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How the Sonics became the Thunder: A timeline

A step-by-step look at the nearly two-year process that led to the Seattle SuperSonics' move to Oklahoma City, where the team was renamed the Thunder.

June 16, 2012|By Sam Farmer
  • Seattle SuperSonics' fan Jason Reid reacts after getting his passes at the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Seattle to attend the city's trial against the team back in June 2008.
Seattle SuperSonics' fan Jason Reid reacts after getting his passes… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

Sonic boom

Oct. 25, 2006: NBA approves Howard Schultz's sale of the SuperSonics and Seattle Storm to an Oklahoma City group led by businessman Clay Bennett for $350 million.

Feb. 13, 2007: Bennett asks for at least $300 million in taxpayer money for a proposed $530-million basketball area in Renton, south of Seattle. The idea never gets traction.

Aug. 12, 2007: Billionaire Aubrey McClendon, co-owner of the Sonics, tells an Oklahoma business newspaper, "We didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle. We hoped to come here." Ten days later, the NBA fines McClendon $250,000 for the comments.

Sept. 20, 2007: Bennett files papers to begin an arbitration process to get out of the final two years of the lease at Seattle's Key Arena.

Nov. 8, 2007: NBA Commissioner David Stern tells reporters in Oklahoma City that if the Sonics leave Seattle, the league probably would never return there.

Jan. 8, 2008: An ownership group composed of four Seattle businesswomen buys the WNBA's Storm from Bennett's group.

Feb. 11, 2008: Bennett offers the city of Seattle $26.5 million if it lets the Sonics out of the final two years of their lease. The city declines.

April 9, 2008: Despite publicly insisting he wants to keep the Sonics in the Pacific Northwest, Bennett's actions say otherwise. An email dated April 17, 2007, surfaces and details a conversation between Sonics owners Bennett and Tom Ward. Ward writes: "Is there any way to move here for next season or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?" Bennett replies: "I am a man possessed! We do everything we can. Thanks for hanging with me boys, the game is getting started!"

April 13, 2008: The Sonics play what would prove to be their last game in Seattle, a 99-95 victory over Dallas.

April 18, 2008: NBA owners approve relocating the Sonics to Oklahoma City by a 28-2 vote, with only Dallas' Mark Cuban and Portland's Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, voting against it.

April 23, 2008: Schultz files suit to rescind his sale of the Sonics to Bennett, saying Bennett was dishonest in his promise to keep the team in Seattle. Fans view Schultz's suit as a too-little, too-late way of trying to save face. Ultimately, Schultz quietly drops it.

June 15, 2008: An estimated 3,000 fans attend a raucous "Save Our Sonics" rally outside the federal courthouse in Seattle where U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman presides over a trial to determine whether the Sonics can leave immediately or must finish the two years of their lease.

June 16, 2008: Bennett, on the witness stand and under oath, says his "man possessed" comment was in reference to being a man possessed to find a solution in Seattle. He predicts the Sonics will lose $60 million if they are forced to stay two more years.

June 20, 2008: The trial between the city and the Sonics ends after six days in the courtroom.

July 2, 2008: Mere hours before Pechman is scheduled to render her verdict, Bennett and Greg Nickels, then mayor of Seattle, call simultaneous news conferences to announce a settlement. The Sonics are allowed to leave immediately in exchange for a $45-million payment and no promise of a replacement team. "We made it," Bennett said at his news conference in Oklahoma City. "Congratulations."

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