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The Thunder fairy tale with prince charming Clay BennettNovember 8, 2012 @ 8:35 pm (Updated: 7:01 am - 11/9/12 )
The Oklahoma City Thunder led by Kevin Durant has become one of the NBA's best, youngest and most popular teams.
An interesting New York Times magazine feature describes how the team has helped "usher in golden ages" in Oklahoma.
Here's how the article characterizes the Seattle part of the Thunder's journey:
Meteorologists in Oklahoma are basically rock stars.
Professional athletes, on the other hand, have rarely had much of a presence here. That began to change in 2006, when a consortium of wealthy Oklahomans, led by the financier Clay Bennett, bought the Seattle SuperSonics — a once-proud franchise that had been stuck for years in the drain-swirl of mediocrity.
Most people assumed, cynically, that Bennett was buying the team in order to move it, as quickly as possible, to Oklahoma City, his hometown. He had pledged to make a good-faith effort to keep the team in Seattle — an effort that came into suspicion shortly after the sale, when the new owner demanded that Seattle come up with nearly $300 million to build a new arena.
Seattle refused, at which point the ownership group announced, regretfully, that it was going to have to move the Sonics to a city with a suitable arena — a city that also happened to be Oklahoma City. The fallout was intense: lawsuits, protests, scandal. Even Oklahomans who love the team admit that they were uncomfortable with the way it was acquired. The sportswriter Bill Simmons, in solidarity with the people of Seattle, referred to the Thunder exclusively in his columns as the Zombie Sonics.
One of the miracles of the modern Thunder — and there are several — is how quickly they've made people forget the stain of their origin. The re-branding of the franchise has been quick and efficient: the team is now widely perceived as principled, well run and — above all — thoroughly Oklahoman.
Last month Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine signed legally binding agreements to move ahead on a new sports and entertainment arena to host professional basketball and hockey.
By LINDA THOMAS
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