by Slick Watts
Former Seattle SuperSonic

Technically, I was only a Sonic for six seasons but I can tell you from my experience, and from the guys I played with and have known over the years, once you step on the court in front of Seattle fans they make you a Sonic for life. There’s something pretty magical and special about the Seattle fans — it was like that in the 70’s when I played and the guys who came through after me will tell you the same thing.

The fans are why I stayed here in Seattle when I left the NBA, raised my family, put down roots a long way from Rolling Fork, Mississippi where I was born. My kids grew up alongside the kids I was coaching at Franklin and teaching at Brighton. Seattle is where we call home. And because it is home, my family and I have invested so much of our lives in this community. Our foundation, the Watts Foundation, supports youth in need through scholarships to cover out-of-school time activities. And our basketball program reaches thousands of kids each year through clinics, camps and specialized training. On top of all of these activities are the other charitable events, player appearances and key fundraisers we participate in on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.

I’m not listing these things off to show you how great I am — the activities above are what most professional basketball players, former and current, do in their community. Detlef has a robust foundation in the region, Gary and Monique continue to have charitable ties here in the area, and Lenny has been a tireless fundraiser for the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic and other nonprofits over the years. What makes these guys different from the Brandon Roys and Spencer Hawes who are currently playing and are from this area is that those guys I listed — Detlef, Gary, even myself – aren’t home grown. Our ties to this area weren’t forged by being raised here. Our relocation to Seattle was 100% due to the Sonics franchise; our decision to stay connected to this community is largely due to the fans.

See what we’re missing by no longer having a team here? As fans we miss the games, the green and gold, the hunt for another championship. But as a community, we’re missing out on a lot more than that. We’re left without a large and influential entity that can help raise money for key causes, increase awareness about important issues and make a difference in our city and region — particularly with kids.

We have talked a lot during these last few months about transportation and jobs, both of which are important. But somewhere we’ve forgotten to talk about community. About what bringing the Sonics back can do for our city and region, for the young people who look up to professional basketball players and the organizations who serve them.

I hear from kids every day how important it is for the team to come back, how much it will mean to them personally. The excitement I see in their eyes when they talk about the team returning gives me the same feelings I had stepping out onto the hardwood surrounded by green and gold clad Sonics fans. It reminds me why I wanted to be a Sonic — and why I always will be.

— Slick Watts