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Friday, 4 July 2008

Seattle SuperSonics--Sydney Kings: we understand

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As the saga continued, the fans got more and more edgy. People who had been following this team for as long as they could remember were feeling a tension they had never thought they would feel about a sporting team -- the potential that someone may take that team away from them and that they would never see it again.

Of course, these fans had stomached their fair share of gut-wrenching moments in the past. They had endured countless seasons of disappointments with rosters that promised so much more. They had also experienced their moments in the spotlight with success at the highest level that the league provided.

After pouring so many anxious moments over the years into this team -- their team -- the moment they had dreaded arrived. There were no more lifelines left, no more last-second ditches available to save the beloved sports franchise. That date in mid-2008 had arrived and the Sydney Kings were no longer a basketball team.

As the fans of Seattle tried every avenue possible to cling to their basketball team, the SuperSonics, the fans of a team on the other side of the world felt their pain. The Sydney Kings had been arguably the most successful team in Australia's National Basketball League during the last decade. They were the first team to win three consecutive championships and appeared in the NBL Finals five times in the past ten years.

Ironically enough, these two teams that saw their death knell in the same week once shared a name. The Sydney Supersonics were merged with the West Sydney Westars 20 years ago to form the franchise that has dissolved today. It is hard to think that this same team saw a 2007/08 season where they achieved the most wins ever in an NBL season, with a 27-3 record and a grand final appearance. This proved the sad fact that on-court success does not always match off-court operations.

Whilst the team, led by all-time great coach Brian Goorjian, was working diligently to do the best job possible between the on the hardwood, they hid a financial anguish that they did not deserve to endure. Owner Tim Johnston, whose fuel-additive company Firepower is in a state of disrepair, bought the team under a flurry of big promises. Those promises soon turned into failure to make salary and pension payments to players and tough times for their families.

After serving a series of default notices on the Kings owner, in an attempt to protect the team's players, the NBL was left with no option but to revoke the Sydney Kings' licence.

This news spawned a series of eleventh-hour attempts to bring together ownership syndicates in order to purchase the team and revive it for the upcoming 2008/09 season. Former players from the team's glory days, including former Villanova star Dwayne McClain, came to the fore. The former long-time owner of the Kings, Mike Wrublewski made his attempts to garner support. Even loyal Sydney Kings Fan Club supporters formed their own syndicate to add to the riches available for resurrection of the club. Furthermore there was rumour of the LA Lakers taking interest in purchasing the debt-stricken club.

In the end however, it was all for nought. The two major bids which were evaluated by the NBL were either rejected or fell over due to lack of backing. Anguished fans were left with no option but to vent their frustration on internet message boards and try to imagine a world without their team, the Sydney Kings. The NBL will continue next season. There will be 11 teams, as opposed to 2007/08's 13 teams, as the Brisbane Bullets faced a similar fate to the Kings.

Fans of the Seattle SuperSonics: you will never forget your team. You will never give up supporting them. Sydney Kings fans feel the same way. Your team may be physically gone, but the memories remain. Every time you pull out that Xavier McDaniel jersey, watch highlights of Payton to Kemp on youtube or remember the championship glory days of Sikma, the Sonics will be there with you. Meanwhile, there will be a bunch of your brethren on the other side of the world who will be remembering the Finals 4th-quarter explosion of Ebi Ere, the hangtime of Leon Trimmingham, the throwdowns from James Smith and Kendrick Johnson and the long-range bombs from Shane "the Hammer" Heal.

The Clay Bennetts and Tim Johnstons of this world may take our teams away in one way or another, but whilst there are enough passionate fans, a team will resurface. Public support shows that there is a market for that team to re-exist in its previous market. Hope is not lost -- although it does feel like it at times.

1 comment:

Nic Faivre said...

I totally agree. They have taken away 2 very successful teams. This is more than about money - its about passion and emotion. Supporters have expressed their anguish - to no avail.
The Kings are currently reinventing themselves as the Sydney Spirit. I just wonder if they understand the fans ... we don't want 'new', we want our history, our colours, our team.

- Nic Faivre
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