Clay Bennett is a weaselly, lying, no-good, rotten son-of-a-gun. Trying to find someone who disagrees with that sentiment, at heart, would be pretty difficult. He said he would commit his due diligence in attempts to keep the Seattle Sonics in Seattle, he instead never had such plans, and cavorted off to Oklahoma, leaving a 40-year old fanbase weeping and broken in his tracks.
Even the most merciful of critics would review the actions taken during the move of the current Oklahoma City Thunder and label them “unfortunate.”
And the outcry has been vast. Go take a look around the internet circa the move. Try and find a dissenting view, a single, bright shining example of “Well, let’s be reasonable, there are two sides to this story.” Not going to find one. That’s how difficult it is to look at the facts and reach any other conclusion other than “Seattle got hosed.” There was even a brilliant documentary made about the shenanigans. From mainstream sea to small-blog creek, the rivers all ran with bloodlust for Bennett, and that mixed with something just as ugly as the tar on Clay Bennett’s immortal soul (too much? To quote Animal House, “forget it, he’s rolling.”).
Some sort of bizarre resentment for the good people of Oklahoma City. Oh, it was denied. But the sentiment was out there. Not only was a classic franchise having their team ripped from their very hands, but it was being given to… Oklahoma? The coastal bias actually dripped so much a small flood occurred. There was rampant speculation that the Thunder would fail miserably in Oklahoma, proving that the move from Seattle was a mistake, on top of travesty, bathed in a traveshamockery.
The brilliant Tom Ziller actually did a piece looking at the immediate failure of the Oklahoma City Thunder, just two weeks into their first season in OKC. Ziller was simply examining a trend and positing if OKC really is a viable NBA market. After all, the league is littered with teams that simply don’t seem to support their teams, regardless of performance, which leads of course to an impact on said performance. (Strangely enough, no one talks about the Philadelphia 76ers, who have been in the bottom half of the league in attendance for 6 of the last 10 years and miserable the last few). So Ziller was right to start tracking whether OKC would continue to bottom out.
They did not.
The Thunder wound up 9th in their first year in OKC. And this year? 8th. The Thunder have the 8th highest percentage of attendance in the National Basketball Association. That’s better than the Jazz, Spurs, Suns, Celtics, and Nuggets, all of which have been around a bit longer and most of which are in bigger markets. Not bad for a cowtown.
You can blame Bennett, or Stern, or Schultz, or anyone else you’d like for the Sonics skipping town. It was a devastating blow to a great fanbase. It left the town with only a major league baseball team, an NFL team, and an MLS team to root for. There’s no question that it was shady business. But OKC, while still very young in its NBA life, is thriving, as it did with the Hornets in town, which is what helped land them a team in the first place. The city is full of passionate sports fans that have responded to the team’s success, and are building a great atmosphere. And so far, the results are there. OKC is an NBA city.
One last note. In 2005? The Sonics had the seventh best attendance percentage. That’s how quick things can change in this modern sports world.