A season finale to remember

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ April 14, 2008 : 4:55 pm

It’s been the worst season in Sonics Basketball. Posting a 20-win 62-loss record, the 07-08 Sonics have a secured the second worst record in the NBA, just behind the Miami Heat. As a 5-year season ticket holder, I was expecting the worst as I headed to the “Key? with my Dad. Visions of a half empty Key Arena to cap off the murder of one of my most beloved franchises in Seattle, would have been perfect for good ol’ Clay Bennett.

But the fans of the Sonics didn’t look at it this way. They came out in force to show Bennett, the NBA, and dare I say the world, that 41 years of basketball in a city would not die, at least not on this night.

As my Dad and I arrived at our seats, I looked around the arena it was a pretty packed crowd with a reported 16,272 in attendance for the game. There was a roar through the crowd in the first quarter that was hard for my Dad to discern. Confused, he leaned into me and asked, “What are they saying?? I immediately knew what they were saying and after soaking in the raucous crowd, my smirk ridden face replied. “Bennett sucks!?

After watching the 1st quarter, I went down to grab some food. Bennett and staff didn’t want to make what could be the last hurrah of the Seattle Supersonics a comfortable one. More than half of the concession stands at the Key were closed, funneling all of the fans into enormous lines for the overpriced food and beer. Little mutterings of “Bennett’s a slime ball? and “Gregoire dropped the ball,? could be heard through out the line. I myself was stuck in these lines, spending about a quarter of the game waiting for some chicken quesadillas and a cup of Dos Equis.

When my patience slowly changed to irritation I had to find some way to pass the time in line. As I looked up on the TV mounted on the wall, I saw the home team trailing by a significant amount of points. It looked liked the Sonics season would go out with a whimper instead of sonic boom.

But then it happened, a quiet rumble that rapidly grew into a roar that had all of us in line trying to figure out what had just happened. Then I saw it, or more precisely I saw him.

Gary Payton, the Glove.

Like myself, other people stopped whatever they were doing and stared at the screen. Then the camera faded in and lo and behold Payton was at the game. “GP! GP!? could be heard through out the entire arena. The drunk guy standing next to me uttered, “Holy $***, GP is at the game!”

By the time I had made it back to my seat, and the rally began. Behind the rejuvenated play of Earl Watson, the Sonics attacked the Mavericks. By end of the rally, the home team had turned a 9 point deficit into a 9 point lead.

As the teams battled back and forth for the lead, I looked around a starting soaking what might be my last time at the Key. Grasping for my camera, I took a few snaps of the GO SONICS banner and the Western Conference, Pacific, and Northwest Division banners. I even took the time to run (not walk) to Sonics Legends Drive and snap a few keepsakes of the retired jerseys and newspaper clippings of the 1979 Championship run. As the fourth quarter came around I sat down for one of the finest memories in my history as a member of the Sonics nation.

At the 2 minute mark, the entire crowd of 16,000 fans all got up for what could be the last 2 minutes of Seattle NBA basketball. With everyone on their feet, the noise was incredibly deafening. Key Arena looked just like it did during the great playoff runs during the 90’s. Sonics in a tight game against a playoff caliber team with every possession being crucial to winning or losing.

Then it happened.

With a driving play, Kevin Durant hit a 15 ft. jumper from the near the top of the key. The crowd erupted into a cheer that was louder then anything I’ve ever heard at a Sonics game. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought the Sonics just won the NBA championship. With the game in hand, nobody thought it could get any better.

It did.

While the referees deliberated, the crowed roared with three simple words: Save. Our. Sonics. In those three brief minutes, all the pride and love of the Sonics came pouring into the arena. Kevin Durant walked down the court stirring up the crowd waving his arms up. For the first time, Durant let it be known that he doesn’t want the team to leave Seattle either.

With the cheering, the appearance of Gary Payton, and the win, the finale of the home season couldn’t have ended on a higher note. Whether it’s the last game of the Sonics in Seattle or not, fans made sure that the NBA knew 41 years of basketball would not go quietly into the night. Sorry Bennett, you can take our team, but not the history, nor our love for it.

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