This is a re-posting of Steve Kelley's article from his Friday the 13th column in the Seattle Times. An appropriate date to rekindle the evil that was Clay Bennett and the duplicity the sporting community showed towards Seattle fans towards the plight of the Sonics. I have edited some out of the content for brevity and highlighted particularly poignant points.
Throughout the painful, insulting process of losing the Sonics, it always bothered me how little the national media seemed to care.
The same people who always said they loved coming to Seattle, the people who remembered the KeyArena crowds from the 1996 Finals against Chicago as among the most electric they'd ever felt, practically ignored this grand theft.
Almost no one challenged NBA commissioner David Stern's motives. The same people who professed love for this city ignored it when Seattle needed their help the most.
The one loud, insistent exception was ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons. He took up the cause when too few others would. He did his homework. He was the noise in the midst of the media silence.
"It was really a hijacking," Simmons said of the Seattle franchise's move to Oklahoma City.
Simmons is one of the best in our business. He's funny. He's informed. He's prolific. He's a basketball fan who cared about what was happening in Seattle.
"I was kind of dismissive of it initially," Simmons said, "but I got a lot of e-mails from Sonics fans asking me to 'actually look at what's happening out here.' "
Simmons paid attention and called the move "the biggest blemish on Stern's legacy."
"Maybe he didn't willingly conspire," Simmons said by telephone Thursday morning, "but by not doing anything, it made him a conspirator. He's the commissioner and he's supposed to stop stuff like this and didn't.
"It was a case of a guy [Clay Bennett] who bought the team and never really wanted to keep it there and stole the team. I love basketball and I felt like Seattle had really good fans. It just didn't seem fair to me that somebody bought this team with no intention of keeping it in Seattle and the rules were in place so that nobody could stop him. I continue to feel bad for the fans."
Simmons is coming to town Tuesday to sign copies of his new 697-page book, "The Book of Basketball." When he was planning this book tour, the No. 1 city Simmons wanted to visit was Boston, home of his beloved Celtics. But, he said, Seattle was the second city on his list.
"It's hard for me to believe that Seattle's not one of the 30 cities that has a team," he said. "I think there are maybe six, seven, eight cities in the NBA that really got the NBA and really understood the history and it resonated. And I think Seattle was one of those cities."
Simmons promised Seattle's NBA fans he never would mention the Oklahoma City franchise by its NBA-given name. Even now, he calls them the "Zombie Sonics," or "The Team That Shall Not Be Named."
"As I dove into this issue more, I was very surprised that it wasn't a bigger story," he said. "I thought it was the kind of story that should be leading SportsCenter and should be on the cover of S.I. I didn't get it and I still don't get it.
"It's crazy to me, that this wasn't a bigger story, especially when you think of all the stuff we blow out of proportion. This was a story that was at the heart of American sports. The fact that owners can extort fans and get whatever they want."
Zombie Sonics. I love that line.