The year was 1966. The NBA had just added the Chicago Bulls to the league and were set to add two more teams to start play in the 1967-68 season. On December 20, one team was awarded to Robert Breitband in San Diego, named the Rockets. The other team was awarded to Los Angeles businessmen Sam Schulman and Eugene V. Klein, along with some minority investors. That team would be placed in Seattle, and named the SuperSonics.
The team was named after Boeing’s SST (super sonic transport) project. They would finish that first season with a record of 23-59, despite having All-Star Walt Hazzard and All-Rookie team members Bob Rule and Al Tucker. That off-season, Hazzard would be traded to Atlanta for a point guard by the name of Lenny Wilkens.
The went to back-to-back NBA Finals in 1978 and 1979, winning their first and only NBA Championship in 1979. Wilkens was now coaching a team led by Jack Sikma, Gus Williams, “Downtown” Freddie Brown, and NBA Finals MVP Dennis Johnson. They would go to the Finals one more time in 1996 behind the play of Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Hersey Hawkins, and Sam Perkins. We all know what happened next.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the day the Sonics were born and we are in a similar situation as fans were in 1966. There are rumors of NBA expansion being on the table once again, with Seattle being one of several cities in contention. We’ve heard from former players that the NBA wants a team back in Seattle “desperately.” Of course, we need an arena for that to happen.
On this, the 50th anniversary of the Sonics’ inception, we should be watching our team square off against the likes of LeBron James or Stephen Curry. Instead, we find ourselves instead trying to evaluate every syllable that comes out of the mouths of politicians and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. We read articles about arena architecture and city planning. We wait. We hope. And we remember.