Zombie Sonics fans throw support to Heat
June, 20, 2012
By D'Arcy Maine | ESPN.com
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesSonics fan Colin Baxter, executive director of "SonicsGate," traveled to Miami to represent Seattle.MIAMI -- If you watched Game 4 of the NBA Finals, you may have noticed some interesting-looking fans sitting directly behind the Thunder bench.
Dressed as zombies and wearing SuperSonics jerseys, Jason Reid and Colin Baxter fiercely cheered on the Heat from choice seats at AmericanAirlines Arena. Reid and Baxter also happen to be the director and executive producer, respectively, of the 2009 critically acclaimed documentary “SonicsGate,” which examined the team’s departure from Seattle.
Like ghosts of Christmas past, Reid and Baxter provided a constant reminder of the Thunder’s ugly exit from the Evergreen State. They held signs and shouted their support for the Heat while sitting just a few feet from the Oklahoma City bench.
ESPN Playbook spoke with the dedicated duo after Tuesday’s game to discuss their extreme loyalty and devotion to the Sonics.
Playbook: How did you come up with this idea?
Jason Reid: We’ve actually had this idea for a couple of years. We always said if the Thunder ever make the NBA Finals, we were going to go and we were going to do it and we were going to go big. … We felt like we needed to make a stand against what happened in Seattle, prove that we have the best basketball fans in the world and help the Heat win a championship.
How much did those prime tickets cost you?
Colin Baxter: $3,500 … each.
Reid: That’s not counting the service charges. They were $3,900 after that. We were able to get them on StubHub and get basically the exact seats we wanted.
How much did this whole trip cost you when you factor in hotel, airfare and other expenses?
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesBaxter poses with other Sonics fans and a Heat supporter prior to Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Reid: Probably at least 10 grand.
Baxter: We’re not super-rich though. We’re just diehard fans.
Reid: We opened a credit card to pay for this trip. That’s how diehard we are. We’re not going to let this go until the NBA returns to Seattle. Period.
Baxter: It’s not about the dollars and cents. It’s about fan passion. This is a once-and-a-lifetime opportunity. This would have been our team, and we would have done it no matter what. This isn’t out of spite or bitterness. We would have been here supporting our team if they still played in Seattle. However, things got a little weird. We don’t really know the appropriate way to act. They don’t have a fan playbook. There isn’t a rule for what to do when your team gets stolen. And we do feel like it was stolen.
Are you representative of a larger group of Seattle fans?
Baxter: I would never dress up in this makeup if it wasn’t for this big wave behind us. It’s for the 206 [area code], it’s for Washington state. Not only that, it’s for all the fans all over the world.
Reid: Every city that’s lost a team can identify what we’re going through right now. What we did today was our stand. It was the best that we could do given the system that we’re in.
What was the reaction from the arena staff and other fans?
Reid: Our signs were taken away with no explanation. We asked them to explain why. We checked in advance to make sure they were OK.
Baxter: I have an idea, though. On one side, the sign says “Beat OKC,” but once you flip it over it becomes a political statement [“Bring back our Seattle Supersonics”] and they had every right to take our signs away. We know this game wasn’t about our political statement, and we respect that.
Reid: But the thing is, they took away our custom-made signs, so we held up Sonics flags the whole second half. So in doing so we were supporting the NBA and their products. The whole point is we want the NBA back in our market. We want to buy the products. Would we spend $10,000 to come down here and take a stand if we didn’t want David Stern to issue a team to Seattle? … Yes, we’re rooting against OKC, but it’s not a vindictive thing against the city or the fans. We respect them as an NBA city.
Baxter: We’re actually proud of them. The fans killed it.
Reid: We were proud to see so many OKC fans here tonight. But the fact of the matter is, it didn’t have to be the Sonics.
Does it make it harder to actively root against a team as likable as the Thunder?
Reid: What makes it hard is that we drafted Kevin Durant, and he was the rookie of the year in Seattle. We drafted Russell Westbrook nine days before the team relocated. Those draft picks were built on the backs of losing Sonics teams that we supported, through thick and thin. Even when they were 20-62, the worst season in franchise history.
Did you get any reaction or comments from the Thunder bench or anyone associated with the team?
Baxter: There was an usher who was great to us, and we asked him to let us know if we were getting out of control. After our signs got taken away, he told us the Thunder owner was really mad we were there. No one told us officially, but he was apparently very disturbed by our presence. If anything they should be stoked. We paid a high premium to be here!
D'Arcy Maine/ESPNBaxter and fellow Sonics fan Jason Reid paid nearly $4,000 each for tickets behind the Thunder bench.
Baxter: We were right in front of Kevin Durant’s mom. She didn’t really like our signs. We talked to her for a bit. She’s a mom. She’s there supporting her son. We don’t blame her for that.
Reid: We have nothing against the OKC players. In fact, we’ll be supporting Durant and Westbrook on Team USA. In fact, I’m probably going to buy a Durant USA jersey. But we won’t support the Oklahoma City Thunder as long as Clay Bennett owns the team, because he lied to us and took away our beloved team. They moved the one thing I loved the most, and we’re going to take a stand until the NBA comes back.
What do you hope you accomplished tonight by being here?
Baxter: It really comes down to media. We wanted to show that Sonics fans are still around. What lights our fire is when we see these stats that say things like “this is the second time in franchise history” and they never even mention Seattle. They use our stats that come from our ticket money and our support, our family’s hugs and cries and cheers -- and just credit it all to Oklahoma City. I grew up with this team. My family bonded over this team. Don’t just take that all away from us.
Reid: Seattle supported this franchise for 41 years. When they go and attribute those statistics to OKC, that’s like a gut punch to Seattle fans.
Baxter: We just want people to know, everything worked in Seattle, and still will. We just weren’t given a fighting chance.