Seattle SuperSonics

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Seattle SuperSonics
Seattle SuperSonics logo.svg
Conference Western
DivisionWestern (1967–1970)
Pacific (1970–2004)
Northwest (2004–2008)
HistorySeattle SuperSonics
Oklahoma City Thunder
2008–present [1] [2]
Arena Seattle Center Coliseum/KeyArena at Seattle Center (1967–1978, 1985–1994, 1995–2008)
Kingdome (1978–1985)
Tacoma Dome (1994–1995)
Location Seattle, Washington
Team colorsGreen, gold, white [3]
Team manager Full list
Head coach Full list
Ownership Sam Schulman (1967–1983)
Barry Ackerley (1983–2001)
Basketball Club of Seattle (Howard Schultz, Chairman) (2001–2006)
Professional Basketball Club LLC (Clay Bennett, Chairman) (2006–2008)
Championships1 (1979)
Conference titles3 (1978, 1979, 1996)
Division titles6 (1979, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2005)
Retired numbers6 (1, 10, 19, 24, 32, 43)
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The Seattle SuperSonics, commonly known as the Sonics, were an American professional basketball team based in Seattle, Washington. The SuperSonics played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member club of the league's Western Conference Pacific and Northwest divisions from 1967 until 2008. After the 2007–08 season ended, the team relocated to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and now plays as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Basketball Team sport

Basketball is a team sport in which two teams, most commonly of five players each, opposing one another on a rectangular court, compete with the primary objective of shooting a basketball through the defender's hoop while preventing the opposing team from shooting through their own hoop. A field goal is worth two points, unless made from behind the three-point line, when it is worth three. After a foul, timed play stops and the player fouled or designated to shoot a technical foul is given one or more one-point free throws. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, but if regulation play expires with the score tied, an additional period of play (overtime) is mandated.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a men's professional basketball league in North America, composed of 30 teams. It is one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada, and is widely considered to be the premier men's professional basketball league in the world.

Western Conference (NBA) conference of the National Basketball Association

The Western Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA) is one of two conferences that makes up the association, the other being the Eastern Conference. Like the Eastern Conference, the Western Conference is made up of 15 teams, organized in three divisions.


Sam Schulman owned the team from its 1967 inception until 1983. It was then owned by Barry Ackerley (1983–2001), and then Basketball Club of Seattle, headed by Starbucks chairman emeritus, former president and CEO Howard Schultz (2001–2006). On July 18, 2006, the Basketball Club of Seattle sold the SuperSonics and its Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) sister franchise Seattle Storm to the Professional Basketball Club LLC, headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. [4] The sale was approved by the NBA Board of Governors on October 24, 2006, and finalized on October 31, 2006, at which point the new ownership group took control. [5] [6] After failing to find public funding to construct a new arena in the Seattle area, the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City before the 2008–09 season, following a $45 million settlement with the city of Seattle to pay off the team's existing lease at KeyArena at Seattle Center in advance of its 2010 expiration. [7]

Samuel Schulman was an American businessman from New York who was a founding owner and President of the Seattle SuperSonics of the National Basketball Association and an owner of the San Diego Chargers of the American Football League, and later the National Football League.

Barry Allan Ackerley was an American businessman. He was the former chairman and CEO of the Ackerley Group media company. He was also the owner of the Seattle SuperSonics basketball franchise from 1983 to 2001 and the Seattle Storm basketball franchise from 2000 to 2001.

Starbucks American multinational coffee company

Starbucks Corporation is an American coffee company and coffeehouse chain. Starbucks was founded in Seattle, Washington in 1971. As of early 2019, the company operates over 30,000 locations worldwide.

Home games were played at KeyArena, originally known as Seattle Center Coliseum, for 33 of the franchise's 41 seasons in Seattle. [8] In 1978, the team moved to the Kingdome, which was shared with the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL). They returned to the Coliseum full-time in 1985, moving temporarily to the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington, for the 1994–95 season while the Coliseum was renovated and rebranded as KeyArena.

Kingdome architectural structure

The Kingdome was a multi-purpose stadium in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood. Owned and operated by King County, the Kingdome opened in 1976 and was best known as the home stadium of the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL), the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball (MLB), and the Seattle SuperSonics of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The stadium also served as both the home outdoor and indoor venue for the Seattle Sounders of the North American Soccer League (NASL) and hosted numerous amateur sporting events, concerts, and other events. The Kingdome measured 660 feet wide from its inside walls.

Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball team in Seattle, Washington

The Seattle Mariners are an American professional baseball team based in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) West Division. The team joined the American League as an expansion team in 1977 playing their home games in the Kingdome. Since July 1999, the Mariners' home ballpark has been T-Mobile Park, located in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle.

Major League Baseball Professional baseball league

Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization, and the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in the National League (NL) and American League (AL), with 15 teams in each league. The NL and AL were formed as separate legal entities in 1876 and 1901, respectively. After cooperating but remaining legally separate entities beginning in 1903, the leagues merged into a single organization led by the Commissioner of Baseball in 2000. The organization also oversees Minor League Baseball, which comprises 256 teams affiliated with the Major League clubs. With the World Baseball Softball Confederation, MLB manages the international World Baseball Classic tournament.

The SuperSonics won the NBA championship in 1979. Overall, the franchise won three Western Conference titles: 1978, 1979, and 1996. The franchise also won six divisional titles, their last being in 2005, with five in the Pacific Division and one in the Northwest Division. Settlement terms of a lawsuit between the city of Seattle and Clay Bennett's ownership group stipulated the SuperSonics' banners, trophies, and retired jerseys remain in Seattle; the nickname, logo, and color scheme are available to any subsequent NBA team that plays at a renovated KeyArena subject to NBA approval. [9] The SuperSonics' franchise history, however, would be shared with the Thunder. [10]

The 1979 NBA World Championship Series was the championship series played at the conclusion of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 1978–79 season. The Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics played the Eastern Conference champion Washington Bullets, with the Bullets holding home-court advantage, due to a better regular season record. The SuperSonics defeated the Bullets 4 games to 1. The series was a rematch of the 1978 NBA Finals, which the Washington Bullets had won 4–3.

The 1978 NBA World Championship Series was the championship round of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 1977–78 season, and the culmination of the season's playoffs. The series featured the Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics against the Eastern Conference champion Washington Bullets. The Bullets defeated the SuperSonics in seven games to win the NBA championship. Bullets power forward/center Wes Unseld was named MVP of the series. Before the Cleveland Cavaliers' Game 7 win at Golden State in the 2016 NBA Finals, this was the last time a road team had won Game 7 in the NBA Finals. The 1978 World Championship Series was the first NBA Finals series since the 1958 World Championship Series in which both teams had under 50 wins, and is the only NBA Finals to feature two teams with under 50 wins in an 82-game season.

1996 NBA Finals 1996 basketball championship series

The 1996 NBA Finals was the championship series of the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s 1995–96 season, and the culmination of the season's playoffs. The Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics (64–18) played the Eastern Conference champion Chicago Bulls (72–10), with the Bulls holding home court advantage. The teams' 136 combined regular season wins shattered the previous record of 125, set in 1985 between the Los Angeles Lakers who won 62 games and the Boston Celtics who won 63 games in the past regular season. The series was played under a best-of-seven format. This was the first championship in the Chicago Bulls second three-peat.

Franchise history

Team creation

Tom Meschery and Bob Rule during the SuperSonics expansion season. Tom Meschery, Bob Rule and Wilt Chamberlain.jpeg
Tom Meschery and Bob Rule during the SuperSonics expansion season.

On December 20, 1966, Los Angeles businessmen Sam Schulman and Eugene V. Klein, who both owned the AFL's San Diego Chargers at the time, and a group of minority partners were awarded an NBA franchise for the city of Seattle. Schulman would serve as the active partner and head of team operations. He named the SuperSonics after Boeing's recently awarded contract for the SST project, which was later canceled. [11] The SuperSonics were Seattle's first major league sports franchise.

American Football League Professional football league that merged with National Football League in 1970

The American Football League (AFL) was a major professional American football league that operated for ten seasons from 1960 until 1969, when it merged with the older National Football League (NFL), and became the American Football Conference. The upstart AFL operated in direct competition with the more established NFL throughout its existence. It was more successful than earlier rivals to the NFL with the same name, the 1926, 1936 and 1940 leagues, and the later All-America Football Conference.

Boeing Aerospace and defense manufacturer in the United States

The Boeing Company is an American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes, rotorcraft, rockets, satellites, telecommunications equipment, and missiles worldwide. The company also provides leasing and product support services. Boeing is among the largest global aerospace manufacturers; it is the fifth-largest defense contractor in the world based on 2017 revenue, and is the largest exporter in the United States by dollar value. Boeing stock is included in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Boeing 2707 Proposed supersonic airliner design

The Boeing 2707 was the first American supersonic transport (SST) project. After winning a competition for a government-funded contract to build an American SST, Boeing began development at its facilities in Seattle, Washington. The design emerged as a large aircraft with seating for 250 to 300 passengers and cruise speeds of approximately Mach 3. It was intended to be much larger and faster than preceding SST designs such as Concorde.

Beginning play on October 13, 1967, the SuperSonics were coached by Al Bianchi and featured All-Star guard Walt Hazzard and NBA All-Rookie Team members Bob Rule and Al Tucker. The expansion team stumbled out of the gates with a 144–116 loss in their first game in San Francisco against the San Francisco Warriors. The team got their first win on October 21, their third game of the season in San Diego against the San Diego Rockets in overtime 117–110, and finished the season with a 23–59 record. [12]

Alfred A. "Al" Bianchi is a former professional basketball player, coach, general manager, consultant and scout.

Walt Hazzard basketball player

Mahdi Abdul-Rahman was an American professional basketball player and college basketball coach. He played in college for the UCLA Bruins and was a member of their first national championship team in 1964. He also won a gold medal that year with the US national team at the 1964 Summer Olympics. Hazzard began his pro career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the Los Angeles Lakers, who selected him a territorial pick in the 1964 NBA draft. He was named an NBA All-Star with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1968. After his playing career ended, he was the head coach at UCLA during the 1980s.

The NBA All-Rookie Team is an annual National Basketball Association (NBA) honor given since the 1962–63 NBA season to the top rookies during the regular season. Voting is conducted by the NBA head coaches who are not allowed to vote for players on their own team. The All-Rookie Team is generally composed of two five-man lineups: a first team and a second team. The players each receive two points for each first team vote and one point for each second team vote. The top five players with the highest point total make the first team, with the next five making the second team. In the case of a tie at the fifth position of either team, the roster is expanded. If the first team consists of six players due to a tie, the second team will still consist of five players with the potential for more expansion in the event of additional ties. Ties have occurred several times, most recently in 2012, when Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert, and Brandon Knight tied in votes received. No respect is given to positions. For example, the first team had four forwards, and one guard in 2008, while the first team had four centers and one guard in 2016.

1968–1975: The Lenny Wilkens era

Lenny Wilkens with the SuperSonics. Lenny Wilkens 1968.jpeg
Lenny Wilkens with the SuperSonics.

Hazzard was traded to the Atlanta Hawks before the start of the next season for Lenny Wilkens. Wilkens brought a strong all-around game to the SuperSonics, averaging 22.4 points, 8.2 assists, and 6.2 rebounds per game for Seattle in the 1968–69 season. Rule, meanwhile, improved on his rookie statistics with 24.0 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game. The SuperSonics, however, only won 30 games and Bianchi was replaced by Wilkens as player/coach during the offseason.

Wilkens and Rule both represented Seattle in the 1970 NBA All-Star Game, and Wilkens led the NBA in assists during the 1969–70 season. In June 1970 the NBA owners voted 13–4 to work toward a merger with the ABA; [13] SuperSonics owner Sam Schulman, a member of the ABA–NBA merger committee in 1970, was so ardently eager to merge the leagues that he publicly announced that if the NBA did not accept the merger agreement worked out with the ABA, he would move the SuperSonics from the NBA to the ABA. Schulman also threatened to move his soon-to-be ABA team to Los Angeles to compete directly with the Lakers. [14] The Oscar Robertson suit delayed the merger, and the SuperSonics remained in Seattle. Early in the 1970–71 season, however, Rule tore his Achilles' tendon and was lost for the rest of the year.

Arrival of Spencer Haywood

Wilkens was named the 1971 All-Star Game MVP, but the big news of the season came when owner Sam Schulman managed to land American Basketball Association Rookie of the Year and MVP Spencer Haywood following a lengthy court battle (see Haywood v. National Basketball Assn. ). The following season, the SuperSonics went on to record their first winning season at 47–35. The team, led by player-coach Wilkens and First Team forward Haywood, held a 46–27 mark on March 3, but late season injuries to starters Haywood, Dick Snyder, and Don Smith contributed to the team losing eight of its final nine games; otherwise, the 1971–72 team might have become the franchise's first playoff team.

For the 1972–73 season, Wilkens was dealt to Cleveland in a highly unpopular trade, [15] and without his leadership the SuperSonics fell to a 26–56 record. One of the few bright spots of the season was Haywood's second consecutive All-NBA First Team selection, as he averaged a SuperSonics record 29.2 points per game and collected 12.9 rebounds per game.

1975–1983: The championship years

Jack Sikma in 1978. Jack Sikma 1978.jpg
Jack Sikma in 1978.

The legendary Bill Russell was hired as the head coach in the following year, and in 1975 he coached the SuperSonics to the playoffs for the first time. The team, which starred Haywood, guards Fred Brown and Slick Watts, and rookie center Tommy Burleson, defeated the Detroit Pistons in a three-game mini-series before falling to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in six games. The next season, the SuperSonics traded Haywood to New York forcing the remaining players to pick up the offensive slack. Guard Fred Brown, now in his fifth season, was selected to the 1976 NBA All-Star Game and finished fifth in the league in scoring average and free throw percentage. Burleson's game continued to strengthen, while Watts led the NBA in both assists and steals and was named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team. The SuperSonics again made the playoffs, but lost to the Phoenix Suns in six games in spite of strong performances from both Brown (28.5 ppg) and Burleson (20.8 ppg) during the series.

Russell left the SuperSonics after the 1976–77 season, and under new coach Bob Hopkins the team started the season dismally at 5–17. Lenny Wilkens was brought back to replace Hopkins, and the team's fortunes immediately turned around. The SuperSonics won 11 of their first 12 games under Wilkens, finished the season at 47–35, won the Western Conference title, and led the Washington Bullets three games to two before losing in seven games in the 1978 NBA Finals. Other than the loss of center Marvin Webster to New York, the SuperSonics roster stayed largely intact during the off-season, and in the 1978–79 season they went on to win their first division title. In the playoffs, the SuperSonics defeated the Phoenix Suns in a tough seven game conference final series to set up a rematch with the Washington Bullets in the finals. This time, the Bullets lost to the SuperSonics in five games to give Seattle its first, and only, NBA title. The championship team roster included the powerful backcourt tandem of Gus Williams and Finals MVP Dennis Johnson, second year All-Star center Jack Sikma, forwards John Johnson and Lonnie Shelton, and key reserves Fred Brown and Paul Silas.

The 1979–80 season saw the SuperSonics finish second in the Pacific Division to the Los Angeles Lakers with a strong 56–26 record. Fred Brown won the NBA's first three-point shooting percentage title, Jack Sikma played in the second of his seven career All-Star Games for Seattle, Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson were both named to the All-NBA Second Team, and Johnson was also named to the All-NBA First Defensive Team for the second consecutive year. The SuperSonics made it to the Western Conference Finals for the third straight season, but lost to the Lakers in five games. It was the last time that the backcourt of Williams and Johnson would play together in SuperSonics uniforms, as Johnson was traded to the Phoenix Suns before the start of the 1980–81 season and Williams sat out the year due to a contract dispute. As a result, the SuperSonics fell to last place in the Pacific Division with a 34–48 mark, so far the only time they have ever finished in last place. Williams returned for the 1981–82 season, and Seattle managed respectable 52–30 and 48–34 records during the next two years.

In 1981, the Sonics also created the Sonics SuperChannel, the first sports subscription cable service; subscriptions were available for $120 ($1.33 a game). It shut down after the 1984-85 season. [16] [17]

1983–1989: A period of decline

Over most of the franchise's history, Seattle played its home games at Key Arena. KeyArena (2890740573).jpg
Over most of the franchise's history, Seattle played its home games at Key Arena.

In October 1983, original team owner Sam Schulman sold the SuperSonics to Barry Ackerley, initiating a period of decline and mediocrity for the franchise. In 1984, Fred Brown retired after playing 13 productive seasons, all with Seattle. His career reflected much of the SuperSonics' history to that time because he had been on the same team roster as Rule and Wilkens during his rookie season, playing a key role on Seattle's first playoff teams, and being the team's important sixth man during the championship series years. In recognition of his many contributions to the team, Brown's number was retired in 1986. Lenny Wilkens left the organization following the 1984–85 season, and when Jack Sikma was traded after the 1985–86 season, the last remaining tie to the SuperSonics' championship team (aside from trainer Frank Furtado) had been severed.

Among the few SuperSonics highlights of second half of the 1980s were Tom Chambers' All-Star Game MVP award in 1987, Seattle's surprise appearance in the 1987 Western Conference Finals, despite posting a 39–43 regular season record during the 1986-87 season, and the performance of the power trio of Chambers, Xavier McDaniel, and Dale Ellis. In 1987–88, the three players each averaged over 20 points per game with Ellis at 25.8 ppg, McDaniel at 21.4, and Chambers at 20.4. In the 1988–89 season, with Chambers having signed with Phoenix, Ellis improved his scoring average to 27.5 points per game and finished second in the league in three-point percentage. The SuperSonics finished with a 47–35 record, and made it to the second round of the 1989 playoffs.

1989–1998: The Payton/Kemp era

George Karl served as Seattle's head coach for six seasons (1992-1998). George Karl.jpg
George Karl served as Seattle's head coach for six seasons (1992–1998).

The SuperSonics began setting a new foundation with the drafting of forward Shawn Kemp in 1989 and guard Gary Payton in 1990, and the trading of Dale Ellis and Xavier McDaniel to other teams during the 1990–91 season. It was George Karl's arrival as head coach in 1992, however, that marked a return to regular season and playoff competitiveness for the SuperSonics. With the continued improvement of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, the SuperSonics posted a 55–27 record in the 1992–93 season and took the Phoenix Suns to seven games in the Western Conference Finals.

The next year, 1993–94, the SuperSonics had the best record in the NBA at 63–19, but suffered a first round loss to the Denver Nuggets, becoming the first #1 seed to lose a playoff series to an 8th seed. The Sonics moved to the Tacoma Dome for the 1994–95 season while the Coliseum underwent renovations and went on to earn a second place 57-25 record. Again, the Sonics were eliminated in the first round, this time to the Los Angeles Lakers in four games. The team returned to the rebuilt Coliseum, renamed KeyArena for the 1995–96 season.

Perhaps the strongest roster the SuperSonics ever had was the 1995–96 team, which had a franchise best 64–18 record. With a deep roster of All-NBA Second Team selections Kemp and Payton, forward Detlef Schrempf, forward Sam Perkins, guard Hersey Hawkins, and guard Nate McMillan, the team reached the NBA Finals, but lost to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in six games. Seattle continued to be a Western Conference powerhouse during the next two seasons, winning 57 games in 1996–97 and 61 games in 1997–98 for their second and third straight Pacific Division titles. At the end of the 1997–98 season long-time Sonic and defensive specialist Nate McMillan retired, and disagreements with management led Karl to end his tenure as head coach. He was replaced by former Sonic Paul Westphal for the 1998–99 season.

1998–2008: A decade of struggles

Vin Baker was an NBA All-Star with the SuperSonics during the 1997-98 season. Lipofsky-Vin Baker.jpg
Vin Baker was an NBA All-Star with the SuperSonics during the 1997–98 season.

The 1998–99 season saw the SuperSonics struggle. Westphal was fired during the 2000–01 season and replaced by then-assistant coach Nate McMillan on an interim basis, eventually losing the "interim" label the next year. The 2002–03 season saw All-Star Gary Payton traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, and it also marked the end to the SuperSonics 11-year streak of having a season with a winning percentage of at least .500, the second longest current streak in the NBA at the time.

The 2004–05 team surprised many when it won the organization's sixth division title under the leadership of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, winning 52 games and defeating the Sacramento Kings to advance to the 2005 Western Conference Semifinals. The Sonics would proceed to lose in 6 games to the established trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginóbili and the San Antonio Spurs, who subsequently defeated the Detroit Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals. This appearance also marked the last time that this incarnation of the SuperSonics would make the playoffs. During the off-season in 2005, head coach Nate McMillan left the Sonics to accept a high-paying position to coach the Portland Trail Blazers. After his departure, the team regressed the following season with a 35–47 record.

2007–08: Arrival of Kevin Durant

On May 22, 2007, the SuperSonics were awarded the 2nd pick in the 2007 NBA draft, equaling the highest draft position the team has ever held. They selected Kevin Durant from the University of Texas. On June 28, 2007, the SuperSonics traded Ray Allen and the 35th pick of the 2nd round (Glen Davis) in the 2007 NBA draft to the Boston Celtics for rights to the 5th pick Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West. On July 11, 2007, the SuperSonics and the Orlando Magic agreed to a sign and trade for Rashard Lewis. The SuperSonics received a future second-round draft pick and a $9.5 million trade exception from the Magic. On July 20 the SuperSonics used the trade exception and a second-round draft pick to acquire Kurt Thomas and two first-round draft picks from the Phoenix Suns.[ citation needed ]

In 2008, morale was low at the beginning of the SuperSonics season as talks with the City of Seattle for a new arena had broken down. The Sonics had gotten a franchise player with second overall pick in the NBA draft with Durant. However, with the Allen trade the Sonics did not have much talent to surround their rookie forward, as they lost their first eight games under coach P. J. Carlesimo on the way to a 3-14 record in the first month of the season. Durant would live up to expectations, as he led all rookies in scoring at 20.3 ppg and won the Rookie of the Year. However, the Seattle SuperSonics posted a franchise worst record of 20-62. It would end up being the final season in Seattle as Bennett ended up getting the rights to move the team after settling all the legal issues with the city. [18] The Seattle SuperSonics played their last game on April 13, 2008, winning 99-95 versus the Dallas Mavericks. Throughout the game the crowd chanted "Save our Son-ics" and Durant was seen waving his hands encouragingly at the crowd. [19]

Relocation to Oklahoma City

From 2001 to 2006, Starbucks chairman emeritus, former president and CEO Howard Schultz was the majority owner of the team, along with 58 partners or minor owners, as part of the Basketball Club of Seattle LLP. On July 18, 2006, Schultz sold the SuperSonics and its sister team, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)'s Seattle Storm, to the Professional Basketball Club LLC (PBC), a group of businessmen from Oklahoma City for $350 million. [4] The team relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008, and now plays as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Kevin Durant, who was drafted by the SuperSonics in 2007. Kevin Durant Feb 2014.jpg
Kevin Durant, who was drafted by the SuperSonics in 2007.

In 2006, after unsuccessful efforts to persuade Washington state government officials to provide funding to update KeyArena, the Basketball Club of Seattle LLP, led by Howard Schultz, sold the team to the Professional Basketball Club LLC (PBC), an investment group headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. The purchase, at US$350 million, also included the Seattle Storm WNBA franchise. Schultz sold the franchise to Bennett's group because they thought that Bennett would not move the franchise to Oklahoma City but instead keep it in Seattle. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was quoted as saying, "I think it's presumptuous to assume that Clay Bennett and his ownership group won't own that Seattle team for a long, long time in Seattle or somewhere else. It's presumptuous to assume they're going to move that franchise to Oklahoma City," Cornett said. "I understand that people are going to say that seems to be a likely scenario, but that's just speculation." [20]

After failing to persuade local governments to fund a $500 million arena complex in the Seattle suburb of Renton, Bennett's group notified the National Basketball Association (NBA) that it intended to move the team to Oklahoma City [21] and requested arbitration with the city of Seattle to be released from the Sonics' lease with KeyArena. [22] When the request was rejected by a judge, Seattle sued Bennett's group to enforce the lease that required the team to play in KeyArena through 2010. [23]

NBA owners gave approval of a potential SuperSonics' relocation to Oklahoma City on April 18 in a 28–2 vote by the league's Board of Governors; only Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks and Paul Allen of the Portland Trail Blazers voted against the move. The approval meant the Sonics would be allowed to move to Oklahoma City's Ford Center for the 2008–09 season after reaching a settlement with the city of Seattle. [24]

On July 2, 2008, a settlement was reached that allowed the team to move under certain conditions, including the ownership group's payment of $45 million to Seattle and the possibility of an additional $30 million by 2013 if a new team had not been awarded to the city. It was agreed that the SuperSonics' name would not be used by the Oklahoma City team and that the team's history would be shared between Oklahoma City and any future NBA team in Seattle. [25] [8] [26] The team began play as the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2008–09 NBA season, after becoming the third NBA franchise to relocate in the past decade. The two previous teams to relocate were the Vancouver Grizzlies, which moved to Memphis, Tennessee and began play as the Memphis Grizzlies for the 2001–02 NBA season; and the Charlotte Hornets, which moved to New Orleans and began play as the New Orleans Hornets for the 2002–03 NBA season.

In months prior to the settlement, Seattle publicly released email conversations that took place within Bennett's ownership group and alleged that they indicated at least some members of the group had a desire to move the team to Oklahoma City prior to the purchase in 2006. Before that, Sonics co-owner Aubrey McClendon told The Journal Record , an Oklahoma City newspaper, that "we didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here", although Bennett denied knowledge of this. [27] Seattle used these incidents to argue that the ownership failed to negotiate in good faith, prompting Schultz to file a lawsuit seeking to rescind the sale of the team and transfer the ownership to a court-appointed receiver. [28] The NBA claimed Schultz' lawsuit was void because Schultz signed a release forbidding himself to sue Bennett's group, but also argued that the proposal would have violated league ownership rules. Schultz dropped the case before the start of the 2008–09 NBA season. [29]

In 2009, Seattle-area filmmakers called the Seattle SuperSonics Historical Preservation Society produced a critically acclaimed documentary film titled Sonicsgate – Requiem For A Team that details the rise and demise of the Seattle SuperSonics franchise. The movie focuses on the more scandalous aspects of the team's departure from Seattle, and it won the 2010 Webby Award for 'Best Sports Film'. [30]

Possible new franchise

Sacramento Kings

In 2011, a group of investors led by Valiant Capital Management hedge fund founder Chris Hansen spoke with then-Seattle mayor Mike McGinn about the possibilities of investing in an arena in hopes of securing an NBA franchise and reviving the SuperSonics. [31] An offer was made by McGinn to Hansen to obtain ownership of KeyArena for little to no money to aid in his efforts. [32] As KeyArena was deemed unacceptable by the NBA and barely breaking even in operation, the facility would likely have needed to be leveled and a new one built on the site. Determining there were transportation concerns in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood around the Seattle Center, Hansen declined in favor of building a new arena at another location.[ citation needed ]

Hansen began quietly purchasing available land near Safeco Field in Seattle's SoDo industrial neighborhood, at the southern end of what was designated a Stadium Transition Overlay District housing both Safeco Field home of the MLB's Seattle Mariners and CenturyLink Field home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and MLS's Seattle Sounders. A short time later, Hansen presented to McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine the proposal for a basketball, hockey, and entertainment arena at the SoDo site. McGinn employed a stadium consultant on the city's behalf to study the viability of such a project. Local media took notice of the land purchases and began to postulate that it was for an arena. Rumors of meetings between McGinn and Hansen's investment group began to circulate in late 2011 and were finally acknowledged in early 2012.[ citation needed ]

At that time, rumors that Hansen would begin pursuing a vulnerable franchise to relocate to Seattle began making the rounds. Most of the discussion centered on the Sacramento Kings, a struggling franchise that had been trying to put together a plan to replace the aging Sleep Train Arena, then called the Power Balance Pavilion, for years with no luck. While Hansen had not spoken in public about his desires or pursuits for a specific team, the rumors were rampant enough that Think Big Sacramento, a community action group created by Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson to develop solutions for the Kings, composed an open letter to Hansen asking him not to pursue the city's team. [33] Meanwhile, negotiations between McGinn, Constantine, and Hansen continued on development of a memorandum of understanding that would lay out the relationship for a public-private partnership on the new arena.[ citation needed ]

On May 16, 2012, after coming to agreement, McGinn, Constantine, and Hansen presented the proposed Memorandum of Understanding to the public. [34] McGinn and Constantine had insisted on a number of protections for the citizens of Seattle and King County, specifically that no public financing on the project would be committed until Hansen and his investors had secured an NBA team to be primary tenant. The MOU proposal included a financial model that made the project "self-financed", in which no new taxes would be levied to provide funds and city bonds issued would be paid back by taxes and revenue generated solely by the new arena. The proposal was turned over to the Seattle City Council and the King County Council for review and approval.[ citation needed ]

The King County Council voted to approve the MOU on July 30, 2012, adding amendments that provided for work with the Port of Seattle, securing the SuperSonics naming rights, offering reduced price tickets, support for the Seattle Storm WNBA franchise, and require an economic analysis. [35] The approval was also on the condition that any changes made by the Seattle City Council, which still had yet to vote on the proposal, would need to be voted on and approved separately. The Seattle council had announced that morning that amendments of their own were intended and negotiations began.[ citation needed ]

Hansen and the Seattle City Council announced on September 11, 2012, a tentative agreement on a revised MOU that included the county council's amendments and new provisions, specifically a personal guarantee from Hansen to cover not only cost overruns of construction of the new arena but to make up any backfall for annual repayment of the city bonds issued. [36] To address concerns of the Port of Seattle, the Seattle Mariners, and local industry, a SoDo transportation improvement fund to be maintained at $40 million by tax revenue generated by the arena was also included. Also, all parties agreed that transaction documents would not be signed and construction would not begin before the state required environmental impact analysis was completed. By a vote of 7–2, the Seattle City Council approved the amended MOU on September 24, 2012. [37] The King County Council reviewed the amended MOU and voted unanimously in favor of approval on October 15, 2012. [38] The final MOU was signed and fully executed by Mayor McGinn and Executive Constantine on October 18, 2012, starting an effective period of the agreement of five years.[ citation needed ]

In June 2012, it was revealed that Hansen's investment partners included then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and brothers Erik and Peter Nordstrom of fashion retailer Nordstrom, Inc.. Peter Nordstrom had been a minority owner of the SuperSonics under Howard Schultz's ownership. Wally Walker, former Sonics executive, was also later revealed to be part of Hansen's group. On January 9, 2013, media reports surfaced regarding the imminent sale of majority ownership of the Sacramento Kings to Hansen, Ballmer, the Nordstroms, and Walker for $500 million to relocate to Seattle as early as the 2013–14 NBA season. [39] [40] [41]

On January 20, 2013, several sources reported that the Maloof family had reached a binding purchase and sale agreement to sell Hansen and Ballmer's ownership group their 53% majority stake in the Kings franchise, pending approval of the NBA's Board of Governors. [42] The next day, the NBA, Hansen, and the Maloofs all released statements announcing the agreement, which also included the 12% minority stake of owner Robert Hernreich, and based the sale price on a team valuation of $525 million. [43] [44] [45] Sacramento mayor Johnson offered a quick rebuttal to the announcement, stating that the agreement was not a done deal and that Sacramento would have the opportunity to present a counteroffer to the NBA.[ citation needed ]

David Stern, then NBA Commissioner, confirmed on February 6, 2013, that the Maloofs had filed paperwork with the league office to officially request relocation of the Kings from Sacramento to Seattle on behalf of the potential new ownership group. [46] Johnson, with guidance from Stern and the NBA league office, began to assemble an alternative ownership group that would keep the Kings in Sacramento and aid in getting a new arena constructed. On February 26, 2013, the Sacramento City Council voted to enter into negotiations with an unnamed group of investors revealed two days later to be headed by grocery magnate and developer Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov, founder of 24 Hour Fitness. An initial counteroffer presented to the NBA by this new group was deemed "not comparable" as to merit consideration. [47] Burkle eventually left the group because of a conflict with other business interests, but offered to be primary developer of lands around the planned downtown location of the new arena to aid in city council passage of public funding for the project. [48] Mastrov took a backseat to Vivek Ranadivé, founder and CEO of TIBCO and a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, brought in to assemble a stronger group of investors. [49] Others, including Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, Sacramento developer Mark Friedman, former Facebook executive Chris Kelly, and manufacturer Raj Bhathal, were added to the group to address team ownership and arena investment.[ citation needed ]

Ahead of the annual Board of Governors meeting where they were expected to vote on approval of the sale of the Kings to Hansen and Ballmer's group, as well as the relocation request, members of the NBA owners' finance and relocation committees held a meeting in New York City on April 3, 2013, for the Seattle group and the Sacramento group to each present their proposals. [50] Any vote would only be on the PSA presented by Hansen and Ballmer, and the Sacramento proposal was considered a "backup offer". Coming out of that meeting, the NBA removed the vote from the agenda of the BOG meeting and postponed it for two weeks while information was reviewed. Despite stated desires to the contrary, a bidding war began between Hansen's and Ranadivé's groups, including Hansen raising the team valuation of their offer twice from $525 million to $550 million to $625 million, and Ranadivé offering to forgo the team revenue sharing that has frequently kept smaller market teams like the Kings financially stable.[ citation needed ]

With the meeting of the Board of Governors to vote moved again to mid-May, the groups were asked to make another brief presentation to the full relocation committee on April 29, 2013. The committee voted to recommend rejection of the relocation request to the full board. [51] When the Board of Governors finally convened in Dallas on May 15, 2013, they heard final presentations from both the Seattle and Sacramento groups. The BOG voted 22-8 against moving the Kings from Sacramento to Seattle. [52] As the PSA for the sale of the team was, for all intents and purposes, dependent upon relocation, the NBA rejected the sale without vote.[ citation needed ]

Though initially resistant to the idea, after negotiations, on May 17, 2013, the Maloof family and Hernreich formally agreed to sell their ownership stake in the Kings (65% of the team, valued at US$535 million) to Ranadivé's ownership group. [53] Part of the $348 million purchase was considered paid with a $30 million non-refundable deposit Chris Hansen had paid to the Maloofs to establish their business relationship, though Hansen has no ownership stake in the team.[ citation needed ]

Milwaukee Bucks

In September 2013, then-Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, in line to become the next commissioner upon David Stern's retirement in February 2014, made the announcement that the Milwaukee Bucks would need to replace the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center because of its small size and lack of amenities. [54] The team had recently signed a lease through the 2016–17 NBA season, but the NBA made it clear that the lease would not be renewed past that point. With counties surrounding Milwaukee passing ordinances that they would not approve a regional tax option to fund a new arena, rumors began swirling that owner Herb Kohl would need to sell all or part of his ownership of the team. Though Kohl had repeatedly stated he would not sell to someone intent on moving the Bucks out of Wisconsin, many[ who? ] had pegged the team as a likely potential candidate to move to Seattle.

On April 16, 2014, it was announced that Kohl had agreed to sell the franchise to New York hedge-fund investors Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens for a record $550 million. The deal included provisions for contributions of $100 million each from Kohl and the new ownership group, for a total of $200 million towards the construction of a new downtown arena. [55] During sale discussions, it was revealed that Hansen and Ballmer had expressed interest in purchasing the team for more than $600 million but had not made a formal offer because of Kohl's insistence that the team stay in Milwaukee. [56]

In the summer of 2015, the state of Wisconsin and city of Milwaukee agreed to help fund a new arena to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center, and construction began in June 2016. The new arena, the Fiserv Forum, was completed in August 2018, with the Bucks also signing a 30-year lease with the city of Milwaukee.

Atlanta Hawks

On January 2, 2015, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Atlanta Spirit, then-owners of the Atlanta Hawks, would put the team up for sale. Initially, only majority owner Bruce Levenson would put his stake in the team up for sale; however, the remaining minority owners announced that they would sell their stakes as well, putting the entire franchise up for sale. [57] On January 6, 2015, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Chris Hansen and film producer Thomas Tull (the latter a minority owner of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers) would put in separate bids to acquire the Hawks and move them to Seattle. [58] However, the NBA stated that the Hawks were to remain in Atlanta as a condition of their sale; additionally, Atlanta Spirit were unlikely to sell the Hawks to a prospective owner that would relocate the team, in contrast to how the group sold the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL in 2011. [57] Any attempt to move the Hawks out of Atlanta would have incurred a $75 million penalty from the city of Atlanta and Fulton County for breaking the Hawks' lease at Philips Arena before 2017. [59] The Hawks were sold to a group led by Tony Ressler on June 24, 2015. [60]

Future arena talks

On May 2, 2016, the Seattle City Council voted 5–4 against vacating a section of Occidental Avenue South, which connected property purchased by Hansen and was deemed critical to siting a future arena. The vote was seen as a significant setback to the memorandum of understanding between Hansen, the city and King County, which ran through November 2017. [61] On October 25, 2016, Chris Hansen announced he will fund the arena without public funding. [62] On November 14, 2016, Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson announced that he would be investing in the NBA arena effort. [63] However, the original deal would ultimately expire on December 3, 2017. Nevertheless, Hansen plans to keep the land owned in the Seattle Stadium District until a commitment for a new Seattle SuperSonics franchise occurs, especially in the event a potential back-up plan becomes warranted.

KeyArena renovations

While talks of building a new arena were underway, there were also talks from another group of investors on renovating the SuperSonics' former home, the KeyArena. One of the investors is Tim Leiweke, co-founder of the Oak View Group. On December 4, 2017, one day after the deal with SoDo investor Chris Hansen expired, the Seattle City Council voted 7–1 approving the renovation of the KeyArena, with one person not available for voting that day. [64] [65] While the renovation is considered to have a main focus on fitting the new expansion team for the National Hockey League (NHL), interest for the revival of the SuperSonics still remains a distinct possibility with the renovated arena. However, while Hansen and his fellow investors still feel having a future arena should be considered as a back-up plan for the future of the SuperSonics, they fully support the renovation and would be right beside the Oak View Group in cheering the team on moving forward if the plan on acquiring an NBA team becomes successful. [66] Renovations of KeyArena into Seattle Center Arena began in 2018, a day after NHL approval of the new Seattle franchise with the renovations planned to be fully completed by the beginning of the 2021–22 NBA and NHL seasons.

Season-by-season records

Home arenas


Squatch wearing the Sonics' home uniform in 2005 Squatch2005small.jpg
Squatch wearing the Sonics' home uniform in 2005

The Seattle SuperSonics' first uniforms had "Sonics" displayed in a font that was also used by the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings). The road jerseys were green and had the lettering displayed in yellow coloring, where the home uniforms were white and had the lettering green. In 1995, the SuperSonics changed their uniforms adding red and orange, removing yellow, to their new jerseys that would last six seasons. It displayed the new Sonics logo on the front and their alternate logo on the shorts. The home uniforms had green stripes on the right side of the jersey and shorts, while the green road jersey had red stripes.

The final SuperSonics uniforms were worn from the 2001–02 NBA season through the 2007–08 NBA season. They were commissioned by owner Howard Schultz for design by Seattle design agency Hornall Anderson. The home jerseys were white with green and gold trim, displaying "SONICS" across the chest. Road uniforms were dark green with white and gold accents, with "SEATTLE" across the chest. The alternate uniform was gold with green and white trim, again with "SONICS" arched across the chest. These uniforms were a nod to a similar style worn from the 1975–76 season through the 1994–95 season. [67]


The SuperSonics were traditional rivals with the Portland Trail Blazers because of the teams' proximity; the rivalry had been dubbed the I-5 Rivalry in reference to Interstate 5 that connects the two cities, which are only 174 miles apart. The rivalry was fairly equal in accomplishments, with both teams winning one championship each. The all-time record of this rivalry is 98–94 in favor of the SuperSonics. [68] [69] [70]

The SuperSonics were rivals of the Los Angeles Lakers, particularly due to the teams' longstanding pairing in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. The Lakers' sustained success meant regular season games often impacted NBA Playoffs seedings, with the teams matching up head-to-head for numerous playoff battles. [71] [72]


Retired numbers

Seattle SuperSonics retired numbers
1 Gus Williams G1977–1984March 26, 2004
10 Nate McMillan G1986–1998 1March 24, 1999
19 Lenny Wilkens G1968–1972 2October 19, 1979
24 Spencer Haywood F1971–1975February 26, 2007
32 Fred Brown G1971–1984November 6, 1986
43 Jack Sikma C1977–1986November 21, 1992
Exquisite-microphone.png Bob Blackburn Broadcaster1967–1992


Basketball Hall of Famers

Seattle SuperSonics Hall of Famers
19 Lenny Wilkens 1 G 1968–19721989
44 David Thompson F/G 1982–19841996
33 Patrick Ewing 2 C 2000–20012008
24 Dennis Johnson 3 G 1976–19802010
Gary Payton G 1990–20032013
30 Šarūnas Marčiulionis G 1994–19952014
24 Spencer Haywood F/C 1970–19752015
34 Ray Allen G 2003–20072018
43 Jack Sikma 4 C 1977–19862019
44 Paul Westphal 5 G 1980–19812019
Lenny Wilkens 1Head coach1969–1972
44 Rod Thorn G 1967–19712018


FIBA Hall of Famers

Seattle SuperSonics Hall of Famers
30 Šarūnas Marčiulionis G 1994–19952015

State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame

Head coaches

Coaching history
Al Bianchi 1967–1969
Lenny Wilkens 1969–1972
Tom Nissalke 1972–1973
Bucky Buckwalter 1972–1973
Bill Russell 1973–1977
Bob Hopkins 1977
Lenny Wilkens1977–1985
Bernie Bickerstaff 1985–1990
K. C. Jones 1990–1992
Bob Kloppenburg 1992
George Karl 1992–1998
Paul Westphal 1998–2000
Nate McMillan 2000–2005
Bob Weiss 2005
Bob Hill 2006–2007
P. J. Carlesimo 2007–2008

General managers

GM history
Don Richman 1967–1968
Dick Vertlieb 1968–1970
Bob Houbregs 1970–1973
Bill Russell 1973–1977
Zollie Volchok 1977 (or 1978)[ citation needed ]–1983
Les Habegger 1983–1985
Lenny Wilkens 1985–1986
Bob Whitsitt 1986–1994
Wally Walker 1994–2001
Rick Sund 2001–2007
Sam Presti 2007–2008

High points

Individual leaders

Single Game Records
Points Fred Brown 58March 23, 1974
Rebounds Jim Fox 30December 26, 1973
Assists Nate McMillan 25February 23, 1987
StealsFred Brown

Gus Williams

10December 3, 1976

February 22, 1978

Single Season Leaders
Points Dale Ellis 2,2531988–89
Points per game Spencer Haywood 29.21972–73 [73]
Rebounds Jack Sikma 1,0381981–82
Rebounds per gameSpencer Haywood13.41973–74
Assists Lenny Wilkens 7661971–72
Assists per gameLenny Wilkens9.61971–72
Steals Slick Watts 2611975–76
Steals per gameSlick Watts3.181975–76

Franchise leaders

Points scored (regular season) (as of the end of the 2007–08 season) [74]

Other Statistics (regular season) (as of the end of the 2007–08 season) [74]

Most minutes played
Gary Payton 36,858
Jack Sikma 24,707
Fred Brown 24,422
Rashard Lewis 20,921
Nate McMillan 20,462
Most rebounds
Jack Sikma 7,729
Shawn Kemp 5,978
Gary Payton 4,240
Michael Cage 3,975
Spencer Haywood 3,954
Most assists
Gary Payton 7,384
Nate McMillan 4,893
Fred Brown 3,160
Gus Williams 2,865
Lenny Wilkens 2,777
Most steals
Gary Payton 2,107
Nate McMillan 1,544
Fred Brown 1,149
Gus Williams 1,086
Slick Watts 833
Most blocks
Shawn Kemp 959
Jack Sikma 705
Alton Lister 500
Tom Burleson 420
Derrick McKey 375

Individual awards

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

NBA All-Defensive First Team

NBA All-Defensive Second Team

NBA All-Rookie First Team

NBA All-Rookie Second Team

NBA All-Star Game

See also

Related Research Articles

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