This is purely anecdotal, you understand. I don’t know for sure that kids don’t care about the Seattle SuperSonics anymore. I do know at least one of them used to care.
On my kitchen windowsill is a funny artifact from another time. A week after word came that an Oklahoma business group is buying the Sonics and Seattle Storm pro basketball teams, I see new meaning in that small treasure.
What is it, anyway?
It’s half a clamshell with a plastic Shawn Kemp figure glued inside. With a crafty touch, my son topped it off with glitter. The glitter is long gone. Kemp on a half shell was made so long ago, I can’t remember if it was a school art project or the product of a little boy’s boredom.
Now 19, my musician son is no longer much interested in sports. But Kemp’s eight seasons with the Sonics, from 1989 to 1997, coincided with his childhood. He loved Kemp, and Gary Payton, too.
His sport of choice back then was influenced by his father, a fanatic for the Los Angeles Lakers of old – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, those guys. But my kid and many of his friends used to have all sorts of Sonics stuff.
Changing sheets is another reminder. The bunk beds in my older son’s room are gone, but he still has his old NBA team logos bedspread and sheets.
My 7-year-old knows the Sonics mostly through a hand-me-down T-shirt with the vintage logo – a green Seattle skyline inside a gold basketball. He’s never been to a Sonics game and can’t name a single player.
I can barely name one, I had to be reminded about Ray Allen. The only pro basketball player my little boy can name is Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, and that’s only because the high-school-to-NBA phenomenon is in a Bubblicious gum commercial.
All this is to say I don’t think many young kids give a hoot whether the Sonics stay in Seattle or high-tail it to Oklahoma City.
Clayton Bennett, head of the Sonics’ new ownership group, said last week a move to Oklahoma is imminent if the team can’t secure a new facility in Seattle, ditching its revenue-sharing KeyArena lease.
With a sense that mine aren’t the only kids who don’t care, I headed to Everett’s Walter E. Hall Park, where 18-year-old Jacob Benedict stood at the edge of the skate park bowl ready to get on his board.
“I have Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp jerseys. I’ve still got them all, they’re collector items,” the Everett teen said Tuesday. “Now I’d rather go skateboard. I’d rather do something physically active.”
Benedict couldn’t name one Sonics player, but he hopes the team sticks around. “My grandpa really likes them,” he said.
It may be that kids used to like the Sonics more because they saw them more, even if they never made it to KeyArena. It’s hard to find a child in the Puget Sound region who hasn’t at some time seen a Seattle Mariners baseball player stop by their school. A SuperSonic? Not so likely.
Certainly, there are kids who love the Sonics. Bruce Crawford is one of them. “I follow Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis,” said Bruce, 12, a student at Cedarcrest School in Marysville. “I think a lot of kids are like me. We like sports.”
I rarely go, but I like knowing I could see professional sports in Seattle if I wanted to. Seattle ought to have an NBA team, but not at the expense of taxpayers.
By the way, if folks in Sonics country had any gumption, we’d stick it to Starbucks mogul Howard Schultz for selling the team. We’d quit our Starbucks coffee habits cold-turkey – not that it would hurt Schultz, who told CBS News in April that the company has 11,000 stores in 37 countries and opens about five new ones each day.
Let’s not be gloomy, though. Let’s think ahead, for the sake of the kids.
Doesn’t billionaire Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. own lots of turf on South Lake Union in Seattle? And doesn’t Allen own the Portland Trailblazers, a team with deep Northwest roots and not enough fans filling seats down in Oregon? And don’t the Blazers already have coach Nate McMillan, former Sonics player and coach?
Don’t you suppose Allen could spring for a posh Seattle arena without a penny from public coffers?
The answers are yes, yes, yes and yes. Go Seattle Blazers – and I promise to buy my kid a jersey.
Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or email@example.com.