Per multiple sources, the Oklahoma City Thunder have declined to wear one of the new gold championship patches on the rear of their jersey collars in the upcoming 2014-15 season. The soon-to-be-introduced patches are meant to signify that a franchise has won a championship at some point in its history.
While the Thunder made it to the Finals in 2012, they lost to the Miami Heat. The one championship that would qualify the franchise, as a whole, for the patch was the 1979 title won as the Seattle SuperSonics.
The Thunder will not have championship tag on back of jersey reflecting Sonics title.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) July 21, 2014
As part of the contentious settlement agreement in 2008 that allowed the Clay Bennett-owned Sonics out of their KeyArena lease with the City of Seattle to move the team to Oklahoma City, the rechristened Thunder would share all records, trophies, banners, and stats with Seattle for a five-year period. If a new team was secured by July 2013, the settlement allowed for the two teams to share the history in perpetuity at no cost to the new Seattle franchise.
With that deadline come and past, the Thunder now own the history and all memorabilia of the Sonics outright. Part of the agreement called for the memorabilia to be housed at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. While it remains at MOHAI today, including the original 1979 Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, any display is clearly marked with a notation of being "on loan" from the Thunder.
The Oklahoman reached out to Christopher Arena, the NBA's vice president of outfitting, identity, and equipment, for comment on the patch decision:
"As of right now, they are not wearing it," Arena said. "They actually would have had to have told us that some time ago, and that was their choice. We have several teams who have a lineage that exists prior to the city that they’re in ...Some teams embrace that past, some teams don’t. Whether it’s because of ownership changes or perhaps the lineage is too great of a distance or the team nickname changed or whatever it may be, that’s their decision."
Other franchises have maintained long histories from relocation through the tenure of the league. The Los Angeles Lakers happily include their Minneapolis days as part of their active history. The Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings plan to include gold patches on their uniforms, even though their lone championships were won in St. Louis in 1958 and Rochester, New York, way back in 1951, respectively. By all rights, the Thunder could easily claim Seattle's championship as their own.
Yet, there is something about the relocation of the Sonics that hasn't sat well with many fans of the sport, even as the Thunder have been embraced as an exciting highlight of the league, and star Kevin Durant one of the prominent faces of the pro sport. Fans in both Seattle and Oklahoma City have been adamant about separating the two franchises. It would appear by not choosing to include the championship patch on next season's unis, Bennett and his fellow owners are acquiescing to those desires.
It should be noted that the team has also long used an "Est. 2008" date in marketing materials and merchandising as a point of distinction, as well.
What results negotiations for the SuperSonics history will bear once the franchise is reborn remain to be seen. For the time being, everyone is acknowledging that only Seattle should rightly celebrate that 1979 championship.
Speaking of the O'Brien Trophy, per Q13 Fox Sports Director Aaron Levine, the Seattle Storm will be hosting a Championship Night on Tuesday at KeyArena. The beloved NBA trophy will be on display alongside the Storm's two WNBA championship trophies and the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the Seahawks' Super Bowl XLVIII victory.