In Seattle we love our sports teams almost as much as coffee

After losing the Sonics, Shawn Kemp and Seattle sports fans have remained very loyal to their teams.
Rod Mar/SI

Here's what most people know about Seattle: it's beautiful and clean and green and it rains too much. We drink coffee and microbrew and get around on our bikes a lot. That's all true. Here's what most people don't know about Seattle: it's a big-time sports town.

If that's news to you, it's understandable. The Sonics left town in 2008 and we're still trying to get another NBA team. The Mariners are giving us hope lately by signing Robinson Cano to all that money; but there have been some rough seasons in baseball. There's no NHL team. I love U-Dub and my son Shawn Jr. is a junior forward on the Huskies basketball team, but it's not the Duke of hoops or the Alabama of football. I don't like it when people say we haven't won a championship in 35 years because I was there when the Storm won the WNBA title twice in the last decade. But there's no question, other cities have been more successful with their teams. A few years back, Sports Illustrated called what was happening in Seattle a "sportspocalypse."

Still, we love to get behind our teams. You see that with the Sounders, which are known to have best fans in the MLS. It takes a special kind of team to bring it out, though. The same way Seattle feels different from other American cities, we like teams that really feel unique from all the others. We like our teams to be play with a certain kind of energy, playing right on the edge without crossing the line. And, of course, if they go out there and win, it's even better.

Which is why the Seahawks have taken over this city. I feel it when I walk around and notice all the "Wilson" and "Lynch" jerseys. I feel it in my restaurant, Oskar's, when customers come in and want to talk football all night. I feel it eight Sundays in the fall when I take my sons to the games at CenturyLink Field. We have season tickets and sit with the fans in section XX and have a great time, rain or shine. (I would say win or lose, but we hardly ever lose at home.)

Not a lot of the Seahawks players are from Seattle but we really feel like this is our team, that they reflect us. It's multicultural. It's fun. It's young. Start with Russell Wilson -- a quarterback, drafted in the third round, who is not even six feet. That's our kind of guy.

The vibe around these Seahawks reminds me a lot of the Sonics teams I played for in the '90s. Like the Seahawks, we were young and athletic and not afraid to let people what we thought about ourselves. We both played in loud arenas downtown, where the fans feel almost like they're part of the action. The Seahawks have Pete Carroll as their coach; we had George Karl. Both are older guys with a young spirit who don't exactly hold back on what they say.

All the way in the upper corner of the U.S., we felt like we never got our full credit from TV and the national media. But, like the Seahawks, we did our thing, and it made the bonds with the fans and the community that much tighter.

The 'Hawks have a talker in Richard Sherman. We had a talker in Gary Payton. But let's be clear about this: Gary is in a different league entirely. Richard is an intelligent guy and -- you sense that 20 seconds after meeting him -- and you have the feeling he's running his mouth to have fun. Gary was a flat-out killing machine who wasn't going to slow down for anyone. A verbal battle between those two? It would not even be close.

In 1996, we went to the Finals and came close to winning the title. I like to say that, "we were one Michael Jordan away" from a championship. Now the 'Hawks are one game from their championship and only Peyton Manning stands in the way.

If the Seahawks can win on Sunday -- I mean, when they win on Sunday -- it will mean so much to the city. It's not just that they're from Seattle. They're of Seattle. They represent us. Of course if they don't win, well, we'll be fine. We still be proud of our city and our coffee and our bikes. And some good will come out of it. One thing you learn here: grey clouds eventually part. They always do.

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