The Seattle Supersonics move to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder left a black eye for many NBA fans in Seattle and there are many individuals to blame for the team’s relocation.
Former Sonics legend Gary Payton has his finger pointed squarely at former-Sonics owner Howard Schultz for the reason why the team ultimately left the Emerald City:
In an interview with the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn, Payton recaps his personal views on the Starbucks mogul in regards to the regime change from Barry Ackerley and his contract discussions that ultimately caused him to be traded to the Bucks:
“He just messed up our whole [franchise] and people did leave Seattle alone when he owned the team,” said Payton. “That’s why he had to sell it again, because he was struggling. He made a lot of silly moves and the first silly move was getting rid of me.”
“I wasn’t asking for a lot; I never asked for a new contract [before my previous one expired],” Payton said about his final season in Seattle. “All I asked was whether we were going to get an extension [in the offseason] and [Schultz] made it seem like, ‘I don’t care about you no more, you’re nothing.’ So, that’s what happened. He [saw] that wasn’t the right way and the whole franchise went downhill from there.
“The Ackerleys ran the team like a family. When we had problems, they would call us in and talk to us. They would call us in and ask us what’s the problem, not try to trade you and tell you, ‘No, you don’t need a contract.’ You see where [Schultz’s style] got us, leading to another owner moving the team. And we knew he would move it to Oklahoma, we knew that. The Schultz group should have known that, too. We were the longest-standing team in Seattle and we let a guy just come in here and take it.”