My top five Seattle Sonics memories (Part 2)

Moments In Time

Toward the beginning of the NBA offseason, I compiled part one of my unnecessarily long top five Seattle Supersonics memories.

Here’s a look at part two, which will comprise my top two moments in franchise history:

2. The Tuna Fish

My grandmother and grandfather were day one season ticket holders for the Seattle Pilots and the Seattle Seahawks. They were also regulars at Sonics games. Many an afternoon was spent munching tuna fish and sipping iced tea while being regaled with stories of the unbelievably awful teams of yore.

Seattle didn’t win much in the early days.

The stories were so rarely positive that it skewed my early understanding of athletics. Victory was a foreign concept. Defeat was eternally imminent.

Our city’s athletes were a motley crew of buffoons unfit to tie their own sneakers, let alone compete against other professionals.

It was an unceasing wave of pessimism, rising with a retrospective of terrible Seahawks quarterbacks, cresting with the sad state of the Mariners‘ bullpen, and crashing to the shore with the force of several decades of pent up frustration and angst.

Michael Jordan and Gary Payton combined to create one of the greatest moments in Sonics history. (Photo: Andrew Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jordan and Payton combined to create one of the greatest moments in Sonics history. (Photo: Andrew Bernstein/NBAE)

There was the occasional day, however, where hope infiltrated our midst courtesy of one world championship — the 1979 Sonics. Sikma, the floppy haired savant. Brown, the long range bomber. Williams, the Wizard.

On those days they spoke of the euphoric parade. The disbelief that we, Seattle, actually had a champion. Then they shook their head and said we’d never see another team like them. For their generation, the championship team represented a summit that would never again be reached.

But like most children, I chose optimism. We’d been there before, and I saw no reason why we wouldn’t be back.

Here’s looking at you, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Sherman and Mr. Lynch. It doesn’t look like we’re going to be competing for NBA titles any time soon, and the Mariners are the Mariners, so the last remnants of my childhood optimism rest in your hands.

1. The Predetermined Outcome

Michael Jordan always seemed like a predetermined outcome. The solution to all equations. Any team that came into contact with him was subtracted from championship contention.

The year the Sonics played the Bulls in the finals, my family didn’t have a TV. My Dad and I would watch at the building where he worked. There was a television in the boardroom, so we would sit at the end of their long, polished table, a Little Ceasar’s Pizza between us, squinting at a scratchy antenna feed.

The Bulls went up 3-0 in the series. Michael had 28, 29, and 36 in the first three games.

On the brink of elimination, George Karl, who had been trying to protect an injured Gary Payton, finally relented and gave the world the matchup they wanted. Payton was giving up inches and pounds to the GOAT, but it didn’t really matter.

Jordan had come into contact with another predetermined outcome. In Game 4, Jordan went 6-of-19,  Game 5 he went 0-of-1 in the 4th quarter, and Game 6 he went 5-of-19.

Gary Payton swept away Jordan’s equation like Will Hunting at a chalkboard, and asked if he liked apples like Will Hunting at a Harvard bar. The 1996 Finals established him as the greatest defensive point guard who ever played the game, and Shawn Kemp was his Ben Affleck.

Even though the Sonics lost in six, the series left an indelible impression on me. That summer, every kid in the state was was one-handing alley-oops, screaming “REIGN MAN” and slamming brightly colored foam balls through Nerf hoops.

I was the kid lobbing those oops and fouling everyone trying to play defense like GP.


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