In partnership with When We All Vote and RISE, the Sacramento Kings announced the relaunch of Rally the Vote, a coalition made of 20 teams across the NBA, NFL, MLB, WNBA, MLS and NWSL aimed at getting unregistered voters to the polls. The coalition, which nonpartisan, includes the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Sky, Chicago White Sox, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and Fever, Los Angeles Football Club, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, New York Giants, Phoenix Mercury, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Storm, Washington Wizards and Mystics and Washington Spirit.
In partnership with When We All Vote and RISE, the Sacramento Kings announced the relaunch of Rally the Vote, a coalition made of 20 teams across the NBA, NFL, MLB, WNBA, MLS and NWSL aimed at getting unregistered voters to the polls. The coalition, which nonpartisan, includes the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Sky, Chicago White Sox, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and Fever, Los Angeles Football Club, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, New York Giants, Phoenix Mercury, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Storm, Washington Wizards and Mystics and Washington Spirit.
The Athletic reached out to a handful of sources at the ownership level to gauge the appetite for addressing the Seattle market, and the return was split. While most viewed the market as teeming with possibility and deserving of an NBA team, the path to getting there was not as unanimous. Several sources said a preference would be to put an expansion team in Seattle, which would presumably bring a much larger startup fee than a team would be charged to relocate. But others have insisted that expansion has not really come up in league discussions, pointing to commissioner Adam Silver’s tepid public responses and a preference to table the issue until the next television rights deal is negotiated in 2025.
The Athletic reached out to a handful of sources at the ownership level to gauge the appetite for addressing the Seattle market, and the return was split. While most viewed the market as teeming with possibility and deserving of an NBA team, the path to getting there was not as unanimous. Several sources said a preference would be to put an expansion team in Seattle, which would presumably bring a much larger startup fee than a team would be charged to relocate. But others have insisted that expansion has not really come up in league discussions, pointing to commissioner Adam Silver’s tepid public responses and a preference to table the issue until the next television rights deal is negotiated in 2025.
It took six more years, and a handful of playoff flameouts before the Unseld-Hayes Bullets finally secured the franchise’s first — and still only — NBA title, beating Seattle in seven games in 1978. Before the decisive Game 7, Mr. Unseld, 32 at the time, gathered his teammates in the Bullets locker room. “This is my 10th year, and this might be the last chance I have to win a championship,” he told them, according to The Post. “I just want everyone to know I’ll be there for you today. I don’t care what it is. You don’t have to worry about anything.”
Another catch phrase that stuck was Rashad’s use of the term “main man.” In the NBA universe, everyone was Rashad’s “main man.” Charles Barkley was a “main man.” Shawn Kemp was a “main man.” Reggie Miller was definitely a “main man.” The bit, Rashad says, was actually lifted from his father, who would use the term when he’d forget the name of one of Rashad’s friends. If “Inside Stuff” had one “main man,” though, it was Jordan, who doubled as one of Rashad’s good friends. The two met in Los Angeles in the summer of 1990, when NBC broadcast a Magic Johnson charity basketball game as a dry run before their first season. Jordan arrived late after a round of golf. Rashad interviewed him afterward. They soon hit it off. “He was our guy,” Rashad said. “I could have him on the show whenever I wanted to.”
@Brian M. As you know, I would LOVE for the NBA to go back to Seattle. What I was told by owners well before the pandemic was that it was unlikely there’d be much support for expansion until at least the next TV deal (which is set to expire in 2024) is done. So I’m not holding out much hope at present for a groundswell of support for new teams. If this season were, for some reason, ultimately cancelled, maybe some feelings would change.
Of course who knows how COVID-19 will change that timeline. Calabro called coronavirus the “huge x-factor” in this equation. And he’s right. We don’t know what the financial landscape in professional sports will be like one year from now, let alone five. The collective hope is that this will end up being a minor bump in the road. That’s exactly what Calabro envisions. “Having calculated the x-factor, I still think within five years, yes, we’ll see NBA basketball in Seattle,” Calabro said.
Speaking on The Opinionated Podcast, Payton said he nearly rang His Airness up to give him a piece of his mind but realized he would have probably behaved the same way if it were him. “Oh you know I was hot! I was thinking about calling him at the time!” he declared. “But you know what, that’s what I expect out of Mike, because I would have said the same thing. I’m not going to admit to nothing, I’m not going to admit to someone that D’d me up. I will always tell you at any time in my career, nobody gave me problems but one person and that’s John Stockton to me. So you know that is just the way the game goes.
Storyline: Michael Jordan Documentary
“I’m not mad at Mike, because Mike didn’t have too many games that somebody D’d him up. He always was dominant but I think me and [Pistons point guard] Joe Dumars were a thorn in his side, I really do think that. And I’m glad he said that because I wouldn’t expect nothing else from him. I don’t expect nothing else from Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan, that’s why we talk about him, that’s why we see a 10-week, Last Dance on him, because that’s just the way it is. “He is the guy that we’re all talking about as the greatest basketball player that ever played and that’s fine and I don’t expect nothing less from him.”
It’s nonsense, of course. Krause was one of the keenest basketball minds of his generation, an ex–baseball scout turned NBA general manager who inherited a team with Jordan and proceeded to build out a roster around him. It was Krause who pulled off one of the great drafts in league history, in 1987, when he acquired Scottie Pippen in a draft-day trade with Seattle and scooped up Horace Grant a few picks later. It was Krause who pulled Jackson from the basketball bushes, plucking Jackson out of the CBA in ’87 to work as an assistant to Doug Collins, elevating him to head coach two years later. And it was Krause who used a second-round pick in 1990 on Toni Kukoc, nabbing a playmaking, sweet-shooting European big man years before NBA teams started scouring the globe for them.
One of the more memorable clips shown in that episode of the documentary is from the NBA on NBC pregame broadcast before Game 1 where Bob Costas said many were calling it the “biggest mismatch in NBA Finals history.” And that’s even though the Bulls had just eight more wins in the regular season than the Sonics and Seattle had even split the season series between the two teams 1-1. “Back then we just played,” said Schrempf, noting that the Sonics had short rest between their Game 7 win over the Jazz and Game 1 vs. the Bulls, who had been waiting at home after sweeping the Orlando Magic. “Now they’re saying, oh, people were saying we were gonna get swept – I forgot about that.”
George Karl didn’t want to give Michael Jordan any added fuel. But by avoiding him at a Chicago restaurant prior to the 1996 NBA Finals, he did anyway, as “The Last Dance” documentary revealed Sunday night. “He walks right past me,” Jordan said in the show. “And I look at Ahmad [Rashad] and I said, ‘Really? Oh, so that’s how you’re gonna play it?’”
“It is true. I had Brendan Malone on my staff from the Detroit Pistons, and he said, ‘Michael plays head games with you all the time,’ and he said ‘you don’t want to mess with him in the series,” Karl said. “Say hello at the beginning of the series, shake his hand at the end of the series, but during the series don’t let him use anything to motivate himself to be a better player than the greatest player in NBA basketball.”
Tim Hardaway (5x NBA All-Star): I was there for about a week. We played every day. You had Chris Mullin, Rod Strickland out there. Gary Payton, of course. Reggie, Pat, Charles [Barkley]. Charles needed it because you know, he’s always getting heavy during the course of the summer. He really needed to be in shape and ready to go. He loved it. Charles would be going at people. We had to go double team him because basically when he got it down low, nobody could stop him. If you didn’t want to lose, you had to go down there and double team. Basketball stars weren’t the only ones flocking to the Jordan Dome. There was even a celebrity row.
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The era’s symbolic finish was Ewing being traded to the Sonics for Glen Rice and peanuts in 2000. Checketts said he made the move as a reward to a franchise player who requested a relocation. “A lot of people look back on it now and say that’s where the downturn of the Knicks started, but if you’re going to blame trading Patrick Ewing at 38 years old for starting the mess, you’re completely uninformed,” Checketts said. “Did we do a good deal? No. Did we have a good deal on the table to do? No. But I felt — and this is me — I felt that we owed Patrick Ewing something. The guy had gone hard the whole time he was with us. He had done everything we could possibly ask of him, and now he was sincerely saying to me, ‘I want to go. I don’t want finish my career in New York. I don’t want to be under the microscope. I don’t want the New York press calling for me to sit out. I want to be somewhere else.’ And his choice was Seattle, and that’s the team we made the deal with.”
The entire NBA landscape changed back in the summer of 2003 when perennial All-Stars Gary Payton and Karl Malone teamed up and joined the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency. Although the unexpected move did leave a lot of jaws on the floor, Payton recently revealed that it was planned all along. While serving as a guest in the latest episode of the All The Smoke podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, Payton shared that he and Malone have discussed playing with each other long before moving to Hollywood. “Well, you know man, it was a lot different. And the way we got to LA is because me and Karl had planned already to play with each other. We had been talking ’bout that for two all-star (games). And we said we knew that we wasn’t gonna be with our same teams for a long period of time because our owners was a little bit different, and they were trying to stay away from us a little bit. They wanted to go young. So he always told me we gonna play together,” “The Glove shared.
Gary Payton, a Hall of Famer and a Finals rival of Jordan with the Seattle SuperSonics, thought he’d sent Michael a message in a preseason meeting during Payton’s rookie year in 1990: “I went at him in the preseason and he didn’t forget it,” Payton said. “We played him for the first time in the regular season. He walked on the court, and I was talking mad, crazy. He only played like 8, 9, 10 minutes in the preseason game, and he went over and told B.J. Armstrong and Pippen, ‘I got the rook. I got him all night.’ He got me in foul trouble real quick. I sat down, he played like 10 minutes of the game, he had like 35 points. He walked over and said, ‘Young fella, preseason ain’t what’s happening. This is what’s up.’ It was like, welcome to the NBA and many more.” (While Jordan scored 33 points that night, in 27 minutes, Payton mustered just two. At least he made the only shot he took.)
Gary Payton: “I went at him in the preseason and he didn’t forget it,” Payton said. “We played him for the first time in the regular season. He walked on the court, and I was talking mad, crazy. He only played like 8, 9, 10 minutes in the preseason game, and he went over and told B.J. Armstrong and Pippen, ‘I got the rook. I got him all night.’ He got me in foul trouble real quick. I sat down, he played like 10 minutes of the game, he had like 35 points. He walked over and said, ‘Young fella, preseason ain’t what’s happening. This is what’s up.’ It was like, welcome to the NBA and many more.” (While Jordan scored 33 points that night, in 27 minutes, Payton mustered just two. At least he made the only shot he took.)

Kevin Garnett wants to buy the SuperSonics

But there was also a surprise: Garnett revealed a deep affinity for Seattle, to the point where he said he’d like to see the NBA return to that city — and said he would bring a team there if he could. “If I have a dream, I would say that I would love to be able to go and buy the Seattle SuperSonics and reactivate the Pacific Northwest,” Garnett said. “Seattle was huge to our league. I would love to be able to do that. That’s what’s up. If there’s one thing I could do tomorrow, it would be that.” These days, it’s not that uncommon for Garnett to be thinking big.
Henry Akin, one of the original Seattle SuperSonics, died last month. After three weeks in hospice care, he died Feb. 16 at EvergreenHealth Hospice Care Center in Kirkland. He was 75. Akin battled heart disease for most of his adult life and underwent open-heart surgery in 2011. His cause of death was heart and kidney failure, said his youngest daughter Amanda Chigbrow.
Storyline: Henry Akin Death
Are there any current NBA players who remind you of yourself in terms of their game or tenacity? You mentioned Patrick Beverley, so I’m guessing he’s one. Gary Payton: There are two: Marcus Smart and Patrick Beverley. They both remind me of myself. They’ll go at you. Beverley is a little bit different because he doesn’t have the offensive game that I had. But Marcus is starting to become that kind of player – he’s starting to score and shoot the ball. But both of them are dogs on the defensive end. My son, [Gary Payton II], has a little of that in him and he’s doing the same thing. He can get at you when he wants to and he’s long for someone who’s 6-foot-3, so his length will hurt you too. When you have them type of guys who can play defense that type of way, it’s always a bonus for their team. When you have a guy who can lock down like that, he’s always giving you great stuff on that end. But can they give you something on the other end? All three of them need to work on their offense
Speaking of Seattle, what would it mean for you to stand in Key Arena and have your jersey retired in front of those fans at some point in the future? Gary Payton: It would mean a lot to me. Those fans really were the ones who made everything happen for me. I was there for 13 seasons and that’s where I became a Hall of Famer. And the fans deserve it. I think they deserve to see that happen, just like they deserve to see Shawn Kemp’s jersey raised up and Detlef Schrempf’s jersey raised up – not just mine. You know what I’m saying? It would be great for those fans to see that and feel that because I know they’d go crazy, and it would be a great moment for myself too. I hope that we have an opportunity to do that. I do think it will come. I think basketball will get back to Seattle.
He currently ranks 10th with 8,879 assists, but he will soon surpass Gary Payton (8,966), Isiah Thomas (9,061) and perhaps even Chris Paul (9,290) this season. Assuming he maintains his season average of 11 per game, James should top Payton and Thomas at some point in the middle of this season. Paul, who is currently with the Oklahoma City Thunder in his 15th season, has stayed healthy and productive thus far. Considering Paul’s extensive injury history though, James could make up enough ground to climb ahead of his close friend either late this season or early next season. James should also eclipse Oscar Robertson (9,887 assists) next season and Magic Johnson (10,141), Mark Jackson (10,334) and Steve Nash (10,335) in two years. It seems like a stretch James could surpass Jason Kidd (12,091) and John Stockton (15,806). “I’ve been fortunate to be able to play with great teammates and great coaches in three great organizations so far in my career,” James said. “I just hope I make anyone who has followed my career proud.”
Do you remember key moments in the NBA where you met idols and were proud of how far you’d come? Nowitzki: Yeah, the first game was in Seattle against Detlef Schrempf, who I was a huge fan of. He gave me his number right away, if I needed something. But the biggest “wow” moment was the fourth game, when we played Houston. With Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley, they had two of my biggest idols on their team. Hakeem Olajuwon was there as well. One year earlier, I played for Wurzburg in the second German division — now I was there with the best players in the world. I wasn’t sure I belonged there, if I would make it. The first year was brutal in that regard.
“The day of the trade at 12 noon the deal was off,” Rivers said. “I was at home in Malibu and Lawrence called me and told me, ‘It looks like he’s either going to Toronto or the Lakers.’ The Lakers part just threw me over. I told him that can’t happen. … I remember I kept telling him, ‘We cannot allow that to happen!’ “I actually told Steve jokingly that if that happens, we’re moving the team to Seattle. It was a joke, but I was actually serious about it. I really believed that.”
Isaiah describes the Tacoma basketball scene as “gritty” and “competitive,” and it is. Still, the Sonics’ departure in 2008 left an unmistakable hole in the culture. “It hurt the city in a big way, just because the Sonics were a big part of the community,” he laments. “Basketball was a big part of what was going on in the Tacoma-Seattle area. I think it hit big, and then now it’s just, like, forgotten. Not for the most part, but it’s just the norm that we don’t have a team.”
You can see it, if you’ll pay the $21.95 it costs to visit MOHAI, Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. Amid exhibits there about Seattle’s founding — and a surprisingly upbeat mostly-musical look at the great fire of 1889 — there’s a display case featuring the Sonics’ 1979 NBA championship trophy. It’s notable that the hardware stayed here, reflective of the division between the Sonics and the Thunder, a line that rarely blurs. In 2014, when NBA uniforms featured gold neck patches denoting past championships, the Thunder declined to wear one. The Sonics had won a title. The Oklahoma City franchise was — and still is — seeking its first.
Storyline: Seattle Team?
In October, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on the Stephen A. Smith Show that while Seattle “was a great destination and there’s some storied teams that played there, we’re just not in expansion mode at the moment.” But come here and you will find that no matter the city’s feelings about the team that left, it loves the game that was left behind. “Seattle’s been synonymous with basketball for a long time,” Phillips says. “I know the city really wants basketball. It’s really big here. It just needs to make its way back.”
The powerful businessman, who turned Starbucks into an international coffee behemoth and was a darling of the Seattle business community, flailed under a new kind of public scrutiny from fans and media, many of these people said. “His approach was very much a feeling of entitlement,” said Nick Licata, a Seattle city council member at the time. “ ‘Arrogance’ is probably the right word.”
In August 2001, the new owner met with two employees who had just finished a new promotional video of the SuperSonics players, inspired by the opening scenes from Guy Ritchie’s London gangster thriller, “Snatch .” Schultz was irate as employees rolled the tape. Yelling, Schultz said it made the players look like “thugs” and demanded the staff remake the video, according to a former Sonics employee in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional retribution. (This employee recounted the story in 2001 to a second employee, who confirmed in an interview that they had heard it, though not Schultz’s precise words.)
Schultz also changed the fans’ experience but in ways that some employees criticized. Four employees said Schultz wanted the 1950s ballad “Mack the Knife” played after every game, win or lose, replacing the hip-hop that had been played. (A spokeswoman for Schultz said the team’s marketing department experimented with many songs in the arena during his ownership.) “It was one of those things that was sent down from the higher-ups: ‘Hey, this is what Howard wants,’ with an eye roll. And we’d say, ‘Okay, we have to play this song now,’ ” one employee in the Sonics’ entertainment division recalled. “He was completely out of touch, and everybody knew it.”