My experience as a Sonics fan is extremely unique. I was able to get close to the team during one of the best eras in franchise history. I will never forget my experiences.
I have always been a Sonics fan as far back as I can remember. I went to my first Sonics game in Portland vs the Blazers. I was born in Seattle but I lived in Portland for a short period of time before moving back to Seattle. This game was probably around 94-95. Memory is a tricky thing and I don't know for sure but I think the Sonics won a close game on a late Gary Payton bucket. This was my first live game action.
I moved back to Seattle in 95. I was born in 85 so I was 10 years old at the time I moved back. I was raised pretty loosely and I hung with my older cousins a lot so I had a lot of freedom to roam the city and pretty much do what I wanted.
My cousin who is 3 years older than me is the person I hung with the most. We happened to be at Key Arena on the day of the first home game of the season. We were standing above the player entrance where they park, pretty much behind the team shop, when Shawn Kemp parks and walks up. We were excited and we started talking to him, remember we are standing above him with a gate between us, as he is approaching the stairs to walk down to the player entrance. He asked us if we had tickets to the game and we were like no and he reaches in his pocket and hands us two THIRD ROW tickets to the game. We were SUPER PUMPED. Shawn Kemp had just given us AMAZING seats to the game.
After this we just kept coming back. We met EVERY Sonics player. We got tickets from a lot of them including Kemp, Nate McMillan, Eric Snow, man everybody but especially David Wingate who we got the closest with. We used to get these cards from Kevin Calbro for free pizza too lol.
Eventually we knew all the players, we started getting the passes to get back in the locker room area where we would go after every game to get autographs and talk to players from both teams. We were given autographed game worn shoes and tons of other stuff. We got to ride in some of their cars. We have been taken out to eat by guys like Eric Snow. Given small amounts of money.
Eventually we started getting more into the memorabilia(which we sold most of because we were dirt poor). I remember Gary Payton gave me his game worn shoes, I went straight to a card shop by Key Arena ran by a man named drew and sold them for like $125. Gary Payton won defensive player of the year and took this team to the finals this season, I was severely taken advantage of! Either way we used to sell all of our stuff for way less than its worth just to have a little money and get by but we were young and dumb.
Let me see what else, oh yea we started getting really into going to the hotels to meet opposing players. I have personally talked to and got autographs from guys like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and countless other players at their hotels.
I remember one day my cousin and I spotted the Phoenix Suns bus. We chased it to the Sheraton hotel. When Charles Barkley got off the bus we were talking to him and he told us to wait outside. He came back out shortly after with Donny Nelson(the younger one who was a Sun's assistant coach at the time), and Donny Nelson's wife. He asked us if we were hungry and we walked to City Center and ate at the Palomino restaurant inside of there. Charles Barkley didn't eat veggies. Me and my cousin didn't like the food we ordered at first so they made us something else that wasn't even on the menu haha. The funniest part of the story comes after the game when we are back in the locker room area and we see Charles Barkley and we are trying to get stuff signed the look of surprise on his face like dang these kids are everywhere. He wouldn't sign my card either he said he could only sign a certain brand.
I remember during the Western Conference Finals I asked John Stockton for his shoes, he looked at me crazy and asked why I would want his sweaty shoes lol. Me and my cousin both got multiple pairs of shoes from Jazz players during that Western Conference Final. There is a benefit to going 7 games because u see the same players over n over and they remember you instead of them playing once and leaving.
Final story I will tell is when I was at the Four seasons during the Final and I was the only person Michael Jordan talked to. I followed him all the way from the Four Seasons to the Brooklyn restaurant and he asked me why I wasn't at home in bed. Yes, Michael Jordan actually talked to me. He wouldn't sign an autograph though and he was surrounded by body guards. After this I was put on the news and everything.
Well, that's my unedited spur of the moment short version of my Sonics story....