Sports

SIDELINES: Beat the Miami Heat? This Seattle fan doesn't want the Thunder to do it

The 2012 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder continues at 6 p.m. Thursday in Miami.  - Courtesy photo
The 2012 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder continues at 6 p.m. Thursday in Miami.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Like most people outside of the tan and tattooed bodies that litter South Beach, it made me sick when LeBron James announced a couple years ago that he was taking his talents to Miami.

It was one of the bigger look-at-me moments in sports history. James' nationally-televised "decision" made me vow to never, ever root for the Miami Heat.

LeBron basically wanted a free-ride to an NBA championship after joining fellow perennial all-stars Dwanye Wade and Chris Bosh after spurning his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, where he was king.

But I now know what my parents were talking about when they told me to never say never. Because I'm rooting my heart out for LeBron and the Miami Heat to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and win the NBA title, which might be a foregone conclusion after Miami took a 3-1 series lead Tuesday.

I guess it's like being a cynical Washington State Cougar football fan who roots every week for the team playing opposite the Huskies. I now root for any team playing the Thunder and it just so happens to be Miami.

And it's not really a difficult decision. All I have to do is look into the owners' box and see Clay Bennett and his cronies basically flipping a bird to Seattle fans, who supported the NBA for 41 years.

These are the same guys who spent over a year lying to Seattle fans and public officials about their intentions. One of the conditions of their purchase in 2006 was to give a "good faith effort" to keep the team in Seattle.

Emails later revealed that Bennett never intended to keep the Sonics here and planned, all along, to move the team to Oklahoma City. Bennett points to the failure of a public-funded $500 million arena as his good faith effort.

I also lump Starbucks emperor Howard Schultz in with Bennett. Schultz might actually be more hated than the Oklahoma City posse. Schultz is the one who sold the Sonics to Bennett, knowing full well (according to me) they eventually wanted to move the team from Seattle.

Writer Jeremy Repanich, who was a former Sonics employee during the Schultz/Bennett regimes wrote a long story for deadspin.com last month. According to Repanich, when Barry Ackerley sold the team to Schultz, even the inane tradition of giving holiday gifts to Sonics employees disappeared.

But, after some complaints, Schultz brought the tradition back by giving each Sonics employee a Starbucks gift card. One member of the staff, who wasn't a Starbucks regular, decided to use his card to get some snacks. When he went to pay for his roughly $5 worth of food, he asked how much money remained on the card, Repanich wrote.

"Well, you owe me money," the cashier said.

The Sonics employee asked how much had been on the card to begin with. "$3.50," the barista replied. At the time, we would later learn, ordinary customers couldn't buy a Starbucks card with a value of less than $5. These were custom $3.50 gift cards made by Schultz. How very generous of you, Howard.

But, I'm going to be honest, it's tough not to root for the Oklahoma City Thunder. That is unless you live in Seattle and bled Sonics' green. They are fun to watch and have some very likable players, some of which even played in KeyArena.

Kevin Durant is a freak and seems like a very genuine dude. He also made no secret about his time in Seattle being amazing. Durant has even tweeted about feeling bad for Sonics' fans. Nick Collison brings his lunch pail to the court every night and Russell Westbrook is a ball of energy and athleticism.

Oklahoma City has also beaten three powerhouse franchises during their run to this year's NBA Finals in the Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. Those three teams have won the last 13 Western Conference titles and are also very easy to hate.

But there is hope for professional basketball fans in the Pacific Northwest. We can just wait and see what happens with Chris Hansen and his ambitious plan to build a new arena in Seattle and bring the Sonics back to town, as well as a professional hockey franchise.

Hansen held a public rally in Occidental Park last weekend, which was attended by thousands of fans, as well as Sonic legends Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf and Slick Watts.

It was a big-time reminder that there is still support for bringing the NBA back to the region. The fans have sent a huge message to NBA Commissioner David Stern, as well as all the elected officials in the area.

"What an incredible day," Hansen wrote on sonicsarena.com. "When I walked on stage and saw the sea of green and gold, I seriously almost lost it. While there is much work left to be doneā€¦make no mistake about it, you all sent a serious message. We have some of the most passionate fans in the world, and our great city deserves to have the Sonics and professional hockey back."

And those passionate fans are all cheering for LeBron and Miami. Go Heat.

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