For a long time, the Seattle Supersonics were one of the most respected franchises in all of professional basketball. They had a diehard fanbase, a plethora of legendary numbers hanging in their rafters, and even a championship to their name, something a surprising number of teams can't claim (and one of the best, most underrated color schemes in American sports). However, that all changed in the summer of 2008, when the franchise packed up and moved southeast to Oklahoma City, taking on the moniker of the Thunder and leaving the Supersonics behind to become a vaunted piece of basketball history.
Now, the city of Seattle is mostly used as leverage by franchises trying to score a new arena from their current city (looking at you, Sacramento Kings, Milwaukee Bucks and, soon, Los Angeles Clippers), much like what Los Angeles was, and still kinda is, to the NFL for many years. Luckily, the Thunder franchise hasn't gone to waste, as the Oklahoma City-based club is considered one of the preeminent superpowers in professional hoops (or at least it was until Kevin Durant left). Armed with college coaching legend Billy Donovan stalking the sidelines and real life Avenger Russell Westbrook running the point, the Thunder are well suited to continue racking up wins.
Without further ado, this list is a testament to the great players who have called Seattle or Oklahoma City home, memorializing the great moments, stellar highlights, and thousands of buckets they've given NBA fans all over the world.
29 James Harden
Today, James Harden is a fairly polarizing individual. The Houston Rocket's megastar is lauded for his offensive workload and inhuman ability to draw fouls, but derided for his, at times, utter lack of defense and diva attitude. However, before coming to Houston, he was the sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder, providing the bench spark that helped power the young team to the 2012 Finals. Drafted in 2009 by OKC (How lucky can one team get in the draft? Kevin Durant in 2007, Russell Westbrook in 2008, and Harden in 2009? Sam Presti may have made a Faustian bargain), Harden spent his whole three season career coming in the mid-west coming off the bench, averaging 12.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in limited minutes. His best season, the 2011-2012 season, he averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists, and won the Sixth Man of the Year award. Unfortunately for the Thunder, Harden left the following summer, leaving the team over a minute amount of money.
27 Rashard Lewis
Rashard Lewis came into the league straight out of high school and although players like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett had proven that prep-to-pro players could be great, he fell all the way into the second round, stuck waiting in the Green Room on draft night long after everyone else had left. He was finally drafted by the Supersonics thirty-first overall and he quickly set out to prove his detractors wrong. Steadily earning more minutes over his first two year in the league, he officially broke out his third season, averaging 14.8 points and 6.9 rebounds a game. in 2003, he became the Robin to Ray Allen's Batman, forming a high octane, high scoring duo that instantly made the Supersonics into contenders. Surprisingly, he didn't make an All-Star team his best season, when he averaged 22.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists a game in 2006-2007. After nine seasons with the 'Sonics, Lewis left for a nine figure deal with the Orlando Magic.
25 Fred Brown
In terms of Seattle basketball, Fred Brown is royalty. The only man on this list to have spent his entire career with the Supersonics, Fred Brown holds many franchise records, including: most points in a single game (58), most points in a playoff game (45), and most steals in a game (10). He's also the franchise's second all-time leading scorer, behind Gary Payton. Drafted sixth overall in 1971, Brown became a consistent source of offense for the brand new franchise, learning the game alongside Lenny Wilkens. When Wilkens left in 1972, Brown took over as the team's primary heater, having his best season, and sole All-Star appearance, in 1975-1976, when he averaged 23.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists a game. On his career, he averaged 14.6 points, 3.3 assists, and 2.7 rebounds a game. He served as the captain of the Supersonic's 1979 championship squad. The 'Sonics retired his #32 in 1986.
23 Serge Ibaka
Serge Ibaka's career has taken a confusing turn recently, and it's not exactly his fault. Ibaka began his career as a defensive specialist, roving the paint for blocks and rebounds, making life easier for OKC's incumbent megastars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In his seven season stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Ibaka averaged 11.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks a game. He was a feared defender and efficient scoring at the rim, even if he didn't score much. He used his abilities to help the Thunder reach the Finals in 2012, averaging 3 blocks a game in the Playoffs. However, as he expanded his offensive repertoire, OKC's coaches had him start stretching the floor, which brought his scoring totals to new highs, but his field goal percentage went down, taking with it his defensive prowess and overall efficiency. His tenure with the Thunder ended this past summer, as he was traded to the Orlando Magic for a handful of young player.
21 Detlef Schrempf
Detlef Schrempf is a great story of a player who showed potential on the bench, then shined when given the playing time to showcase his talents (He also has a pretty cool name). He was one of the most competent sixth men in NBA history when he played in Indiana, capable of keeping the team afloat off the bench, and became an All-Star when he finally converted to a full time starter in Seattle. Schrempf was traded to Seattle in 1992 and quickly became the third best player as part of a nuclear featuring Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. While the Glove and Reign Man brought down the house, Schrempf was the team's three point sniper, averaging .414% from behind the arc his six seasons in the Northwest, along with 16.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4 assists a game. He helped the 'Sonics win 65 games in 1995-1996 and reach the Finals the same year, where they lost in six games to a very irrate GOAT. After his playing career, he appeared in several episodes of Parks and Recreation, which scientifically makes him cooler than almost everyone on this list.
19 Gus Williams
Gus Williams had one of the quickest, steepest career arcs of anyone on this list, but his success, which was almost entirely encapsulated in his tenure with the Supersonics, helped him capture an NBA championship. Drafted in the second round by the Golden State Warriors in 1975, Williams was underused by the Warriors and didn't see enough court time in his two season stay in the Bay Area. However, when he signed with Supersonics in 1977, his usage and box scores shot up. In his six seasons in the Northwest, Williams averaged 20.3 points (double his average in Golden State), 6 assists and 3 rebounds a game, maintaining a career as a good-to-great point guard (Think Mike Conley) before bursting out as an All-Star and All-NBA candidate in the early 80's. He was a major part of Seattle's lone championship win, averaging 26.7 points in 1979 Playoffs. The 'Sonics retired his #1 in 2004.
17 Dennis Johnson
One of the depressing things about sports is that they tend to focus solely on the superstars, so a lot of very good, but not great, players slip through the cracks of history. That description fits Dennis Johnson to a tee. Despite being a member of three championship squads, including one of the greatest teams of all time in the 1985-1986 Boston Celtics, Johnson has become a criminally underrated figure in basketball history. Drafted in the second round by the Supesonics in 1976, Johnson played the first four years of his career in Seattle, where he averaged 14.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3 assists a game, good for two All-Star games, and played masterful defense the entire time. He was named the MVP of the 1979 Finals over Jack Sikma, Gus Williams, and Fred Brown, averaging 20.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in the Playoffs. He was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1980, where he would play the best individual ball of his career.
15 Lenny Wilkens
Lenny Wilkens is without a doubt the best player-turned-coach in NBA history (he won 1,332 games as coach, the second most all time) and he's also a member of the exclusive fraternity of NBA player-coaches, along with legends like Bill Russell and Dave DeBusschere (and LeBron James! Jokes! Kinda!). The Seattle Supersonics were formed in 1967. The next year, Wilkens, already an established All-Star at the time, arrived via trade, giving the franchise its first real star. In 1969, he took over as full time player-coach, until his departure in 1972. As the literal and figurative leader of the team, Wilkens did his best to elevate the fledgling club, improving their record every year and bringing along superstar-in-waiting Spencer Haywood. He continued to play at a high level, averaging 19.5 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds a game, making three All-Star games. After retiring, Wilkens would become the Supersonics' full time coach (from 1977-1985), bringing the club to their only championship in 1979. The 'Sonics retired his #19 in 1979.
13 Ray Allen
Everyone knows Ray Allen. He's the best three point shooter in NBA history (at the moment, anyway), he hit one of the most incredible shots ever in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals (Seriously, it was so good, the Heat should retire a .gif of it), and he played a character named Jesus Shuttlesworth in "He Got Game." Allen hopped teams a few times in his career, playing his first six and a half seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, before being shipped to the Supersonics for Gary Payton. Allen played four and a half seasons in Seattle, giving the club his best years, averaging 24.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists a game, while shooting .409% from behind the arc. Allen had a modicum of success in Seattle, setting a number of personal records, but the team was never strong enough to climb past the Conference Semifinals. In 2007, he was traded to the Boston Celtics, where he would team up with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to win a championship in 2008.
11 Spencer Haywood
Spencer Haywood is a somewhat tragic figure in NBA history. Today, he's a Basketball Hall of Famer, but when he played, he was one of the most depressing examples of fame and fortune affecting a talented young man that the league has ever seen. Struggles with cocaine addiction caused his talents to steeply decline before he ever hit his prime, which likely would have been ridiculous, based on his early years. Haywood played his rookie season in ABA (where he averaged 30 points and 19.5 rebounds a game, winning the league MVP award), but entered the NBA in 1970 and joined the Seattle Supersonics. He played the first five seasons of his NBA career in the Northwest, averaging 24.9 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks a game and making four straight All-Star teams and a number of All-NBA teams. He was even the leader of the first ever Supersonics team to make the Playoffs. The 'Sonics retired his #24 in 2007.
9 Shawn Kemp
Before the Los Angeles Clippers, mainly Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan created Lob City to dunk on and demoralize the entire NBA, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton brought down holy basketball fire as members of the Seattle Supersonics in the 90s. His tandem with Payton made the Supersonics one of the premiere, and most successful, teams in the NBA. Lovingly referred to as Reign Man, Kemp was one of the most explosive, well rounded players to every grace the hardwood, serving as a prototype for today's jack-of-all-trade big men, and also one of the worst examples of wasted talent in NBA history. In eight seasons in Seattle, he averaged 16.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.5 blocks a game, shooting .521% and posterizing fools on a nightly basis. Later in his career, he even started experimenting with three point shooting and wasn't awful at it.
7 Jack Sikma
Remember that spiel about how Dennis Johnson is criminally underrated as a player because he wasn't a sueprstar? Jack Sikma is another one of those players. Sikma spent much of his career as a perennial All-Star, but was never All-NBA caliber, so he spent much of his best years in the shadow of mega-stars like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. During his nine seasons in Seattle, he was largely the team's best player and defensive anchor, averaging 15.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1 steal a game. Alongside Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson, and coaching legend Lenny Wilkens, Sikma led the Supersonics to their only NBA championship, defeating the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) in five games in the 1979 Finals, averaging 14.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.4 blocks in the Playoffs. The 'Sonics retired his #43 in 1992.
5 Russell Westbrook
It's safe to say that Russell Westbrook is one of the most popular men in the NBA today. His electric, hyperactive style of play pops crowds all over the country, he dunks with such intensity that you genuinely worry about the structural integrity of the arena, and he does those Mountain Dew commercials that look like something Hunter S. Thompson would dream up while mainlining LSD. In his eight seasons with the Thunder, he's proven himself to be one of the most offensively devastating yet surprisingly balanced superstar guards in the NBA. He has career averages of 21.5 points, 7.6 assists, and 5.6 rebounds a game. In recent years, his versatility has shown brighter than ever, racking up triple-doubles easier than some players score points. Last season alone, he averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.7 steals a game, good for a grand total of sixteen triple-doubles.
3 Kevin Durant
If you listen very closely, you can hear the fury emanate from Oklahoma City (but to be fair, that's mostly just the sound of Russell Westbrook powering up to Super Saiyan 4) and gleeful, spiteful cackling coming from the Pacific Northwest. Kevin Durant is currently sitting in the Iron Throne of the Alpha Villain of the NBA, but that does nothing to negate his incredible talents. In his nine year tenure with the Thunder, KD proved himself to be a once-in-a-generation talent, one of the most potent and versatile scorers in NBA history. A four time scoring champion, KD has never averaged less than 20 points in a season and has career shooting splits of .483/.380/.882. He's also a member of the ultra-prestigious 50-40-90 club, finishing the 2012-2013 with averages of .510/.416/.905, while scoring 28.1 points a game. Alongside Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Durant led the Thunder to their only Finals berth in 2012, where they lost to LeBron James' Super-Miami Heat.
1 Gary Payton
In the Pantheon of NBA legends, Gary Payton has many shrines dedicated to him. He's the greatest Seattle Supersonic by a mile, he's in contention with Walt Frazier as the best defensive point guard of all time, and he very well may be the most reviled trash talker to ever play a professional sport. The Glove played in Seattle for 13 seasons, in which he only missed five games (!!!), assembling one of the most tremendous defensive resumes in hoops history. He's one of four players to have made 9 NBA All-Defensive First Teams (along with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett) and the only point guard to ever be named Defensive Player of the Year, the only non-center to have won the award between 1991-2003 and the only non-Dikembe Mutombo to win the award between 1994-1998. Alongside Shawn Kemp, he led the 'Sonics to the 1996 Finals, where they were unfortunately run down by Michael Jordan and 72-win Chicago Bulls in six games.
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