It was strange, strange night at the Cox Convention Center on Thursday night, with the trio of NBA Commissioner David Stern and Sonics owners Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon sharing the spotlight at the 2007 Oklahoma Hall of Fame ceremony.
A quick refresher, Bennett has applied to relocate the Sonics to OKC, and Stern slapped McClendon with a $250,000 fine a few months back for saying the ownership group never intended to stay in Seattle when they bought the Sonics.
Stern was on hand to present Bennett into the Hall, and the three shared the head table Thursday night with Stern sitting to Bennett’s immediate right and across from McClendon, who was also inducted into the Hall. It was an unusual scene to say the least.
Some have perhaps read too much into Stern’s presence, though. Bennett and Stern have known each other since the early 90s, back when Bennett was a part of the San Antonio Spurs ownership group and served on the board of governors. Some perhaps might not be reading enough into it. In the thick of an arena dispute in Seattle, Stern comes to OK City to present the Sonics owner into the hall of fame of the state he has applied to relocate the Sonics to. Stern, however, did say that this was arranged months ago before the arena dispute became this heated.
At any rate, I had the opportunity to sit two tables over from their table, and I couldn’t stop observing the various facial expressions and frequency of conversation.
Like a proud friend, Bennett couldn’t stop smiling during McClendon’s acceptance speech. Stern, however, had a look of confusion on his face throughout McClendon’s verbal and video introductions. He almost looked like he didn’t like what he was hearing or the subject of the intro. When McClendon got back to the table, Stern attempted to say a few words to him but it didn’t look like he could get it in.
It’s worth noting, though, that Stern and Bennett speak of one another as if they’re truly good friends. Stern called Bennett his “old friend.” Bennett spent the first two minutes of his acceptance speech praising Stern’s work, vision and impact on the NBA.
I thought the trio handled the situation well, going as far as to joke about the past and current set of circumstances. After McClendon was introduced, he almost immediately said, “Because I heard there might be reporters from Seattle, I brought a script….And I’m going to stick to it.” McClendon also called Bennett “Seattle’s favorite friend these days.”
Stern, meanwhile, threw in a joke about having to teach McClendon about public speaking. He also said he “wasn’t getting into any of the Cowboys-Sooners stuff” in reference to the rivalry.
On a side note….As I was leaving the restroom before the event began, McClendon was using the sink right next to me. There was a bathroom attendant in the men’s room and McClendon tipped the 17-year-old high school kid named Reggie a cool hundred. He said to Reggie, “Here, that’s for all the people who don’t tip,”……at the exact same time I was throwing my towel into the bin without tipping. I later went back and gave Reggie two bucks because McClendon shamed me into doing so. But I felt worse then. What’s two bucks compared to a hundred?