It took a long time for the NBA’s second denial of Seattle to sink in. I went through most stages of grief (with the exception of acceptance. I don’t think this is over. Hell hath no fury like Steve Balmer scorned) and finally came to the realization that while this isn’t a death blow, it’s where we are at the moment and it sucks.
I also started thinking about the place that basketball has in Seattle. We’ve been without an NBA team since the 2008-2009 season; but as we’ve seen in the past few months, the passion still burns bright for hoops in the 206. We love our basketball team, we love what it represents, we love what the possibilities are with a new franchise, and we love the memories that we have growing up watching the Sonics.
Right now, at this critical juncture, we cannot let our passion for an NBA team fade; it must remain white hot. As I came to this realization, it dawned on me that the exact same thing can be said about UW hoops. This is a time where it is critically important to not forget how much we love college basketball and love UW hoops.
The last two years have been maddeningly frustrating for the Huskies. Two years ago we had a team built around future NBA first-round draft picks and yet we couldn’t even get to the NCAA Tournament. This year we had a team that was supposed to thrive on chemistry and grit – and we were rewarded with a first round NIT game against BYU.
It doesn’t take long for that rabid fan base to start to lose interest. The Dawg Pack isn’t quite as clever or raucous and instead of piling 10,000 into Hec Ed, the “official” totals were closer to 8,500. Actual attendance wasn’t that even that. It’s a frightening thing to see how fast those “die hard” fans start to become apathetic and how fast the Romar supporters turn into those calling for his head.
Stop it. In Seattle, UW basketball is our pro game. It’s what we have right now. Be frustrated if they aren’t winning, fine. But don’t lose interest. Don’t stop going to games.
Do people remember what this team was like the year before Lorenzo Romar took over? Bob Bender’s last team went 11-18 and 5-13 in conference play. When the team won their last regular season game against WSU, they jumped and celebrated at center court because they qualified for the tournament; the Pac-10 tournament. They had to win their last game to qualify as the No. 8 seed.
How do I know? I was there. My fraternity bought 100 tickets to the student section five minutes after tip off, and we walked in to the student section. We sat down with 12:44 left in the first half. That’s how bad it was.
In the 11 years that followed, the Huskies went to six NCAA tournaments and played in the postseason in eight of them. That’s how good it was; right now it’s not as good, but the cupboard isn’t bare. There is talent returning and talent coming in.
The apathy toward the Sonics that proved to be the ammo Clay Bennett needed to move them to OKC in 2008 cannot happen again. It doesn’t matter if it’s for pro hoops or for college hoops. Especially right now, when the only game in town is the Huskies. We have to show them how much we care about them and how much what they do matters. That is what the high school kids see when they come visit.
The local kids who have offers to play all over the country can imagine how great it would be if they played in front of 10,000 screaming fans who watched them grow up in Seattle. They think about winning at home. When the arena is half full, that’s a much harder image to conjure.
This town has an incredibly rich basketball heritage – and a lot of it has occurred in the past decade. Take away all of the guys who didn’t go to UW but come from Seattle – Peyton Siva, Avery Bradley, Doug Christie, Jason Terry, Michael Dickerson, Terrence Williams, Aaron Brooks, Mitch Johnson and Jamal Crawford to name a few. Then think about the guys who stayed home and went to UW – Brandon Roy, Will Conroy, Jon Brockman, Nate Robinson, Tre Simmons, Spencer Hawes, Isaiah Thomas, Tony Wroten…it’s absurd.
They all grew up here watching the Sonics, dreaming of the NBA. Most of them made it and to this day we follow them and beam with pride when they call out the 206 on national television. They share the passion for hoop that we do. While we all wait and wonder what happens next with Chris Hansen and the Sacramento/Seattle saga, don’t forget that we still have something here to be passionate about.
So for UW fans that have become disinterested, get interested. Go to a few games. Be excited about this team. For the UW students who all of the sudden have better things to do than going to a home game in January or February, go to the damn game. Trust me, ten years from know you’ll wish you hadn’t missed a home game sitting in the best seats in the house.
Show everybody in the NCAA, NBA and beyond that Seattle is a basketball town, period. We love this game.