SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — SuperSonics legend Jack Sikma, a driving force behind the franchise’s only NBA title 40 years ago, pleaded with the league to bring back pro basketball to Seattle for the first time since 2008 during his Hall of Fame induction speech Friday night.
“To all the diehard Sonic fans who proudly sport the green and gold … there’s a hole in Seattle that needs to be filled,” Sikma said at Symphony Hall, less than a mile from the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, into which Sikma became the 10th member of the Sonics to be enshrined.
“Speaking for all Sonics fans, it’s our great hope that the NBA will soon find a pathway to bring a franchise back to Seattle. It’s time.”
The crowd erupted in agreement.
Businessman Clay Bennett relocated the Sonics to his hometown of Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season after a squabble with the city of Seattle over a new arena. He took 20-year-old budding superstar Kevin Durant and a rich basketball history with him.
In 1979-80, the Sonics set a per-game attendance record of 21,725 that has since been broken.
That number has been reduced to zero over the past 11 seasons.
A new arena, with a reported price tag of more than $900 million, is being built on the plot of Seattle’s old KeyArena. It will host an NHL expansion team for the 2021-22 season and, Sonics diehards hope, an NBA squad if and when the opportunity presents itself.
The return of the Sonics almost came to fruition earlier this decade, but the NBA’s board of governors in 2013 denied the relocation request of Chris Hansen, one of the prospective owners, who was trying to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to the Emerald City.
When it was in the Pacific Northwest, the franchise made a miracle run to the NBA Finals in 1978 after starting the season 5-17. Seattle would lose to the Washington Bullets in seven games. Seattle then hoisted its lone trophy in June 1979, exacting revenge on those Bullets — winning in five games. Sikma averaged 15.8 points, 14.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in the series. In his speech, Sikma spoke proudly of the 1979 team’s 40-year reunion earlier this year.
The eighth overall pick of the Sonics in 1977, Sikma was inducted into the Hall alongside Al Attles, Carl Braun, Chuck Cooper, Vlade Divac, Bill Fitch, Bobby Jones, Sidney Moncrief, the Tennessee A&I College teams from 1957-59, the Wayland Baptist University teams from 1948-82, Teresa Weatherspoon and Paul Westphal.
During his playing days — nine seasons in Seattle and five in Milwaukee — Sikma was a long-and-lean presence in the middle. The 6-foot-11 Sikma’s signature behind-the-head jumper was nearly impossible to block and helped him average 16.8 points during his career with the Sonics, who retired his jersey in 1992. He’s also the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder.
But on this night, Sikma was the Sonics’ biggest cheerleader.