First two responses upon hearing that Isaiah Thomas would be playing in the NBA All-Star Game this weekend.
One: How wonderful that one of the most charismatic, likable and dedicated athletes ever produced around the Tacoma area is getting the recognition he deserves as a 5-9 mite who somehow became a star in a league of giants.
Two: The N … B … what?
Oh, yeah, the NBA. That’s right, pro basketball. As it turns out, the association continues to operate without our participation.
This jogs the memory, though.
Weren’t we supposed to have a team by now?
Seems like I remember a lot of headlines and hubbub, and artists’ renderings of arenas and timetable projections for both the NBA and NHL.
There was that hedge-fund billionaire, swooping in like The Sonic Avenger to snare an NBA franchise for Seattle and erect a sparkling SoDo arena.
Wasn’t it all supposed to come together once the demonic obstructionist, David Stern, was replaced as NBA commissioner?
But Sacramento didn’t loosen its grip on the coveted Kings, the NHL component of the equation hasn’t borne fruit, and here we are wondering what happened to all that momentum.
False starts and dead ends are common in these things. It’s taken more than 20 years to get the NFL back to Los Angeles.
But it’s been eight years since the Sonics were transplanted to Oklahoma City. Five years since we first heard about investor Chris Hansen and his group buying up property. Four years since the politicians started kicking it around, and three years since the Sacramento relocation fell apart.
Supposedly, meetings on the matter are forthcoming. And kudos to the durable core of Sonics/NBA supporters who continue to keep the topic stirred.
But I fear that the repeated dashing of promising hopes creates some emotional fatigue among many supporters. And even if we’re climbing up out of the recessionary trough, and even if the private investors carry the burden, will the buyers of tickets and suites make it work again in Seattle?
Does time heal fans’ hearts?
There are reminders, though. When the Sonics were good and competitive, it all fueled itself. But even when they weren’t competitive, there were those nights when the visiting teams provided great entertainment, when those special players came to town to make the event memorable.
This season, Kobe Bryant would have swung through on his retirement tour. The historic Warriors would have been on display.
And even the Celtics, with Isaiah Thomas, would have been a compelling draw.
Thomas, from Curtis High and the University of Washington, earned his first All-Star spot by averaging 21.5 points and 6.6 assists a game. He just turned 27, but is in his fifth NBA season.
His exposure in the All-Star Game could elevate his recognition level to national prominence. He deserves it. A lifelong underdog, a doer in the face of doubters, Thomas should be a megastar soon.
I’ve seen him in a gym filled with basketball campers, sharing his skills with kids, and they’re mesmerized by him. He is someone they can look up to — even if they’re already eye-to-eye with him.
A spectacular ballhandler and playmaker, Thomas plays with an infectious joy. And although a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter than many opponents, he often darts into the lane with a shockingly conspicuous fearlessness.
He’s become one of those guys in the league who is a must-see competitor.
At least in those towns that still have teams.