Like many others, I've been cheering for whatever team plays Miami ever since LeBron James joined the Heat. I hate that he attempted to win an NBA championship overnight by colluding with superstars to make a dream team. But more than that, I hated LeBron James for everything he did to the city of Cleveland. Yes, he was a free agent and a grown man who had the right to explore his options, but exploring free agency doesn't include two years of pretending you might stay in Cleveland, quitting on your team in the playoffs, or creating a TV special called "The Decision" to torture a city that already had "The Fumble," "The Drive," and "The Shot" as heartbreaks to look back on.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are an easy team to root for. They're as electrifying as the Heat, and when they're playing at home you can feel the energy of their fans through the television screen. They're a young, talented, unselfish team that's been built over the last five years with players acquired through intelligent draft moves, crafty trades, and savvy free agent pickups.
Add to that the fact that as popular as it is to hate LeBron James, it's just as popular to love Kevin Durant. In an era when every superstar seems to be holding their teams hostage to get as much money as they can while getting traded to the team they want to play for (see: Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, LeBron James, etc.), Kevin Durant showed loyalty by re-signing with the Thunder when there was still a year left on his contract.
The Thunder are the Good to Miami's Evil, which makes it easy to forget that they were the Seattle SuperSonics just four years ago.
All of this has many calling OKC the Anti-Heat: a franchise that was built the way a franchise is supposed to be built. The team that would prove to LeBron and the Heat that there's no such thing as a shortcut. The Thunder are the Good to Miami's Evil. It's a great story, which makes it easy to forget that the Oklahoma City Thunder were the Seattle SuperSonics just four years ago.
Up until last week, I assumed the SuperSonics left Seattle in 2008 because their fan base dwindled after several seasons of mediocrity (I don't know why I thought that, I guess I wasn't paying attention much whenever they would talk about it on ESPN). It was sports business news about a city that wasn't Buffalo, so it became like the Steroid Scandal or NASCAR; when it came up on SportsCenter, I changed the channel. The fact that they were moving to Oklahoma City, a town that proved it could support an NBA team when it provided a home for the New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina, I think just furthered that narrative in my mind.
So I started reading more this week about how and why the Seattle SuperSonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's too long to go into intimate details here, but it was basically caused by what all bad things are caused by: ego, money and politics. Here's a brief summary here's a trailer for a documentary about the shadiness of the move; and here's what Bill Simmons and Seattle fans had to say about the relocation at the time. Long story short, it began to dawn on me that I may have been rooting for the biggest villain in the league this whole time.
So who should be most pissed off about this NBA Finals match up — Cleveland, a city whose hometown hero turned his back on them, or Seattle, a team that many believe was "hijacked" from its fans?
I tried to get the opinion of as many people as I could from both cities and people that had no ties to either region. I had no luck finding anyone in Seattle, but all of the neutral parties I talked to believe that Seattle should be angrier because Cleveland still has a team to support. However, every person from Cleveland that I talked to mentioned the fact that the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl five years after leaving Cleveland in 1995, so they know EXACTLY what Seattle is going through right now. Another Cleveland native joked that Cleveland has the more passionate fan base and that the only time people remember that the SuperSonics even existed is when rappers need something to rhyme with "chronic."
If we're judging how angry these cities should be based solely on these two incidents then yes, of course Seattle gets the edge. They should be angry that Oklahoma City might be getting the parade that the Emerald City has been waiting for since 1979, and they should be really angry that the rest of America hopes it happens. But can we ignore the fact that Cleveland has already had to deal with what Seattle is trying to avoid, and now hopes their spirit can remain intact for another year?
Both cities are pissed and have every right to be, but the fact is it's easier to root against a player you see on the court than the owner of a team most people couldn't pick out of a lineup. It wasn't Durant or Westbrook or Ibaka who abandoned Seattle, it was an old white guy in a suit. It's much easier for Cleveland and the rest of America to place their rage when the man responsible for it wears a black jersey with the number 6 on it.
Never before have 2 cities whose teams aren't even competing been so emotionally invested in a playoff series. It's the match-up everyone wanted and it's going to be exciting to watch. It's just too bad that whatever happens, the bad guy wins.
Chris Burns is a comedian, writer and producer based in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter @chrisburns to get show updates and weird jokes
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Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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