Kevin Durant got nostalgic when he came out for player introductions wearing green and gold sneakers and an old-school No. 40 Shawn Kemp jersey before addressing the soldout crowd that also wore Sonics gear.
For one night, Kevin Durant had them in his clutches again.
The 19-year-old kid is all grown up now, but he still knows how to put on a show.
The Sonics fans who cheered him as a rookie during a forgettable season 10 years ago with the Seattle team, once again applauded his every move in a Friday exhibition game at KeyArena that felt like a long, slow walk down memory lane.
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Durant paid homage to the past when he came out for player introductions wearing custom green and gold sneakers and an old-school No. 40 Shawn Kemp Sonics jersey before addressing a soldout crowd of 17,074 that also wore Sonics gear and held signs asking the NBA to return to the basketball-crazed city.
It was the first of many memorable moments.
“That was awesome,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr who wore a green SuperSonics t-shirt during pregame and postgame press conferences. “It brought chills. The crowd was going nuts. That was amazing.
“I might have gone with the Downtown Freddy Brown jersey myself just because I’m a little older.”
During his pregame address at midcourt, Durant acknowledged the Seattle Storm for winning WNBA titles during the Sonics’ absence. He also thanked fans for coming out, showing their support and adopting his Warriors for the night.
“I know it’s been a rough 10 years,” he added. “The NBA is back in Seattle for tonight. Hopefully it’s back forever soon.”
Of course, the Sonics fans never blamed Durant, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft, for the messy divorce between Seattle and the NBA that resulted in the team leaving for Oklahoma City in 2008.
And during his brilliant NBA career that’s included two NBA titles, two Finals MVP awards and four scoring titles, Durant had been a vocal proponent of the league returning to Seattle.
On Friday the future Hall of Famer reminded Seattle of what it once had and what it lost.
It hardly mattered that the Warriors played without two All-Stars in Stephen Curry, who remained home due to personal reasons, and Draymond Green, who sat out due to a sore knee.
No worries. Durant and All-Star guard Klay Thompson were more than enough to overwhelm the Kings while providing a handful of crowd-pleasing plays, including Durant’s pass to center Damian Jones in the third quarter for a rim-rattling alley-oop dunk.
Durant admitted he felt something he hadn’t experienced before a game: nervous.
“I had never felt that way coming into a game, especially a preseason game,” Durant said. “It was just a crazy feeling to come out and feel that much love from the fan base.”
While Durant struggled initially to get comfortable, Thompson scored 19 of his game-high 30 points in the first quarter for Golden State, which raced out to a 39-18 lead and never looked back.
“Klay was the main reason why I was able to get my focus back because he just went out there and played and knocked down shots,” Durant said. “He got us going on the offensive side of the ball until I was ready to be myself again. That’s what a great teammate does.”
Golden State led 74-44 at halftime and Durant exited the game for good with 3:54 left in the third quarter after scoring 26 points and staking the Warriors to a 96-57 lead.
Durant spent the rest of the game sitting on the sideline as the reserves mopped up a 122-94 victory.
But the return of the former Sonics star was only half the story.
Throughout the night, fans sporadically broke out in “Super-Sonics!” chants.
And the roars grew louder as familiar faces from the Seattle sports scene appeared on the giant screen hanging above the court.
This wasn’t just an NBA exhibition as much as it was a Sonics homecoming and a chance for the franchise’s greatest stars to mix and mingle with some of the city’s brightest sports and entertainment stars.
It was a who’s who in the front-row seats.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson sat next to basketball Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens, who was seated near Storm stars Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
A few feet away, the courtside seats were occupied by NBA legend Bill Russell, Sonics great Gary Payton, Seattle basketball star Jamal Crawford, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and Mariners slugger Robinson Cano.
The sports luminaries in the stands eclipsed the stars on the court when Durant and Thompson left the floor.
Halftime produced several minutes of spectacular star gazing as rapper Macklemore chatted with Wagner and Payton reconnected with former Sonics teammate Detlef Schrempf.
And fans went nuts when Wilkens and Sonics greats Fred Brown and Jack Sikma carried the NBA trophy the team won in 1979 on the court.
“This was different,” said Kerr, who enjoyed a moment of laughter and jokes with Brown and Wilkens on the court during halftime. “Everybody who has been in the league a long time has a soft spot for Seattle just because of the history of the franchise and the beauty and the brilliance of the city. It just doesn’t seem right that the Sonics are not a part of the NBA. That naturally brings out a lot of nostalgia and sentiment.
“Then you bring all of the former coaches and players together. You see all the highlights on the scoreboard. You see all the jerseys in the stands. It was a very special atmosphere. Very different from anything I’ve ever experienced.”
In the middle of it all was Durant, who was hounded all night by autograph-seekers and took what seemed like a thousand selfies with old friends and fans.
“I felt like everything was about me and it was definitely weird,” he said. “It’s only cool for tonight. I wouldn’t want that any other night. It was definitely weird.”
And perhaps the perfect sendoff for KeyArena, which is set to undergo a $700 million renovation and re-open as early as 2020 for a NHL team.
“Tonight was the cherry on top as far as saying hey we deserve a team here,” Durant said. “We would support a team. They need to bring one back, man. We’re going to keep saying it until it happens. All of us here. Everybody in that arena. Everybody NBA player knows it.
“Hopefully, the NBA does what it’s supposed to do.”