Tuesday, October 9, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 8: Sonicsgate - Requiem For A Team

It's the start of a new week for my documentary watching.  It's also holiday Monday here in Canada (Happy Thanksgiving).  So what did I do?  Procrastinate until later in the evening to watch tonight's film.

I guess I should have checked the length of tonight's flick beforehand.  A near two-hour epic was ahead of me.  Yikes.

But I powered through it and actually it didn't put me to sleep.

Tonight's film - Sonicsgate: Requiem For A Team

Sonicsgate: Requiem For A Team (2009)
120 mins.
Rated: NR (there's just two or three instances of profane language and that's it)

"Exposing the truth behind how Seattle lost the SuperSonics after a heated leagle battle in 2008.  The perfect storm of corporate greed and political impotence formed to rob loyal Seattle sports fans of their oldest professional franchise."  (source: imdb)

Link to the film - I watched it online via Youtube

This documentary was produced by the Seattle SuperSonics Historical Preservation Society.  It was done to both document and explain (albeit very one-sided) the process of events that led to the Seattle SuperSonics being relocated in 2008 to Oklahoma City.  I say one-sided because some of the key players in the events refused to take part in being interviewed for the documentary (big surprise there).

After a quick montage showing some of the key clips, press conferences and decision made that would eventually lead to the relocation, the documentary shoots back to the 1967/68 season - and the birth of the Sonics.  For about the next 20 minutes, we are given a timeline-type look at the Sonics' history.

The early days are ones I wasn't really aware of as I didn't get into the NBA until the 80's.  I didn't realize they went to the NBA Finals two years in a row (in 1978 and 79) and actually won the championship in 1979.

From guys like Lenny Wilkens all the way up to Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, the history is told.  Albeit in a very simple and not overly exciting way.  Super-simple editing and a voiceover that just did not work at all for me, it's clear that this was a lower-budget doc.

While the SuperSonics had some very good success, it also had some hardships.  At times leading to trades.  In 1996 it was Shawn Kemp being traded for Vin Baker.  A sign of things to come.

The film shifts from a "look back in history" to "looking at some of the key players" in the whole Sonicsgate situation.  Howard Schultz was the owner of the Sonics in the early 2000's.  His relationship with then superstar Gary Payton was not a good and in 2003 he was traded for Ray Allen.  Yes....that Ray Allen (I forgot that he played in Seattle).

While the Sonics were trying to maintain a good product on the court, it was hoped that a new arena could be approved off the court.  New fields for the Mariners in 1995 and Seahawks in 1997 (both were 11th hour decisions) left the Sonics ownership group looking for a new place to play as well.

With the struggles of securing a new arena playing out, Schultz decided to sell the team to a group from Oklahoma - led by Clay Bennett (say his name in Seattle....I dare you).  The promise was the team would remain in Seattle.  Talk is cheap though and in just a few short years, those words would be little more than clips in a doc.

Looking for funding for a third time from the city, it's clear that the goal is no longer to get funding, but to fast-track the process to get the team out of Seattle and into Oklahoma City.

It's tough to get fan support at this time as the team was playing their worst basketball in history.  Even though they landed Kevin Durant in the 2007 draft.  There was just a feeling of no hope.

Seattle's mayor gets involved and to some did more harm than good in battling for the team to stay.  Mayor Nickel was adamant that he would have the group from OKC commit to fulfilling their lease agreement in Seattle (they wanted to break the agreement with 2 years remaining on it).

The NBA Board Of Govenors voted overwhelmingly to approve relocation.  Commissioner Stern states that the arena in Seattle is just not capable for sustaining an NBA franchise any longer.  The city won't pay for a new arena....so the NBA will pick up the team and move it.

Court proceedings ensue.  The mayor comes out looking really bad (a good lawyer for the NBA will do that to you).  While all of this is going on, a huge rally forms outside the court.  Thousands of fans.  Too little too late though.

The day of the court ruling and just hours before the decision, the city settles with the ownership group over the final two years of the lease.  Essentially opening the door for the Sonics to leave Seattle - which they did.

The settlement?  Cash.  Was it a good deal?  Not anymore.  What could have been a higher amount ends up to be almost half of what could have been.  Which way would the courts have gone?  Who would have won?  Who knows.  But we will never know now.  What's done is done.

The real kicker in the end is that OKC holds all "shared history" of the franchise.  All the banners won, all of the future retired jerseys and the 1979 championship trophy all belong to Clay Bennett and the ownership group from OKC.  If Seattle ever gets another NBA franchise, they will have no history of the Sonics follow them back.

I mentioned off the top that this was a two-hour doc.  Yes, it's long.  But they do get into some pretty good detail about events that transpire.  They have a decent representation of interviews and even manage to get a couple players (Gary Payton being one of the most notable).  Legendary coach George Karl is also interviewed for the film and that lends a good amount of value to the clips used.

This is clearly not about flash and pizzaz though.  It's about documenting the facts.  And that's basically what this doc does.  It's not fancy, but it'll do.  Does it make the subject a little harder to digest?  I think so.  Corporate greed and grieving fans is never a fun watch, but it's story that should be out there.

It's like a healthy cereal in the morning.  It's not fun to eat...but you eat it - because it's good for you.

Definitely an interesting story and well worth the watch.

3 out of 5

Here are some other reviews I found online for the film...




Next up...Jim Brown: All American


  1. It did seem like a very basic doc. Nothing too fancy. But, not being a big basketball fan, I had pretty much zero knowledge about how Seattle ended up movie to Oklahoma, so I found it very interesting. 3/5!

    1. I liked it even though it was basic. I ha no idea either.

      Gotta think the Seattle fan are still pissed off about the whole debacle.