Kevin Nesgoda is the managing editor of Sonics Rising. At my request, he was graciously willing to offer his thoughts about our interview series with David Holt. Though we may have differing opinions on matters at hand, he is a friend whose work stands on its own and deserves the respect of our readership. - J.A. Sherman
"Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."
Oklahoma City deserves an NBA team. Their growing support of the Thunder over the past five years substantiates that. They might not be one of the most knowledgeable fan bases in all of the NBA, but a five-year-old child is also not all that insightful. Do not take that previous sentence the wrong way. I am not comparing the average fan of the Thunder to a kindergartener. What I am saying is they have been raised in the ways of college football for a century and only five full years in the NBA. There are still many growing pains to go through and that does not make them any less deserving.
Most fans of the Supersonics do not want anything to do with the Thunder; will not watch them unless they are seconds away from being bounced out of the playoffs or simply will not watch an NBA game at all. For the first year or so I was one of these people. I still watched the games, but couldn't stomach the idea of watching the former Sonics play, especially in Oklahoma City.
As time has gone on my feelings of disregard and neglect from the league that I have been following closely for 25 years now have diminished. I consume more basketball than a normal human being should. I'm one of the few who are 99% over it. The one percent might remain until Seattle gets a team and wins a championship.
The feeling stems from comments from people like Oklahoma Senator, David Holt.
In a recent interview on this site, Holt stated that there was not enough fans to convince local leaders to fund a new arena. This could not be more of a fallacy. If not for the fans Clay Bennett would have had a much easier time getting the team out of Seattle.
We are talking about generations of fans who showed up by the thousands to rallies in the streets of Seattle and the halls of the state capital. It was the fans that pushed the national narrative and made the rest of the NBA pay attention to what was happening and how our team was getting stolen. Its because of the fans that Chris Hansen is trying to get a team back in Seattle. When it was announced that Hansen was working to get an NBA team back in Seattle, there was a rally to show Hansen support and thousands once again showed up in green and gold.
To me this doesn't sound like a fan base that doesn't care. This sounds like a fan base that craves NBA basketball, Mr. Holt.
The claims that Bennett did everything he possibly could to keep the Sonics in Seattle is not true and there is more than enough evidence to prove it.
On August 12, 2007, Sonics co-owner, Aubrey McClendon told the Oklahoman, "We didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle. We hoped to come here."
McClendon was in Oklahoma City at the time of that quote.
Clay Bennett was in Seattle "trying" to get a new arena built in Renton, a suburb of Seattle. The Mariners had just opened Safeco Field in 1999 and the Seahawks opened Centurylink Field in 2002. So the Bennett needed a shiny new arena for the Sonics despite KeyArena only being 10 years old. Yep, Seattle Center Coliseum was torn down, completely rebuilt and reopened in 1995, four years before Safeco, seven years before Centurylink. An arena that David Stern himself said was the model of the new NBA arena.
The problem with this Renton plan of Bennett's was the land he wanted to build on wasn't for sale, wouldn't ever be for sale and already being prepped for new development (he knew this, was told no, still told NBA it was a viable option), this area of Renton was part of an infamous bottleneck on Interstate 405, even though 12 miles from downtown Seattle there would be no promise that if you left at 5PM after work you'd make it there for a 7PM tip and to top it all off there was a $500 million price tag on this new arena.
In 2003 Houston built the Toyota Center for $235 million, in 2004 Memphis built FedEx for $250 million and in 2005 Charlotte built Time Warner Cable Arena for $260 million. Based on price jumps, I really don't see an arena costing $500 million in 2007 unless you plan on handing out iPads to every person with a ticket for the next ten years.
Bennett knew this wouldn't ever be considered, but hey he tried right?
He also couldn't go to the City of Seattle and try to work with them on possibly building a new arena because the city just passed Initiative-91, which would not allow the city to support teams with tax dollars raised within city limits. Did Bennett bother to ask? No. Less than five years later Chris Hansen did manage to figure out a way to skirt around I-91 (which is a terribly written bill full of loop holes a junior high student could exploit) and get an arena deal done in Seattle, right next to Safeco Field with land he bought, paid for and owns.
There was never effort on Bennett's part to keep the Sonics in Seattle. He was a "man possessed" to avoid another lame duck season in Seattle, stated as such in an email to Tom Ward and then lied under oath about during the KeyArena lease trial.
Howard Schultz should have never sold the Sonics to Bennett in the first place. Bennett did promise to keep the Sonics in Seattle, but this was the same man who just months earlier was lobbying the NBA to keep the Hornets in Oklahoma City and when that option was pulled off the table immediately began to inquire about an expansion team for OKC.
There was never any intent to keep the team in Seattle.
Schultz should have never sold to Bennett out of spite because he couldn't get an upgrade to a 10-year-old arena. Oklahoma City should have either been allowed to keep the Hornets or gotten the expansion team that Charlotte had gotten.
Oklahoma City does deserve an NBA team, but it should have never been the Sonics. We the fans did everything we could and made the fight much harder than it should have been for Bennett, McClendon and Ward.
We never had a chance though. Deceitful billionaires, a shady league commissioner and local government officials who lacked the civic pride to keep the team with our lone professional championship in town, played the game.
Senator Holt, please in the future be sure to have your facts right on the fans of the Sonics, we're not going anywhere and carefully choose the words you use to describe how Bennett actually moved the Sonics to OKC.
More from Welcome to Loud City:
- Big League City: Oklahoma state Senator David Holt explains how the NBA came to OKC, Part 1
- Big League City, Part II: David Holt discusses OKC history, the decision to pursue a pro team, and SonicsGate
- Big League City, Part III: David Holt discusses the OKC bombing, the future of the city, and a new identity for Thunder fans
- J.A. Sherman reviews "Big League City," the story of how the Thunder came to OKC