It's unfortunate that the Seattle SuperSonics are currently limited to the imaginations and emotions of hoops enthusiasts. The SuperSonics, one of the most well-known NBA teams ever, were founded as an expansion team in 1967 and used the Seattle Center Coliseum—later renamed the KeyArena—for their home arena.
The Sonics had a number of great seasons during their existence, and in 1979—under the direction of NBA legends Dennis Johnson, Gus Williams, and Jack Sikma—they claimed their first and only championship. In addition, the squad played in the NBA Finals in 1996 (losing to the Chicago Bulls) and 1978 (losing to the Washington Bullets).
Aside from their on-court accomplishments and a fervent fan following, previous team owner Clay Bennett stated that they would like to replace their outdated arena with a brand-new, cutting-edge facility. But in 2008, Bennett relocated the team to Oklahoma City, where they would eventually become the Oklahoma City Thunder, after failing to negotiate a new arena agreement in Seattle.
Basketball enthusiasts in Seattle were deeply disappointed and incensed over the relocation decision because they believed it was unnecessary. Fortunately, should the NBA decide to move back to Seattle, a future franchise may choose to take the same name as long as the city of Seattle maintains ownership of the "SuperSonics" moniker and team colors.
1) Gary Payton
Many people consider Gary Payton, often known as "The Glove," to be one of the best point guards in NBA history.
The Seattle SuperSonics selected him with the second overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. He quickly established himself as one of the league's top defensive players, leading the Sonics in both total steals (165) and steals per game (2.0) during his rookie campaign. Payton's defensive skills earned him nine choices to the All-Defensive Team during his career. He led the league in steals in 1995–96 and went on to win the Defensive Player of the Year title.
Payton was a highly skilled offensive player who excelled as a facilitator, scorer, and clutch shot maker, despite being primarily recognized for his defense. After spending his first 13+ seasons as a player for the Seattle SuperSonics, Payton left the team as the franchise's all-time leader in games played, steals, assists, and points.
Not only was Payton a fan favourite throughout his playing career, but even after, thanks to his notorious passion, which included his fiery attitude and love of trash talk. Gary Payton's place among the greatest players in basketball history was cemented in 2013 when he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
2) Shawn Kemp
The skydiving In the 1989 NBA Draft, Shawn Kemp was chosen with the 17th overall choice by the Seattle SuperSonics. Kemp swiftly allayed any worries about his potential effect by establishing himself as one of the NBA's most exciting young players following an unsettling but brief undergraduate stint. It didn't hurt that the Sonics would have a very strong tandem with teammate Gary Payton, who was selected just a year after him.
Kemp received three All-NBA honours and five NBA All-Star selections while he was a member of the SuperSonics. With an NBA Playoff average of 20.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game in 1996, he was a key member of the Sonics squad that advanced to the NBA Finals in the 1995–1996 season. In that legendary series, Seattle played the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.
The series ended in six games, with Kemp averaging a team-high 23.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. With the NBA returning back to action in October, get our NBA Expert Picks to every night games at busr.ag
Because of his dominance in the paint, Kemp is regarded as one of the most dynamic and entertaining players of his age. His ability to finish above the basket was so well-liked that in his first five seasons, he participated in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest four times.
Kemp is among the top 10 players in Sonics history in terms of lifetime points, but he is ranked second in terms of career rebounds and blocks for the team.
3) Jack Sikma
The Seattle SuperSonics selected Jack Sikma, the man with the notorious bleach blonde face, with the eighth overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft.
At 6-foot-11, Sikma demonstrated his versatility and skill set, making him one of the best centers of his period. He was not only nimble and a skilled passer, but he also had an excellent scoring repertoire. While Sikma was a strong player in the post, he was also a superb shooter, able to make jumpers as far as three points during a time when most centers performed the most of their dirty work down low.
Sikma spent nine seasons as a player with Seattle, where he was a vital part of the team's 1979 NBA Championship victory over the Washington Bullets (now known as the Washington Wizards). In the 1979 NBA Playoffs, Sikma averaged 14.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game despite it being only his second season of professional basketball. Sikma faced a Hall of Fame frontcourt in Bob Dandridge, Elvin Hayes, and Wes Unseld during the 1979 NBA Finals. He averaged 15.8 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks per game.
Sikma was a seven-time NBA All-Star and twice (1979 and 1982) was in the top ten MVP votes during his SuperSonics tenure.
Sikma is ranked in the top three blocks, top ten in assists, and top five in points scored by any player in Sonics history. He leads them in total rebounds all-time.
4) Ray Allen
Ray Allen, a well-known shooter, started his illustrious basketball career at Hillcrest High School in Dalzell, South Carolina. From high school phenom to college All-American to NBA All-Star, Allen's career path included being taken fifth overall out of UConn in the 1996 NBA Draft. He went on to establish himself as a formidable wing threat with the Milwaukee Bucks. Allen was a prolific scorer from anywhere on the court throughout his early and prime years, despite the fact that even back then he was recognized as a deadly 3-point shooter.
In the same transaction that sent franchise legend Gary Payton packing in February 2003, Allen was acquired by the Seattle SuperSonics. His success continued in 2005 as he inked a five-year, $85 million contract deal with Seattle. In the 2005–06 season, he made 269 3-pointers, which set a record for the most in a single season. Allen still maintains the fifth-highest scoring average (24.6 points per game) in Sonics history and stands in the top five in 3-point field goals made by the team, despite Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry breaking the record later.
Allen's 3-point shooting ability, work ethic, consistency, and clutch plays have defined his legacy in the NBA. He also portrayed Jesus Shuttlesworth, one of the most enduringly popular fictional sports figures, in the movie "He Got Game," where Denzel Washington, an Oscar-winning actor, played his wayward father.
5) Spencer Haywood
Future Hall of Fame center Spencer Haywood made history in 1971 when he was announced for the NBA Draft after just two years of college, the first two being at the University of Detroit and Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado.
Not so unknown was Haywood, who in 1968 led Team USA to gold as the youngest American basketball player in Olympic history. Just that when the NBA first started, players had to wait four years to join the league after being drafted out of high school. Haywood's mother was raising ten children while sharecropping in rural Mississippi for two dollars a day. Despite the fact that the ABA had a similar regulation, former ABA Commissioner Mike Storen granted Haywood a hardship exception.
Haywood had an incredible debut season in the ABA, leading the league in points scored and rebounds (19.5 per game). He won the 1970 ABA MVP award as well as Rookie of the Year. Haywood, who was selected for the NBA All-Star team four times and the All-NBA team, joined the Seattle SuperSonics in 1970 and played for the team until the 1974–75 season.
In the history of the Sonics, Haywood has the greatest average of 12.1 rebounds per game and the third-highest average of 24.9 points per game in scoring.
6) Rashard Lewis
Prep-to-pro basketball player Rashard Lewis was drafted 32nd overall in the 1998 NBA Draft and spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career with the Seattle SuperSonics, where he was teammates with both Gary Payton and Ray Allen. Despite the fact that players selected in the second round never produce at the highest calibre, 6-foot-10 and 215-pound Lewis was ahead of his time because of his mix of agility and shooting touch.
Even though he needed a few seasons to adjust to the NBA, he would eventually thrive offensively, scoring 14.8 points per game on average by his third season (his first as a full-time starter) while shooting 43.2 per cent from three-point range and 48.0 per cent from the field. His scoring average would rise gradually over the next four seasons, reaching a high of 22.4 points per game in his last season with Seattle.
One of the greatest stretch forwards of his day, Lewis was a two-time All-Star who is arguably the greatest player in Sonics history all-time in 3-pointers made, with only Kevin Durant surpassing him in that statistic. Before the Sonics changed their name and relocated to Oklahoma City, Durant would only play one season with the team.
7) Gus Williams
The Golden State Warriors selected former great player Gus Williams, a product of USC, with the 20th overall pick in the 1975 NBA Draft. Williams will go down as a second-round selection. Before entering his third season of play, Williams signed with the Seattle SuperSonics, where he would have his breakthrough season after spending his first two seasons playing alongside Hall of Fame forwards Jamaal Wilkes and Rick Barry.
With a more active role than he did with the Warriors, Williams showed off his quickness, ball-handling prowess, and scoring prowess, which made him a difficult opponent for many. Williams' moniker "The Wizard," which is more appropriate given his brilliant layups and behind-the-back passes, was given to him.
Williams had a key role in helping the Sonics win their first and only NBA championship in 1979 throughout the course of the following six seasons. During their championship run, Williams averaged 26.7 points and 2.0 steals per game. Averaging 29.0 points per game, Williams led the Washington Bullets to a 4-1 defeat in the 1979 NBA Finals.
Williams, who finished in the top five in MVP votes in 1981–82, is a two-time All-Star, two-time selection to the All-NBA, and the 1982 Comeback Player of the Year during his tenure in Seattle. Williams also has the second-highest steal average and sits in the top 10 in career points with the SuperSonics.
8) Dale Ellis
Ex-All-Star wing Dale Ellis represented a number of NBA clubs in his career, including the Seattle SuperSonics, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, and Charlotte Hornets.
Though he proved to be a formidable 3-point shooter and an exceptional volume scorer, his best years were spent in Seattle. Indeed, with 180 made 3-pointers in a single season in 1988–1989, he set a record and led the league in 3-pointers made. Ellis was selected as an All-Star for the first time in 1989, the season he concluded with a career-high scoring average of 27.5 points.
Set aside accolades, Ellis was regarded as one of the best players at his position in his peak and was well-known for his scoring ability. Not bad for a player who spent four seasons averaging 25.6 points per game on 50.5 per cent from the field and 41.2 per cent from three.
Averaging 20.9 points per game and having 9,405 career points, Ellis still holds a top-10 spot in SuperSonics history.
9) Fred Brown
Known by his stage name "Downtown Freddie Brown," Fred Brown played for the Seattle SuperSonics for his whole 13-year career.
Before the 3-point line was even officially implemented into NBA play in the 1979–1980 season, Brown—an Iowa native who was selected with the sixth overall choice in the 1971 NBA Draft—was well-known for his remarkable shooting accuracy, rapid release, and shooting range.
In Game 5 of the 1979 NBA Finals, he experienced one of the most unforgettable experiences of his career. In a pivotal game against the Washington Bullets (now the Washington Wizards), Brown helped the SuperSonics win and win the NBA championship by scoring 14 points off the bench on 7-10 shooting from the floor. It was only his second double-figure scoring game of the series.
Brown was a fan favourite in Seattle mostly because of those kinds of clutch performances, even though he only received one All-Star selection in 1976. The Sonics retired his No. 32 jersey in 1986, just two years after he would play his final NBA game, as a way of honouring his important accomplishments for the team.
10) Kevin Durant
To be honest, Kevin Durant ought to and probably should be ranked highest on this list. He is, after all, the most accomplished and distinguished name on the list. But the same reason Russell Westbrook isn't on the list at all explains why Durant isn't even one spot higher on this list.
Though theoretically, they share the same franchise history, we are discussing the Seattle SuperSonics, not the Oklahoma City Thunder.
As Seattle got ready for a new era, they drafted the lanky deadeye with the second overall pick in 2007. Ray Allen, the future Hall of Fame winger, and Rashard Lewis, the All-Star forward, had just departed. Durrant demonstrated that his talent was universal, averaging 20.3 points per game and scoring a season-high 42 points against the Golden State Warriors in April, even though the Sonics would only win 20 games in his rookie campaign.
Until Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and then New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson shattered the mark, Durant was the youngest player in NBA history to average at least 20 points per game in a season. He made Sonics history by being the first player to win Rookie of the Year.
Up until that point, the tale he would have written in Seattle would have been breathtaking if the Sonics franchise had stayed intact.
Honourable Mention — Lenny Wilkens
Lenny Wilkens, a native of Brooklyn, was well-known for his outstanding leadership, basketball intelligence, and versatility during his playing career. a talented scorer and playmaker who is regularly ranked among the best point guards in the league. Nine NBA All-Star selections were given to Wilkens, who concluded his playing career with remarkable career averages of 16.5 points, 6.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per game.
Nevertheless, Wilkens' remarkable career with the Seattle SuperSonics lasted only four seasons, during which he averaged 19.5 points and 9.0 assists per game and played in three All-Star Games for the Sonics. Having said that, Wilkens' high ranking on this list has less to do with his playing achievements while he was a player in Seattle and more to do with his combined achievements as a coach.
A noteworthy coaching accomplishment for Wilkens was leading the SuperSonics to a 1979 championship.