While the cheers were booming in the Bay Area, they were a few decibels shy of the screams in Seattle.
Birds are chirping. Locals are whistling. Schadenfreude is in the air.
Folks who felt ditched are now feeling rich because karma’s a … you know the rest.
Monday morning, Kevin Durant let the world know that he would be joining Stephen Curry and the record-setting Warriors after eight seasons in Oklahoma City. And while the cheers were booming in the Bay Area, they were a few decibels shy of the screams in Seattle.
Seriously, could this have gone any better? Puget Sounders don’t just “sports hate” the Thunder, they genuinely revile it.
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In Clay Bennett, they see a conniving owner who stole their team and altered the fabric of this city. In their five 50-plus-win seasons since 2009, they see devastation in what should have been celebration. Until the Sonics return to Seattle — and who knows when that will be — the pain from their exodus will never fade completely.
But Monday morning was one hell of a novocaine shot.
Durant’s departure wasn’t just a blow to OKC’s future, it was likely a knockout punch. The Thunder may still have first-team All-NBA point guard Russell Westbrook, but he isn’t enough for OKC to make a deep playoff push.
And given how Westbrook’s contract is up after next season, the odds of him bolting just spiked through the stratosphere. Crazy. Few would have guessed this team would go back to the drawing board before going back to the Finals.
That Durant would be the one to send OKC into this eventual tailspin has to be even more gratifying. People around here always liked him. He embraced the city when Seattle drafted him in 2007, and gave a shoutout three years ago by sporting a Sonics hat before a Thunder practice.
His individual success was never insulting — just maddening. The kind of thing that constantly sent fans’ imaginations into a parallel universe.
Now, however, Seattleites can watch him with joy instead of jealousy.
Then again, former Sonics fans may miss the unity brought about by all the Thunder loathing. As far as the NBA goes, there has been no more galvanizing force in the Emerald City.
Before Game 6 of this year’s Western Conference Finals, National Book Award winning author Sherman Alexie tweeted “Golden State vs. unSonics tonight is the most important game for Seattle hoops fans since 1996” — and he wasn’t wrong.
Of course, that was the night Klay Thompson drilled a playoff-record 11 three-pointers to lead the Warriors to the win. Two nights later, Golden State bounced the Thunder to complete the down-three-games-to-one comeback.
It was shocking to fans, heartbreaking to the Thunder, and downright beautiful to the long-suffering Sonics faithful. Oklahoma City may be home to the franchise they loved, but it will be a long time before it’s home to the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Around the league, Durant’s decision has spawned gasps of disbelief. In media circles, it has been pegged as weak and desperate.
How can joining a 73-9 team boost one’s legacy? What would riding an all-universe cast to a title really prove?
These are legitimate questions for a superstar whose abandonment was far more egregious than LeBron James leaving Cleveland, as James was the Cavs’ only All-Star. Not only did Durant spurn a city, he all but confessed that he isn’t good enough to win a title with just one future Hall of Famer by his side.
But while these are valid talking points for every other city in the country, they are moot in the 206. The nightmare of the Thunder raising a banner never came true, and folks around here would be lying if they said that isn’t satisfying.
It’s hard to not to feel sorry for Oklahoma City fans, who had something ripped away from them Monday. That’s how it goes in professional sports sometimes, though.
It doesn’t take away from the feeling that, here in Seattle, a city without a team somehow managed to win the offseason.