logical/desirable/emotional. I'm certainly sympathetic to losing a team you grew up with. But I guarantee you someone in Memphis loves the Grizzlies as much as a die-hard Sonics fan.

This is just me being terrified that the Bobcats will leave Charlotte.

 
At 7/04/2008 3:07 AM, OpenID tredecimal said...

But I guarantee you someone in Memphis loves the Grizzlies as much as a die-hard Sonics fan.

(jokingly) That's not mathematically possible.

 
At 7/04/2008 3:34 AM, Blogger Nick said...

A question yet un-posed: What happens to the great, one-of-a-kind Kevin Calabro? Shawn Kemp was a beast, but Calabro made him the Reign Man. Same goes for The Glove, Big Smooth, and "Skypilot" Patterson. Calabro's frequently recognized as one of the greats in the calling game. So where does my favorite announcer besides Niehaus go?

 
At 7/04/2008 4:15 AM, Blogger Notorious D.I.G. said...

simpkins get it right...

LA LOST 2 FOOTBALL TEAMS!!!

IN ONE YEAR!!

IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.

 
At 7/04/2008 10:58 AM, Blogger BW said...

Was it a SkyBox card? I loved SkyBox cards.

 
At 7/04/2008 12:54 PM, Blogger gordon gartrelle said...

Word. Shawn Kemp's game was primal, animalistic...gorilla-esque, if you will.

It was just so damn black!

 
At 7/04/2008 1:13 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

I never really understood why racists and quasi-racists equate black people with gorillas. If anything, gorillas have some characteristics that seem more immediately "white": a bunch of spaced-out vegetarians breeding below replacement level . . . oh, wait, the stereotype doesn't really fit at all? My bad.

 
At 7/04/2008 1:23 PM, Blogger Alap said...

how bout, going with dlic's description of him as violent, unthinking, brings-out-the-twelve-year-old-in-all-of-us, shawn kemp = wolverine ?

 
At 7/04/2008 1:49 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

That Kemp reel didn't remind me of Amare at all. Amare doesn't handle the ball as much. Kemp had more of Nelson Mundt-as-QB thing going on.

 
At 7/04/2008 3:21 PM, Blogger Dr. Lawyer IndianChief said...

thanks for mischaracterizing me.

i never said "violent," i never implied "primal, and i never said "unthinking." i said his game "took no thought to process" talking about us as observers.

 
At 7/04/2008 3:36 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I am really confused. Is GG being an idiot or making fun of what he thought DLIC said?

In any case, the subtle "took no thought to process" is definitely the way to view this. The monkey is inside us, fellow fans. Or the reptile brain.

Incidentally, that Kemp Skybox rookie was like talisman for me. I owned ten. And today, I stole back one of those comic strip NBA shirts from my girl. . . of the '91 Sonics. So dope.

 
At 7/04/2008 6:14 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

@tredecimal: I had to google Nelson Mundt, but I've got you now.

Still, how can you not see the Amare? Who dunks harder than him with one hand?

 
At 7/04/2008 7:11 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

@Stan/Jeff/Zeppo- I guess I don't see the Amare because the existence of Nash means he'd never be handling the ball so far from the post as Kemp is in most of those videos. Hell, he's leading the breaks himself. But then, when Dana Barros is your point guard, that's not such a waste.

Also, not that you guys need me defending you, but getting racism out of

A Shawn Kemp dunk, on the other hand, took no thought to process.

is a stretch not even spannable by the wingspan of Mo Sene. Unless the reader possesses comprehension skills & a desire to RTFA below that of even the average /. commenter, it's not at all unclear that what was meant is that it took no thought for the VIEWER to process. Thanks for playing, but your good conduct medal from the Southern Poverty Law Center is not in the mail.

 
At 7/04/2008 7:48 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

Oh yeah, I agree that Kemp and Amare don't resemble each other on the break, I just saw a similarity once the two took off for a slam.

dlic and defenders: Don't be too quick to jump gordon gartrelle - just look at the syntax, dlic is making a claim here. The section in question: "Jordan was superhuman, but he was also too fucking smart... a Shawn Kemp dunk, on the other hand, took no thought to process."

If Jordan's game was too smart, and if we're going to the other hand, that reads to me as saying "Kemp's game was dumb".

And I question Shoals' idea about a lizard brain and this all lying with the observer. Complexity is a quality of things, if Kemp's game can be swallowed whole without thought, that's because it doesn't require any. Unless it's connecting directly to the lizard brain, bypassing everything else? But that just comes back to Kemp's game being "basic".

Also, surely you can see how "automatic emotional component inside of us that had been present since we were babies" implies a primal instinct.

Of course, the only reason I think this is an issue is because off the court, Kemp isn't exactly a shining paragon of conduct in the black community.

 
At 7/05/2008 4:05 AM, Blogger gordon gartrelle said...

Come on. Give me a little credit.

I wasn't calling the specific comments racist; I was merely pointing out how problematic I find much of the language here. The narratives are often a stones throw from places that none of you definitely want to go. I suppose that's the risk you all take for trading in broad narrative about mostly black athletes.

I am a fan of what you all do here despite (because? of) how uncomfortable it makes me sometimes. Any hip hop fan should be able to appreciate that.

 
At 7/05/2008 4:30 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Last night at a party, I heard some guy hitting on a girl by talking about her time as a Bulls photographer, including his complete and total ignorance of the salary cap.

Apparently, he was in television or something; he said "at the NBC affiliate I was at, we had this big framed photo of Jordan talking shit right in some Pistons ear during the playoffs. He just looked so mean, his skin was so dark and shiny, he was like a fuckin' Black Panther."

I guess my point is this: Yes, we can get dangerously close to racially-charged description at times. But what's the alternative? To talk about Kemp as an "indomitable energy guy with outrageous ups" and ignore the role he played in the meaning of the sport or the transformation of style? Dude was an icon, one who did bring racialized thinking to the forefront in much the same way as, you say, hip-hop did.

I figure there's all sorts of ambivalence around Kemp, or [insert your favorite Golden Age rapper here who isn't Rakim], for all audiences involved.

So I guess I'm saying that, really, I wouldn't mind if the discussion of Kemp did unabashedly go there. I still think that Dr. LIC was talking more about audience reception, not so much making a judgment on how smart/dumb Kemp was as a player. But what's wrong with saying that Kemp was less sophisticated, less disciplined, than Jordan? And how could that not end up being some sort of judgment in the viewer's mind–if not about every single Black person in America, than the ways in which culture an style change through a generation?

Or maybe just "seem to change for the kind of fetishist white kids who track things like that."

 
At 7/05/2008 5:06 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Speaking of fucked up: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/jul/04/culture-part-game/>

 
At 7/05/2008 5:52 PM, Blogger 13thabe said...

As a 13 year old obsessed with cards, I loved that 90-91 Kemp Hoops rookie card, it inspired the same "holy shit, how awesome is this guy (and card brand) going to be" feeling as the Ken Griffey Upper Deck, The Barry Sanders Pro Set. And (ahem) the John Olerud Leaf card.

 
At 7/05/2008 5:59 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Sorry, one last thing so it doesn't seem like I'm totally contradicting myself: I take it on faith that, when we talk about players on here, it's largely about their meaning, their public persona, or what we can perceive as the tension between them as people and their myth.

Not that these still can't be touchy subjects, but it goes from the assumption that these conversations do go on and can't be totally ignored OR red-flagged.

I still refuse to apply any of this mumbo-jumbo to that guy at the party I cited. He was just ignorant and equated dark with mean and self-determined. Certainly, that's different than saying Kemp's swagger and rawness struck a different nerve than mature MJ.

 
At 7/06/2008 2:31 AM, Blogger 13thabe said...

...and the other thing, in one of the most surreal moments in my life, I am a Seattleite who watched the Sonics news break on ESPN from a bar in New Orleans, drinking next to (and with) an on-duty cop, a ranting homeless guy, and 4 German tourists. I had to beg the bartender to keep it on instead of changing the channel to See No Evil, Hear No Evil - he wanted the movie on all the 5 tv screens.

I am glad I realized in advance how ridiculous it would be for me to bitch about how terrible the news was.

 
At 7/07/2008 11:58 AM, Blogger Zeke said...

I'm really depressed about the Sonics leaving - that's some real blow up Alderaan shit right there. And I would like to second whoever said that growing up in the 80's, their color scheme and ABA-esque logo is what drew you in. In addition, as a Mavwrecks fan, I had to find somebody to adopt as a mistress in the 90's, and the Sonics were an easy choice with ex-Mavs Sam Perkins and Detlef Schrempf.

 
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