When I was young, I would mute the television, turn up the radio and listen to the smooth sounds of Kevin Calabro on full blast in my room. With my Shawn Kemp jersey on -- or Gary Payton depending on the day -- I'd watch the action unfold on television, listening to my hometown homers while dunking foam balls on a small hoop hanging from my door. This was basketball to me. This will always be basketball to me.
I never saw a live Sonics game in person. When they existed, it was expensive .... and I just never made it to a game, nor did I experience the bond that comes with going to an NBA game with family. Well, not quite: My father and I filed into Key Arena -- an arena not good enough for the league -- with numerous other fans to watch Kemp, Payton and the Sonics battle the Bulls in the NBA finals while the team was in Chicago. It's a moment in time I'll remember forever.
I had Sonics posters all over my wall: The Reign Man. The Glove. Big Smooth. These were my childhood heroes. These were what I knew growing up.
I am a Sonics fan, and will always be a Sonics fan. It's part of who I am, just as your allegiances are part of who you are. It's something that sticks with me and perhaps in some way defines what I've become. We're all fans here.
Except my teams -- well, one of my teams -- is dead. It's gone and has been gone for quite some time. Until you've experienced what it's like to have a team take out from underneath you, the emotion probably won't make sense. And I get that.
Which is why the saga of the Kings sale bugs me and has me conflicted. I've shied away from writing or even expressing a public opinion about the matter because it's a difficult situation for everyone. I want the Sonics back and I want the NBA back because I know firsthand what having the league in town does for the city.
And I also know what it feels like to have a team ripped away. So, you see, there is no win here. There's nothing clean about the way the Kings sale has unfolded. Someone will lose and someone will get screwed. The answer to both of those phrases is probably my city.
What bothers me the most is how ugly everything has gotten. I can counter every single talking point Sacramento has. I can argue Seattle's arena plan. I can argue economics. I can feed into the game. But it's not worth it.
As I've watched this all unfold, I've seen Sacramento and Seattle go at each other's throats. I've seen fans threaten and degrade other fans. I've watched two cities go to war publicly, all over an NBA franchise. And I understand why. They do it for the jerseys, the homer radio announcers and the superstitious kids. They do it for the memories and bonds an NBA team creates. Sure, sports are an escape. But they're an escape we all share.
This whole saga has turned fans against fans ... again. It happened with Oklahoma City and Seattle, and is happening again. The Kings' decision is business to the NBA, but it's more to us. It's a kid walking into an arena with his dad, or sitting on a couch cheering on the home team.
I get it. I understand why Sacramento and Seattle fans are at each other's throats. But it doesn't make it right, and it doesn't make it any easier. This is the culture the NBA has bred with its threats of relocation and arena deals. It sucks, and will continue to suck.
Things will continue getting uglier between the Sacramento and Seattle, of that much I'm almost sure. And it's a shame to watch it all spiral downward into a pit of insults and passive-aggressive -- or not so passive-aggressive -- actions. We're all the same, in a way. We're all fans who want to share the experiences of an NBA team with those close to us.
At some point this will all come to an end, and someone will probably be left in the cold -- maybe temporarily, or maybe permanently. What's happening now may be a blip on a rather large radar. But watching it unfold as it is now isn't fun, and it feels like a vicious cycle of relocation threats the NBA has created.
I want my Sonics back. I want the good people who are Kings fans -- Tom Ziller and everyone that writes for and visits Sactown Royalty -- to have a team to rally around. I want the NBA to do the right thing and stop fans from sniping at fans. I don't think these are mutually exclusive, but I just don't know.
Things were simpler when I was wearing a Gary Payton jersey, dunking on a small plastic hoop.