Confronted with the fact that there is nothing to be done about the SuperSonics’ remnant, the Oklahoma City Thunder, playing in the NBA Finals Tuesday against the unlikeable Miami Heat, we sports followers in Seattle are left to our imaginations.
Our search for rationalizations to watch the Finals tends to drift to the dark side for outcomes less about basketball and more about justice. Like these:
- The Securities and Exchange Commission before Game 2 brings charges against Aubrey McClendon, Thunder co-owner and CEO of Chesapeake Energy, for everything from securities fraud to failure to curb his dog. McClendon again pleads the “stroke moment” defense that was used when he told the truth publicly in 2007 about the Oklahomans’ plan to steal the Sonics. The SEC responds with an additional charge of contempt of proceedings, for using a knowingly false tactic that could work only in a meeting of the Seattle city council.
- In the fashion of the Houston Astros’ ballpark once named Enron Field, the Thunder removes “Chesapeake Energy” from the Oklahoma City arena’s name. In a hasty deal, the franchise signs another sponsor, Disney Co., for naming rights. Included is naming the arena after Disney’s fourth episode of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film franchise. Besides renaming the building after the new episode, “Pirates of the Prairie,” the role of Capt. Jack Sparrow is played by Thunder GM Sam Presti. The role of half-man, half-marine beast, all-dead Davy Jones, is played by Clay Bennett.
- During the Finals in Oklahoma, NBA Commissioner David Stern dumps over his motorcycle while riding on a remote prairie road. Aside from bruises and scratches, Stern is unhurt, and at first denies he had a passenger. Later, it is learned his passenger was Bennett. Investigators look at emails that first were disclosed in the 2008 lawsuit by the city of Seattle filed against the move of the Sonics. One from Bennett to Stern read in part: “I am concerned that you may feel I have betrayed your trust. David you know how I feel about our relationship both personally and professionally. You are among a very few, notwithstanding our relative brief actual physical time together that have significantly affected my life. I view you as a role model as an extraordinarily gifted executive, a deep and compassionate thinker, and a person with a rare and unique charisma that brings out the best in everyone you touch. You are just one of my favorite people on earth and I so cherish your relationship Sonics business aside.” Stern retires. Bennett explains to Mrs. Bennett that he wrote the email during “a stroke moment.”
- Confused by the fact that there is a sports event their state besides spring Sooners football and fall Sooners football, fans fail to buy all the available tickets for Games 1 and 2 in Pirates Arena. Oklahoma State fans, seeing an opportunity, try to buy up tickets on Oklahoma City’s street, but are unable to make change for a dollar.
- Before Game 3 in Miami, LeBron James says in a national TV interview with Jim Gray, with an audience of captive children in the background, how much he admires the toughness of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, “although I don’t always agree with him.” The children jump James and Gray, shouting “Take your talents to Havana, a–hole!” and break James’ non-shooting arm, of which he has two in the fourth quarter. Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, in the studio audience, intervenes to save James, but does not help Gray. Guillen wins back some followers.
- Attorneys discover documents in meetings from the Sonics’ board of directors that show former Sonics owner Howard Schultz had a “stroke moment” when he cast his “yes” vote when he meant “no” in the 5-4 decision to sell the Sonics in 2006 to Bennett. A Washington State superior court judge grants an injunction to unwind the sale, agreeing that Schultz was incompetent at the time of the vote. The NBA is forced to move Game 7 of the Finals to Seattle and KeyArena, where a sellout crowd celebrates wildly as the Sonics’ Kevin Durant drains a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Heat, 122-121. James’ roster replacement, Robert Swift, scores two points before fouling out.
Not saying it’s going to work out exactly this way. Then again, in 1996, when the Sonics were last in the Finals, I wouldn’t have believed that “stroke moments” not only existed, but were contagious.