I was in a Red Lion Hotel along the Spokane River. I had just gotten back from a day at Silverwood in Northern Idaho. It had been a belated birthday trip, I was tired, sunburned and a little intoxicated. I laid down on the bed, kicked off my shoes, grabbed the remote, flipped on the TV and every channel was consumed with the same story.
It's so cliché, but so incredibly true that you absolutely remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when disaster strikes.
I am absolutely fascinated by natural disasters and think the power of mother nature in all her fury is nothing short of awesome. What if Hurricane Katrina never happened or just petered out along it's original path over Georgia instead of heading back out over the Gulf of Mexico and then on its deadly path on the through Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi?
1. 1,833 people would still be alive right now and not have been killed in the storm.
2. I would not have been glued to a television in a hotel room and wasted a perfectly good birthday trip.
3. The Seattle Supersonics would not be the Oklahoma City Thunder and people outside the 408 area code still would not know Clayton Ike Bennett ever existed.
The New Orleans Arena was severely damaged during the hurricane forcing the Hornets to look for a new, temporary location. Baton Rouge was considered to be the likely location, but Oklahoma City was the city chosen, even beating out Kansas City, San Diego, Nashville and Louisville.
The Hornets would play six games in Baton Rouge during the 2005-06 season and 35 games in OKC. The Hornets would win their 2005 season/home opener in OKC against the Sacramento Kings by 26 points.
In January of 2006 the NBA announced that the Hornets would return to Oklahoma City for the 06-07 season with the team returning to New Orleans fully for the 07-08 season and the 2008 All Star game being held in New Orleans.
There was some skepticism that George Shinn would ever return the Hornets to New Orleans. The attendance in Oklahoma City was just too good. Up a full 78% from what it had been in the initial years in New Orleans after the relocation from Charlotte.
The NBA told OKC that the Hornets were off limits; they would be returning to New Orleans as soon as the market rebounded and could support them again, OKC had to go find a new team.
On July 18, 2006 Clay Bennett bought the Sonics from Howard Schultz and we can fast forward to present day.
Had the hurricane stayed on it's predicted course lives would have been saved, a city would have not had to endure all the trauma that it went through, the Hornets would have never played a game in Oklahoma City and the Sonics would still be in Seattle.
Then to continue the "what if game," what if Steve Ballmer did buy the team from Schultz? What if our next drafts went like this: Kevin Love (instead of Russell Westbrook), Ricky Rubio (instead of James Harden) and Ed Davis (instead of Cole Aldrich)? Build that around Kevin Durant as your star, a growing Serge Ibaka at center playing next to Love and a bench of Jeff Green, Nick Collison and Luke Ridnour.
What if Durant had a true point guard to play with? What if Durant didn't have to play 45 minutes a night and wore down in May and June because he had a quality bench backing him up?
What if last June we were celebrating a championship in downtown Seattle as a Durant lead Sonics beat the Heat four games to two?
"What if," the most torturous phrase in the sports lexicon dictionary.