The memories are still in Seattle. The team, and the playoff hardware it earned back in the Northwest, is now in Oklahoma City. Yeah, it’s an awkward time to be talking about the best playoff memories of Oklahoma City, which has only been in its new city four years, and when its former city is where all that magic happened. I don’t know how many fans of the Sonics have become full backers of the Thunder, but I can’t imagine it’s a majority.
But whether you’re a Sonics fan holding on to the best of times — even if this week, and seeing Clay Bennett four games from a title, represents the worst of them — or a Midwest dweller looking to claim some history as your own, this franchise has great Finals moments to choose from in its three appearances. Thus, here are the top five.
5. GARY PAYTON ROBS MICHAEL JORDAN
If there’s ever a classic play from Payton’s NBA career this is a finalist. Payton not only snakes a steal off of Jordan (in his shooting motion, which is damn tough) but then he dunks on the break and talks smack to finish it off. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Gary Payton.
In case you want more backstory on this matchup, you have to listen to GP himself deliver it.
4. FRED BROWN DELIVERS A 1-0 LEAD
Seattle sharpshooter “Downtown” Freddie Brown had a big series in 1978’s Finals, despite Washington winning in seven games. Brown played the biggest role in Seattle’s Game 1 win in ’78, by scoring 30 points — two years before the NBA brought in the three-point line.
His performance wasn’t an even night of excellence, though. During a frantic last nine minutes he poured in 16 points. After a season where the Sonics had started 5-17, this was a fitting way for the Sonics to finish a game.
3. SHAWN KEMP MUGS SCOTTIE PIPPEN AND DENNIS RODMAN
The Sonics lost Game 2, and would lose Game 3, as well, en route to a six-game loss to Chicago. The Reign Man left his mark on Pippen, though, with this dunk in the United Center.
Kemp had the best player of anyone on Seattle’s roster in the series. He averaged 23.3 points, and 10.0 boards per game, the second-highest averages in those categories of anyone in the series. When the series returned to Seattle, he had this to offer Rodman, whose 14.7 boards per game were only better than Kemp’s. You also have to give Kemp style points for dangling over Rodman.