Keeping the dream of the Seattle SuperSonics alive

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A dedicated group of fans and advocates have kept the dream of the Seattle SuperSonics alive, preparing for the day when NBA expansion brings their beloved team back.

The SuperSonics aren’t dead.

Brian Robinson has had that same staggering thought washing over him since 2008. That was the year the Sonics relocated to Oklahoma.

He still remembers their last game at KeyArena, April 13, 2008, against the Dallas Mavericks. It was a Sunday night. Sellout crowd. The Mavericks were trying to secure a spot in the playoffs; the Sonics were hoping to close out a lackluster 20-62 season with a win. There was a surreal feeling of angst hanging in the air — the noise around the Sonics potentially moving was growing louder.

That night, a thinly-framed Kevin Durant in his rookie year, flew up and down the hardwood,  wearing his No. 35 jersey throwing down jams. It should have been a time to savor for Robinson. To enjoy what was to come for the Sonics. To fall in love with the idea that they had an NBA All-star on their roster and the future was limitless.

Two years prior to that last Sonics game, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sold the team to Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett. Schultz said, “I honestly believe that this group, led by Clay, wants to stay in Seattle.”

High on the to-do list — the Sonics needed a bigger, modern NBA stadium. Robinson saw it as a call to action.

Together with Steven Pyeatt, they co-founded Save Our Sonics, a non-profit aiming to work with elected officials to find solutions and keep the Sonics in Seattle. Robinson went into it thinking it would be a project lasting months. It dragged on for two years. But everything he and others were trying to accomplish was met with layers of obstacles.

During that game in 2008, Robinson, a father of four and commercial real estate business owner, felt drained. His head was swirling. His mind was in emotional overdrive thinking about all those late nights, the meetings, time spent away from his family and the uncertainty around the team.

There was ire aimed at those people who had other ideas for his team. Why would they move the team? How could they? This was Seattle’s team. This was the SuperSonics.

Everything, all of it, it was all too much.

At some point during the third quarter as the boisterous crowd of 17,072 were making it hard to hear the referee’s whistle, Robinson recalled getting up out of his seat and never looking back. He walked out the aisle, through the concrete-covered way bypassing the concession stands and just kept on going all the way outside KeyArena.

“It was the most decisive thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I felt exhausted.”

Robinson didn’t get to see the 99-95 win. He didn’t get to hear the “Save Our Sonics!” chants in the dying minutes of the game. He didn’t know then that would be the last game the Sonics would play at KeyArena. Nor did he realize it would be the last Sonics game ever.

Just three months later, on July 2, 2008, a legal settlement allowed Bennett to relocate the Sonics to Oklahoma City. The next day the Seattle Times printed the words in bold black lettering “A Sad Day”. Forty-one years of basketball history, joy, winning, the characters, and Seattle fabric, gone.

It led to a community of stunned fans feeling furious, empty and broken. They sunk into mourning. Robinson says it felt like a betrayal, like public trust had been breached. Some called it an injustice.

The news sent waves of emotion through the city which became the catalyst for a grassroots movement to bring back the Sonics. Every Sonics fan has their own version of what went wrong. Every Sonics fan has chosen a different path on how to respond coming out of the great void.

Some won’t watch the NBA anymore. Others have tried to watch other NBA teams — and failed. Many root for Seattle-born players and follow their journey.

For the last 14 years though, there’s been a gritty cohort of people who are determined to bring an NBA team back to Seattle. And in doing so they’ve ensured the Sonics’ identity hasn’t been lost. The struggle has come from doctors, lawyers, filmmakers, business owners, teachers, entrepreneurs, developers. Their efforts have put public pressure on governance, they’ve elected officials, preserved Sonics stories. They’ve continued to love basketball in Seattle.

“We’re going to accomplish more together and feel better together than any other group of fans ever, because of our history and because of what we’ve been through and it’s going to make it special, ” Robinson said. “The reason we’ve all stayed at it for so many years, is because of the incredible community we have found in the struggle as we’ve fought together.”

It’s been 5,359 days since the Sonics last played in the NBA. The change Sonics fans are hoping for rests on the shoulders of the NBA. Only Commissioner Adam Silver can decide when or if Seattle will get to host and manage another team. And no one knows when that might be.

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Sherman Alexie remembers walking up the stairs to his house. His wife told him the news.

The Sonics were moving to Oklahoma.

“It was a clear sky,” Alexie said. “But thunder boomed. I mean, f***ing thunder boomed. Thunder. Boomed.”

Alexie was asked by the firm representing the city of Seattle to testify at the Sonics trial in June, 2008. At the time, Alexie was writing columns on the Sonics, a high-profile writer in Seattle, a basketball fan, and public speaker.

“I prepared and prepared but I feel like I choked,” he says.

He was asked to talk about his dad’s fandom of the Minneapolis Lakers, a team that existed in Minneapolis and relocated to Los Angeles in 1960.

“Then he got me ‘but your dad kept following them.’ And five seconds later I had the answer but it was too late,” Alexie said. “I’ve replayed that moment over and over in my head. And the answer would have been “well, my dad remained a fan because he wasn’t a season ticket holder. He wasn’t from Minneapolis or Los Angeles. And nobody lied to him.”

Over the next six years, long after the Sonics had left Seattle, Alexie thought about that moment every day and how, in his words, he choked. He thought he didn’t help. He wrote about things he learned at the trial — an emotional, honest brutal account. Even now, 14 years on, he still thinks about it a couple of times a month. Anytime the Sonics appear in the news he thinks about choking at the trial.

Alexie has been a lifelong basketball fan. He grew up watching his father play and was born into native American hoops. He tells FanSided that, as a Native American kid, he grew up in extreme poverty, and that his family didn’t have indoor plumbing until he was seven years old. But the one thing that gave him the most joy was basketball.

“That’s just a huge part of who I am. From that, I became a fan of all basketball. Then you root for the very best. And the very best is the NBA,” he says. “That whole historical notion of getting something stolen from me based on lies and broken promises. It’s nothing new. Rich people lying? This goes into my culture and race.”

The first time Alexie saw the Sonics was an exhibition game in Spokane at the Old Coliseum. He was sitting in the third row with his dad. The Sonics weren’t on TV then and the only way to see them was at a game. Alexie sat in awe. He thought of them as Greek gods. And soon Ray Allen became his Hercules.

“To think that we had somebody who was the best in the world at something, that 41 times a year we got to see someone who is the very best at something? It was like watching Shakespeare write,” Alexie said.

When Alexie tells people about losing the Sonics, it becomes an exercise to help make it real, to help others understand what it means to have lost a basketball team. He says people never got it to say it’s like losing a family member, or sibling. But when he said it’s like losing a dog it gave people breathing room to digest it.

“What if you were a Catholic who didn’t get to go to mass anymore? Or a Muslim who didn’t go to Mecca?” he said. “It was a spiritual experience for a hardcore basketball fan. I lost my church.”

Sometimes Alexie will do a mock expansion draft if he can’t sleep at night and create a Sonics team based on who wasn’t protected by the rest of the NBA. The team ends up looking like three nostalgic 7-footers and nine guys who shoot 3s but don’t play defense. He’ll play Strat O’Matic basketball. Status Pro basketball. He’ll watch recorded Sonics seasons like 1996 where the Sonics went up against Jordan’s 72-10 Bulls. But none of it can replicate the feeling of having the Sonics in Seattle.

“I feel so broken by it. This gets me emotional now,” Alexie says, pausing to speak and catching his breath. “Anger flies up all the time. Cursing out Howard Shultz comes up all the time. Any slight news on any Sonics development and it is fever pitch over text messaging.”

Alexie remembers moving to Seattle in 1994 which coincided with the Payton and Kemp era. He won top-row tickets to Game 4 against the Bulls and was floored by playoff basketball pandemonium. He recalls Jordan doing a weird hesitation jumper, hovering for what seemed like too long, and how the entire crowd had this universal appreciation of basketball. This prompted Alexie to get on the waiting list for season tickets and over the years worked his way to the third and fourth seats in the sixth row.

Alexie says missing the Sonics has become its own culture. Usually, within his group of basketball friends, there’s a text chain four times a week just on the Sonics — the ceremonies, memorials and remembrances. Then it will subside. Then it will rise again. He called the nostalgic back and forth “tides of grief.”

“I think what we’re constantly doing is we’re texting each other eulogies all the time. And what does everybody say when somebody dies? I can’t believe that they’re gone,” Alexie said. “This is 14 years. And I can’t believe they’re gone.”

18 May 1996: Hersey Hawkins #33 of the Seattle Supersonics helps teammate Shawn Kemp #40 to his feet as fans cheer them on during the Sonic”s 102-72 game one victory over the Utah Jazz in the NBA Western Conference Finals at Key Arena in Seattle, Washing

The last time Robinson watched a Sonics game was with 400 people earlier this year at Dicks Drive Inn. They watched Game 7 between the Jazz and Sonics in the 1996 Western Conference Finals. Kemp and Payton were there.

It’s a ritual he’s used to being a part of having helped create a party vibe for anything Sonics. Trying to keep things fun and light. Trying to enjoy what they had and think about what could be.

Everyone I spoke to for this story has a Sonics tale: Robinson’s involves Shawn Kemp. It wasn’t until freshman year, the year the Sonics upset the Warriors in 1992 and Shawn Kemp had that magical dunk on Alton Lister, that he became engrossed with the team. Robinson recalls the week before that game Kemp, who was 22 years old at the time, had been at a party at one of the Washington University dorms close to him and remembers when the party finished someone had to drive Kemp home.

That Kemp interaction made Robinson feel that NBA stars like him were, in a way, just like them — they shopped at the same grocery stores; ate the same restaurants; and they took rides home from college kids after partying with them. They were relatable. He says the Sonics became an extension of Seattle and their rise coincided with the evolution of small-town Seattle to big metropolis. The 1990s proved to be pivotal for growth: Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, Frazier, the rise of hip hop, Sleepless in Seattle. It went from a sleepy fishing gateway to Alaska to a tech hub.

“The Sonics were a big part of that. I always think that’s why it’s so closely tied. You had celebrity athletes right at the time when Jordan and the Bulls were re-writing the book on what celebrity athletes were and meant,” Robinson said. “Shawn was a guy you knew. Gary was a guy you would see. Ken Griffey was there. That was really a cultural shift.”

When you listen to Robinson speak about what he’s been a part of for more than 15 years since the Sonics were officially sold and sent to Oklahoma, it’s the people he’s met and the friendships he’s made that have meant the most to him. They all want the same thing. But that quest is full of knots.

“I’m very much a political animal when it comes to sports right now because that’s what the necessity’s been,” he said. “To just build a coalition, lead a coalition and try to accomplish good things and make sure we represent the people for Sonics fans.”

A recent report in November looked at Mexico City’s bid for NBA expansion, or at least its potential. NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum told Andscape, “expansion is currently not on the docket,” which followed Adam Silver’s message in June “this league invariably will expand, but it’s not at this moment that we are discussing it.” The Sonics, as usual, were mentioned along with Las Vegas.

There are times when Silver gets pressed on expansion and says things like Seattle would be a great market or Seattle is top of the list. But those sentiments are usually followed by but there’s no timeline or it’s not on the front burner. It means more waiting. More wondering. And sometimes it begs the question — will Seattle ever get an NBA team?

Robinson’s core belief is that all the good work being done in the foxhole will pay off. At times the belief can feel strained, especially when hopes get crushed. It’s the waiting. The uncertainty. The only silver lining for him in this is the finish line — celebrating the Sonics’ return. That’s why it’s all worth it for Robinson. To see people watching the Sonics is not just his dream — it’s for the city.

To get there, the grassroots movement has had to evolve, change gears and be more strategic. There was a time where people in Seattle carried resentment, were enraged, and couldn’t move beyond being indignant about losing their team, Robinson says. The NBA was extremely sensitive to that bitterness. He says that had to stop. Everyone needed to work together. Everyone needed to let go of the past. Everyone needed to focus on making Seattle the basketball town that it was — still is — so that the NBA could envision a team there in the future.

Whether he knew it or not his Sonics calling started in the early aughts. Robinson wrote for Sonics Central, a site that had street cred: not every NBA team had one. It became hugely popular. He became a fully credentialed member of the media covering the Sonics. But once the team left he felt he needed to focus on solutions and needs rather than being exasperated.

In 2011 he founded a group called arenasolution.org that would try to solve the No. 1 problem. Then he was part of two campaigns: one involved relocating the Sacramento Kings and Climate Pledge Arena now home to the Kraken. He was the associate producer on Sonicsgate, a documentary on the rise and fall of the SuperSonics. He’s been a member of the Mayor’s Commission on Civic Arenas and also the Seattle Sports Commission where his efforts are focused on cultivating an existence where basketball can thrive.

“The reason I do it is that when the day comes, and it’s getting closer, that there are people at the table who are reflective of Seattle culture and who can speak to our history and tell our stories,” he said.

Oct 5, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Supersonics fan Ervin Fleshman of Edison, Washington holds a sign with his mother Allison (right) during pregame warmups for a game between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings at KeyArena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

On February 21, 2021, Kristopher Brannon died of heart failure. He was 47. That day, when he went to the emergency ward he wore his Sonics jumpsuit. Every team has a superfan. The Sonics had Brannon.

As a kid who was born with a heart murmur, Brannon couldn’t play sports, but he loved sports. So when the Sonics left he became a one-man campaign to voice to the city — and the world — the Sonics still exist and they belong back in the NBA. With his tall 6-foot-5 frame, big thick black hair, and his all-green or all-gold Sonics jumpsuits, Brannon stood out.

When Leigh Burmesch first heard about Brannon’s Sonics advocacy from a friend, she was in her graduate program that focused on producing documentaries at the University of Washington. She was interested in his story and in 2014 released a six-minute documentary she made about how he became a beacon of hope for Sonics fans titled Superfan.

“Initially I was trying to tell a story about the Sonics, but it eventually turned into Brannon’s unwavering determination and his love of a team that everyone can relate to,” she said. “Teams do leave cities sometimes. It’s obviously heartbreaking for the big fans. I was interested in telling a story about a sports fan that lost his team.”

In Burmesch’s film, you see first-hand just how Brannon went about his solo campaigns. It didn’t matter what event took place, Brannon would show up carrying homemade cardboard signs with messages that read “I’m for Sonics Expansion”, “We’re next” or simply “Bring ‘Em Back.” He’d attend Seahawks and Huskies tailgates, farmers markets, local community football, NBA pre-season, Sounders rallies. He would tower over the crowd and people gravitated toward him.

For 13 years, Brannon walked the streets, attended sports events, pre-games, tailgates, council meetings, and became a symbol of hope and reflected the larger Sonics community: a group of people who endured a traumatic blow to their identity but have an endless desire to bring the team back.

Of all the things Brannon was known for — a stand-up comic, a Tacoma resident, Sonics Guy, poli-sci grad, soft-spoken, a son to Jill Skea and William T. Brannon, a former SuperSonics usher, a mentor, affable, a writer and community glue guy — it was being a Sonics advocate that made him iconic.

He wasn’t the only guy pushing the save our Sonics message, but arguably, he was the most recognizable. He believed in the Sonics — what they were, and what they could be to the city if they returned. And over time, the Sonics family revered him.

Burmesch was born in Minnesota and grew up watching the Timberwolves. She knew the Sonics story. When she was living in Seattle studying she recalls seeing Sonics’ merchandise up for sale in stalls and stores and felt like it was still a big part of the city’s culture.

When she started spending time with Brannon right away she felt he was a Sonics conduit, a connector of people and observed why crowds gravitated toward him when he showed up at tailgates or rallies. She believes that when people got to know Brannon, that fueled his desire to keep showing up and to keep reminding sports fans why the Sonics matter.

“He had this physical presence. The fact he was doing this for so long and that people were excited to see him I think it definitely has to do with the fact that he was affable,” she said. “As a sports fan, it sucks (to lose the Sonics). Sports connect friends. It definitely connects you to your community.”

What Burmesch discovered through Brannon was that Sonics fans had someone to rally around even though the Sonics didn’t have games to watch or drafts to pay attention to. Brannon represented most — if not all — Sonics fans, as someone trying to hold onto the memories of the past while grappling with hope of a return. What Brannon did was inspire that hope.

When Brannon passed away it shook the Seattle community.

A Fox 13 reporter spoke with close friends. People called him a local celebrity, someone with a big heart who helped the community believe in the mantra of never giving up.

Former Sonics coach and Hall of Famer George Karl tweeted, “Didn’t know Sonics Guy well but always appreciated his passion and commitment! He’ll forever be with the team in love and spirit.” Friend, Richard Thornton, started a petition to have Brannon inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

People were absorbed by him. This was evident at his memorial when friends and family showed up wearing Sonics clothing and carrying Sonics signs. He touched the hearts of the local community as well as local politicians: Two murals were painted in his honor — one in the 6th Avenue district in Tacoma and one on 1st Avenue in Seattle. Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodard declared July 17, the day of his memorial, Kris Brannon Day.

Scrolling through his Instagram page gives you a sense of how Brannon was all parts political, Sonics and community-inspired. But the Sonics posts far outweighed any other. On July 18, 2018, when the 10th anniversary of losing the Sonics happened he wrote this post:

It was 10 years ago today we lost the Sonics. After 9 months I
started going to events to raise awareness for the team I love. In that time I’ve been to over 5,000+ events. There’s been some twists and turns, and I thought the fight was over several times. I was wrong. It’s been an adventure and I’ve met some great people. We WILL get a team back! Save Our Sonics!!!,

Five weeks before he passed away, Brannon published a yellow tile with green lettering with the words Bring Back Our Sonics. It was the first day of 2021. A new year beckoned. The caption read: We are now one year closer to getting our Sonics back.

Burmesch said because Brannon was born with a heart murmur she feels that’s one of the reasons why he poured his energy into becoming a bigger sports fan, far greater than the average person — a superfan.

“I can only imagine at a certain point you realize no they’re (the Sonics) not coming back but then Kris is there giving people hope,” she said. “When you don’t have Kris walking around anymore, I feel like that hope feels lost. For him it was that visual reminder ‘I still really care’. It was definitely a sense of hope that was lost when he passed away.”

NBA

Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/Allsport

Jason Billingsley remembers the Sonics beating the Bullets 4-1 in the 1979 Championship win. He was three years old. He remembers Dennis Johnson as Finals MVP; Gus Williams averaged 28.6 per game.

Growing up he also remembers his church sermons used to end with a debrief on the Sonics. Then Jack Sikma came along with his giant blonde locks and youthful grin.

Billingsley recalls Sikma had an overwhelming presence on the court, a towering figure that gave him an edge when shooting and rebounding the ball. He also had an energy about him Sonics fans found endearing and were simply magnetized to.

The Sonics gave Seattlites childhood memories.

When the day finally came and the Sonics left, Billingsley says fans became a “walking fireball”. Sonics fans soon realized they loved the team 100 times more than they thought they had.

“It was a part of our history, culture and daily lives way more than we thought,” he said. “It just provided us with an extra motive to fight that much harder for this.”

Now, Billingsley has been part of a group called Bring Back Our Sonics (BBOS) since 2011, a social network founded by Jeff Brown and his father David in an effort to “keep the memory of the Sonics alive.” It’s become more than just a platform sharing news. The BBOS community has organized political rallies, attended Seattle and King County council meetings and updated fans on arena advisory meetings. They also report on the WNBA and the Storm weekly and offer commentary on news like Gary Payton II’s championship run with the Warriors.

What the group wants to accomplish is simple: to keep the Sonics conversation going and to bring these discussions they are having to the surface. Making politicians and decision-makers aware people still care about basketball and the Sonics. Making them see what the team means to the city.

“This movement has shown how big of a deal sport is in Seattle. It’s highlighted what a massive basketball town we are. Period. End of story. We’re united in this. And we always have been,” said Billingsley. “The question is, how many times can we regenerate, so to speak, like a lizard with its tail. How often can we be expected to continue to maintain a belief in this?”

Others have also stepped up to try and keep the dialogue around the Sonics going. In 2015, a two-minute filmcall it a love letter to the Sonics — captured the fans’ perspective of being in Seattle without their revered green and gold ball club. It was part of the Bring Em Back movement. The film ends with the lines: It’s been tough out here. But we never left.

Then there are guys like Joe Munson who see themselves with a role to play inside the Sonics movement. He has worked as a marketing director at Simply Seattle since 2015 organizing things like pop-up shops, pre-games at beer halls, and celebrations around key anniversary dates. He says it’s the largest Sonics merchandise store in the world.

He hosts speaking events where they invite Sonics alumni like Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Xavier McDaniel and Sam Perkins to tell basketball stories. They celebrated Coach George Karl’s Hall of Fame induction announcement in May. Munson sees this as a big part of helping keep the memories alive.

If there was ever an example to showcase just how much Seattle loves and misses big-time basketball, Munson certainly paid witness to it when he attended the annual CrawsOver Pro-Am at Pacific University’s Royal Brougham Pavilion in August. LeBron came. Tatum was there. Isaiah Thomas. Chet Holmgren. Tari Eason. Hundreds camped out overnight to get in. The gym was over capacity. And when moisture hit the floor and became slippery, Jamal Crawford had to cancel the event.

Munson said it was the event of the season outside of the Seattle Storm’s schedule. It was hot, sweaty, and deafening.

“Fans were crowding the baseline. The players were cautious about how they landed,” he said. “It was intense. It was extreme. It was basketball on steroids.”

When Munson was eight-years-old he remembers the Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis years. The 2005 playoff run. The signing of Kevin Durant: a tall, gangly, young superstar. All of these things meant something to him. It’s how he became a Sonics fan.

At age 11 the Sonics relocated. He was shattered. Things were just getting started. So now, to get his basketball fix, Munson does things like go see the Warriors play at Chase Center. He saw Gonzaga play there last year. He watches Seattle Storm games and Seattle University matches.

None of these things involve the Sonics but it gives Munson and fans like him a reason to believe it counts for something. The fact that basketball is played — and supported — at all levels in and around the greater Washington region means something. It makes it compelling. It makes it hard for the NBA to ignore. It gives fans like Munson hope.

“What I always tell people, if the Sonics left after 2008 and no one talked about them, no one told the stories, no one wore the gear, and we just let them be a memory, we wouldn’t be in this position that we are today,” said. “For all of us, the NBA won’t be the same until the team comes back.”

DENVER – MARCH 16: Members of the Seattle SuperSonics grabs their shorts as they are trounced by the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center March 16, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Sonics 168-116. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the term and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The one question that gets asked to Sonics fans is what if the Sonics don’t come back? It’s usually met with a sigh. A deep breath. Then silence.

It’s something Robinson thinks about. His fear is that if they don’t return, what does that mean for those fans that grew up watching them? It’s a space he doesn’t want to live in.

Robinson says, right now, he’s got a good feeling about the Sonics. The mood feels vastly different now than the hopeless abyss of 2008.

Consider this:

In June, Seattle native Paolo Banchero was taken with the No. 1 in the NBA Draft by the Magic. He joined other Seattlites in the NBA likeDejounte Murray, Kevin Porter Jr., Tari Eason, MarJon Beauchamp, Jaylen Nowell and Gary Payton II.

The emotional Sue Bird farewell game drew 18,100 fans at Climate Pledge Arena – the largest crowd in franchise history. This on top of the Storm’s 10,631 per game average attendance in 2022, the most in the WNBA.

During the summer and fall months, basketball fans supported the CrawsOver, so much, it got canceled. Sonics legend George Karl was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame which Sonics fans celebrated in full force. The Trail Blazers and Clippers squared off in pre-season at Climate Pledge Arena, the first NBA game played there. It was another sell-out. And so far in 14 games this year, the Kraken are selling out every game with 17,151 per night.

The grassroots movement and what they’re fighting for has also got the support of Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell who told the media “The odds are high,” on a return to the NBA. “We’re very intentional about it. I chase down rumors and I chase down actual people in a position to make that happen. I feel good about our opportunity.”

The Sonics optimist will also read into the NBA’s new media agreement which needs to be renewed by 2024-25 and how there might be more of a push to expand into more TV markets since there has been a reported decline in viewership.

Robinson says these things tell you how much Seattle loves basketball, how much basketball talent exists and how the city is ripe for expansion. They are ready for an NBA team. It makes sense now.

“Everybody has to want to do the deal. It’s just so hard to expand. Hard to relocate a franchise. (And) so hard to make a team where there wasn’t one,” he said. “So the question is when they come and do it, are they going to do it in a way that reflects our city’s culture? And as authentic? And does it speak to us and satisfies us for everything we’ve been through?”

Asked, what would it feel like to watch a Sonics home opener in Seattle, Robinson takes a moment to think. He muses about who he would take, where he would pre-game, where he would sit. It was like listening to a kid decide what ride they’d take at Disneyland. He says, if that happened, the collective goal would have been reached to bring back the Sonics. It means the NBA has said yes.

As anguished as it was to lose what fans say was one of the greatest things that ever happened to the city,  it has also welded fans together and gifted them unbreakable bonds.

Even if Seattle doesn’t get their team back, a scenario that Robinson doesn’t like to entertain, it won’t stop him from enduring more years of trying with the people that have helped keep the fabric and soul of the Sonics alive all these years.

“If I had to pick between the team staying and us not building the relationships we have built, I would have the team leave and have all these friends,” said Robinson. “If you look at the published reports right now, there’s good people working really hard to bring the team back. We love basketball in Seattle and we want the NBA here.”

Check out The Step Back for more news, analysis, opinion and unique basketball coverage. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to our daily email newsletter, The Whiteboard.

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