Now a relic of Seattle sports history, still awaiting a second life, the Sonics are all but a memory. Here's a look back at the day the team got took the hardwood for the first time.

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Fifty years ago on Friday, the Seattle SuperSonics played their first regular-season game. It has been more than nine years since the team packed up and relocated to Oklahoma City, but to many it probably feels like 50 years since then, too.

The Sonics got their start when Los Angeles businessmen Sam Schulman and Gene Klein were awarded an expansion NBA franchise to play in Seattle. They were business partners at an entertainment and insurance company in L.A., with a division of the company tasked with distributing movies to Seattle theaters.  Before purchasing the Sonics for $1.75 million, the two bought the San Diego Chargers for $10 million.

The “Sonics” nickname was an homage to an airplane called the Supersonic Transport, housed at the Boeing plant in Seattle. (The plane would never take flight.)


Former beat writers Jim Moore and Glenn Nelson discuss the 1967-68 Sonics in a story for Crosscut. Read it here »


Before the Sonics’ existence, Seattle sports consisted of fewer attractions than today. Husky football and basketball were draws, along with hydro racing, rowing and a minor-league baseball team called the Seattle Rainiers, which later became the Seattle Angels. With the Sonics in the fold, Seattle had a major pro team for the first time.

The team opened up on the road against the San Francisco Warriors in an arena dubbed the “Cow Palace,” which apparently was aptly named.

“I’d never been to the Cow Palace, and it was, well, a cow palace,” center Dorie Murrey told the Seattle P-I. “I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’ It was like a barnyard.”

A crowd of 5,609 watched as the Sonics took the court in green jerseys, with yellow “Sonics” lettering across the chest that used a star to dot the “i” and a lightning bolt shooting off the “s”.

A fan looks at team photos from the Sonics history at KeyArena.  (Rod Mar / The Seattle Times)
A fan looks at team photos from the Sonics history at KeyArena. (Rod Mar / The Seattle Times)

Seattle had a lineup of rookies and players other teams made available in the expansion draft, and total salary of the team was about $240,000. Al Bianchi made his NBA coaching debut that night, after his 10-year playing career had ended the previous season. His squad included guard Walt Hazzard, shooting guard Rod Thorn, power forward Al Tucker, small forward Tom Meschery and center Bob Rule.

[ Where are they now? Looking back at the members of the 1967 Sonics team, and what they’ve done after basketball ]

“When you’re on an expansion team, the thing that’s exciting is just that you get to play,” guard Bob Weiss told the P-I. “You’ve got mostly guys who were the (number) seven, eight, nine guys on their team, and rookies, and guys who were (previously) not able to make the league.

The Sonics hung tough in the first quarter against the Warriors, trailing the reigning Western Conference champions by three points. But the flood gates opened for San Francisco in the next frame, and the Warriors dropped 44 points to take a 20-point lead into half. Seattle wound up losing its opener 144-116, setting up an uninspiring 23-59 season.


Watch:

It’s not the Sonics’ opening game, but here’s a video of another game the Sonics lost to the Warriors in 1967.