My favorite team wore green, too. No, the Seattle Supersonics don’t perfectly blend into the St. Patrick’s Day theme — we damn sure aren’t lucky, although the whole situation does make you feel like drinking sometimes — but I’m going to steal Aron’s idea anyway and commemorate the holiday with my 10 favorite Sonics:
1. Gary Payton — He’s not the greatest point guard of all-time, but if I’m putting together the AB All-Stars to play the Space Jam aliens with everything on the line, I want GP in his prime to run the one. You know too well about his defense and the trash-talk, but he was underrated as a scorer and passer. At his peak, Payton was dropping 24 points and nine assists a night.
2. Shawn Kemp — When I first found out there was a way to convert VHS tapes to DVD, the first two things I thought about were my Shaka Zulu movie and my Shawn Kemp: The Reign Man video. I’ve owned no fewer than four Shawn Kemp posters in my life; the last one I left hanging on the wall at Dime when I left New York two years ago. If it’s not there when I get back, there’s gonna be consequences and repercussions.
3. Nate McMillan — He’ll always be known as “Mr. Sonic” in Seattle, even if he wins 10 championships in Portland. Defense, threes, veteran leadership, and one of the last guys to loyally wear short-shorts.
4. Xavier McDaniel — I was never really into comic books growing up, so my favorite super-hero was the X-Man. You know how kids do the “My Dad can beat up your Dad” thing? Even I knew that my Dad couldn’t mess with the X-Man.
5. Hersey Hawkins — Just like you can’t get through a Spurs game without hearing that DeJuan Blair had no ACL’s, it seemed you couldn’t get through a Sonics game without hearing that The Hawk, at 6-3, played center on his high school squad. You could see it in his game, too. Although he was paid to be a sniper from long-range, Hersey was tough and had no problem mixing it up in the paint.
6. Sam Perkins — Never was a ballplayer’s nickname more appropriate than “Big Smooth.” Compared to the guy who ripped it up at UNC and with the Lakers, Sam was basically a fat gunner by the time he got to Seattle, but you couldn’t hate that super-slow release and half-baked demeanor.
7. Detlef Schrempf — Between his four-year run at the University of Washington and a six-year stint with the Sonics, Detlef is a local legend. He was on the other side of 30 by the time he returned to Seattle after playing for the Mavs and Pacers, but he made two All-Star Games with us and was a starter on the ’96 NBA Finals squad.
8. Eddie Johnson & Ricky Pierce (tie) — Automatic jumpers. Different builds, different shooting forms, same results. When Pierce set an NBA record (since broken) for the most consecutive made free throws, it was the first time FT’s seemed interesting to me. When I first saw EJ stick a half-court shot, I spent the next couple of hours launching them in my Mom’s driveway.
9. Ray Allen — For whatever reason, although I’m guessing it was his average-guy personality, Ray was never as beloved in Seattle as guys like GP and Kemp. But you had to love his game and respect the hell out of his work ethic. The best pure scorer I’ve ever seen in a Seattle uniform.
10. Flip Murray — The “throw-in” of the Ray/GP trade got his shot when Ray went down with an ankle injury for a few games, and turned it into what’s gonna be a 10-year-plus NBA career as a hired gun. Flip has been on eight teams and will be getting buckets until he can’t walk anymore.
Honorable mentions — Kevin Durant, Michael Cage, Jeff Green, Dana Barros, Desmond Mason, Dale Ellis.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
1. Ruben Patterson — I’d call him a scumbag to his face if I wasn’t certain he’d kick my ass. Dude didn’t just cheat on his wife with her best friend/their child’s nanny, he raped the woman. A year later, he was arrested for beating his wife.
2. Benoit Benjamin — Too bad Joe Barry Carroll already took the “Joe Barely Cares” nickname. Benoit played basketball with all the enthusiasm of a man who’s been holding his wife’s purse at the mall for three hours. I’ve had kids at Subway make my sandwich with more fire in their belly.
3. Reggie Evans — Sure, he works hard and does the “little things,” but there’s no excuse for intentionally causing pain to another man’s balls on the court.
4. Kendall Gill — Just too much of a pretty boy. And did you see his episode of “Cribs” on MTV? I’m just saying, Gill did NOTHING to dispel the rumors swirling about him.
5. Danny Fortson — One time I asked a beat writer who covered the Sonics what they thought Fortson’s problem was. “He can’t handle success,” the writer told me. Perfect description. Every time Fortson took one step forward, he intentionally took two steps back.