Top Five Sonics
The Revenge of David Stern appears to have reached an unhappy conclusion for Seattle.
But while this is a short-term setback, Seattle is almost guaranteed to have an NBA team in the next few years.
The city is one of the largest markets in America, it’s a basketball hotbed, it’s already proven it can support multiple professional sports teams, and a brand new multi-sport arena is in the works.
The last item, the arena, is an absolute necessity for a modern NBA team and something many franchises (like Sacramento or Milwaukee) are lacking.
So take heart, Seattle, it’s only a matter of time.
On that note, I spent a couple hours that I should’ve used applying for internships, replacing my dying computer, or cleaning my car watching old Sonics highlights to put together the all-time starting five.
The following are the five greatest players to ever step foot onto a Seattle professional basketball court.
Any real Sonics fan should know the roster of the 1979 NBA championship team, a lineup anchored by the 6’11” force in the paint, Jack Sikma.
A seven time All-Star who averaged 15.6 points and 9.8 boards a game lifetime, Sikma was a solid defender and one of the best shooting centers of all time.
Little-known fact: Sikma led the entire league in free throw percentage from 1977-1978, shooting an astonishing 92.2%.
He gets the nod here for his presence on the only Seattle sports team to ever win a professional championship.
Before Lob City, back in a time when Rain City had a basketball team, Gary Payton and the high-flying Shawn Kemp would shower opponents with lob dunks, and when it reigned, it poured.
One of the most athletic players in NBA history, The Reignman was his generation’s more complete version of Blake Griffin.
The GP-Kemp Sonics dynasty of the ’90s never won a ring, but it was one of the strongest teams of the generation, that had the misfortune to play against arguably the greatest team of all time, Jordan’s ’96 Bulls, in the NBA finals.
At the start of his career, the straight-from-high-school Kemp was the youngest player in the league.
He didn’t let that stop him en route to becoming a dominant two-way force in the paint and one of the greatest dunkers of all time.
Yes, he fathered way too many children and was never the same player after he left Seattle. But while I don’t endorse those attributes at all, this isn’t my all-time Best Pro Athlete Parents Starting Five (coming soon!).
Kemp was a Seattle Supersonics legend, and to cement his local presence, his son currently plays for University of Washington.
Less well known than the rest of our starting five, Dale Ellis gets the nod here. Ellis was a central part of the perennial playoff Sonics teams of the late 80s.
Although he only played four and half seasons in Seatown, Ellis was a prolific scorer and one of the greatest three point shooters of all time.
Ellis is seventh all time in three point shots made and still holds the NBA record for most minutes played in a single game (69, in a five-overtime loss to the Bucks in 1989).
The greatest three point shooter wore green and yellow. But so did the only Finals MVP in Supersonics history.
It’s tough, but Dennis Johnson gets the nod over Ray Allen at shooting guard in our all time starting 5.
Ray Allen’s range was anywhere from 10 feet to the parking lot, but Dennis Johnson was phenomenally athletic and one of the most incredibly underrated players in history.
He was a lethal defensive stopper and averaged 15.9 points and 3.5 assists on the 1979 championship team.
Although some of his best years were spent on other teams, and he had some assault issues with his wife (again, not my All-Time Best Pro Athlete Parent list), he was the Finals MVP in Seattle’s only championship season.
That says enough.
GP. 20. The Glove. The greatest defensive guard ever. A legendary trash talker. Arguably the best two-way point guard of all time. Can you tell I have a man crush on Gary Dwayne Payton?
Payton racked up nine All-Star appearances, matched by his nine All-Defense First Team appearances.
He remains the only point guard to ever win the Defensive Player of the Year award, and at various times in his career, led the NBA for a season in assists, steals, and three-pointers.
You could go on and on listing ridiculous statistics and records Payton produced. There was nothing he couldn’t do.
Payton has been a pillar of Pacific Northwest basketball since his days as a college star for Oregon State. His best NBA years were with the Sonics. And he’s been actively involved in the effort to bring the NBA back to Seattle.
That last off-the-court achievement cements his status as one of the greatest Sonics ever. He can bring the ball upcourt in my team anytime.
I’m going to grab Lenny Wilkens as my all-time coach for this team. Sikma, Ellis, The Reignman, DJ, and The Glove are the greatest Seattle Supersonics starting five of all time.
Best defensive frontcourt in NBA history? Quite possibly. Shooting? They’ve got it. Athleticism? In spades. I’m done. You’re not beating that team.
Center: Sikma narrowly beats out Spencer Haywood, who was more dominant at times and Seattle’s biggest star in the team’s early years, but never won a ring with in Seattle. He also loses points for a cocaine addiction.
Forwards: Detlef Schrempf and Xavier McDaniel. Detlef was the prehistoric Dirk Nowitzki, a ginormous German with a gentle shooting touch.
McDaniel, the X-man, was one of the best rebounders in Sonics history and helped anchor the competitive Sonics squads of the late ’80s alongside Dale Ellis.
Guards: Ray Allen and Gus Williams. Although “Downtown” Fred Brown almost made it for his long-range shooting, we’ve got plenty of gunners already.
Allen was the best player on the Sonics throughout the 2000s. Gus Williams averaged more points and assists than DJ on the 1979 championship team.
Toughest omissions: Fred Brown, Slick Watts, Tom Chambers, Nate McMillan, Lonnie Shelton
Easiest omissions: Jim McIlvaine, Calvin Booth, Patrick Ewing, Howard Schultz.