One of the many things I remember fondly of the Sonics is because of the Key Arena remodel. I was able to get a job working for the Sonics, actually it was a job working Security at the Tacoma Dome. I was going to be paid to watch Sonics games at least that what I thought. I started out as an usher and eventually worked my way down to the arena floor, finishing by working in the visitors locker room area.
I saw all the players and reporters come through. My last Tacoma Dome Sonics playoff memory was Sonics/Lakers game 2 , 1st round. On the NBA on NBC pre game (Man, I always liked NBC's coverage), Hannah Storm had referred to the Tacoma Dome as the "House of Wood" I could hardly wait to get down there to tell her it was called the "Woodshed". As she walked past me I informed he of her mistake and she said to me curtly " I Know." I must not have been the first one to tell her that afternoon.
This game will be remembered for what happened off the court as much as what happened on the court. Toward the end of the game there was a power outage that lasted for about 20 minutes. This gave an odd eeriness to it, it also gave people time to find Tacoma on a map(pre-Internet days), it gave Tacomans a chance to worry about not looking good on the national stage, and it also gave the Lakers a chance to figure out how to win a game with a frenzied finish. I was posted by the visitors locker room and as the Lakers players filed by jumping and cheering, little Nick Van Exel told me "We AIN'T coming back!" I thought to myself, 'they'll be coming back for a game 5.'
Back then the first round only lasted 5 games. Well the Lakers closed out the series in LA and didn't come back. My hopes of working an NBA Finals dashed. That was my last Tacoma playoff memory. That's why when the Storm were slated to play game 2 against the Minnesota Lynx at the Tacoma Dome due to a scheduling conflict with the Key I had to go to exorcise the demons that were hanging around from the last playoff that was nearly 20 years ago.
As I got to the arena the energy was electric men and women, boys and girls were all excited to see playoff action. The Lynx had had the best of the Storm all season and were the one team the Storm didn't want to face in the first round, they were already in a 0-1 hole and they needed this win to avoid an early exit.
After the opening tip the Storm Crazies, the name affectionately given to the Storm faithful, they always stand at the beginning of every half until the first Storm Basket is made, well this being playoff they did this every quarter. When the Sonics played there they used the whole Arena but since this was a playoff change of venue on short notice at the same time as a home Seahawks Game. They drew the curtains in to make it a more intimate setting however to me it sort of resembled the look of the old Alamodome when the Spurs played there.
The Storm fought a pitched battle all game everyone was getting into it even Coach Agler got a technical, which I thought was a garbage call by the way. The Storm had their chances down the stretch just like the Sonics did 20 years earlier, but in the end they fell short. There would be no return trip back this season it was over but instead of feeling sad like I did 20 years ago, I was hopeful. No one had picked the Storm to even make the playoffs with their stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson out for the season. After the camera cluster captured the Lynx celebration EVERY camera then went on to Tina Thompson the longest serving WNBA player for her last interview. NO ONE had left the building and everyone was standing and applauding.
The only time I felt slightly depressed was when I left the arena. It never gets any easier walking out of the Arena after a season ending loss, at least there's always next season. Hopefully we'll be saying that about the Sonics real soon.