The Seattle Supersonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008. Since then, Key Arena has remained without NBA action. And with each passing season, basketball fans in the Pacific Northwest long more and more for the best basketball players in the world to return in the Emerald City.
That hunger is satisfied — at least in part — by the Seattle Pro-Am Basketball League’s opening night, hosted by Los Angeles Clippers guard and Seattle native Jamal Crawford.
Every year, Crawford brings other acclaimed basketball stars from the Pacific Northwest back to Seattle. They compete in a game that acts as a celebration of Seattle basketball history and heritage. All proceeds from the event and the Seattle Pro-Am Basketball League go to the Jamal Crawford Foundation.
The 2015 opener took place last week. Crawford brought many NBA stars to Key Arena, including Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey, Wizards guard Martell Webster, Kelly Olynyk and Isiah Thomas from the Celtics, Justin Holliday from the Hawks, and Spencer Hawes from the Hornets.
With the exception of Crawford, every player went to college in the state of Washington.
The coaches of the teams were some of the biggest basketball names in Seattle. Team Brand Black was coached by the Sonics’ 1990s dynamic, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Coaching Team Ball Is Life was legendary Sonics coach Lenny Wilkins.
All three earned standing ovations from the packed Key Arena crowd.
Players showcased their skills, throwing up ally-oops and throwing down dunks, as well as showing off incredible ball handling and monster blocks. The action didn’t slow down all game long.
At the end of the third quarter, Crawford took the mic to give a speech on what makes Seattle basketball special: the passionate fans. Later, with 5:30 to go in the fourth, he decided to tie game at 100, erasing his Brand Black team’s 20-point lead to give the fans an entertaining and exciting finish.
And an exciting finish it was. Ball Is Life took the game after Brand Black tossed a missed buzzer-beater.
The game was a celebration of Seattle’s basketball past, but it was also a showcase for its (hopeful) future.
Chris Hansen was sitting courtside for the game. Hansen is the main investor in a $200 million proposal for a combined NBA/NHL arena to be built in downtown Seattle. The arena deal requires an NBA franchise to be secured in Seattle before construction can begin.
But after an exciting night of NBA-caliber action, Seattle’s basketball scene went quiet once more. NBA stars left. College stars went home. Legends returned to living their lives. And fans went back to dreaming of the day when NBA action returns to the Emerald City for good.
Photos: Neil Enns/Seattle Storm