Clay Bennett strode to the podium, grinning from ear to ear as he climbed each of the stage's steps. He cleared his throat and delivered what will go down as this city's most memorable opening statement.
"We made it. Congratulations. The NBA will be in Oklahoma City next season,” Bennett told a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday evening at the Skirvin Hotel.
And with that, reality officially set in. There was no more doubt. No more questions of when or if. Instead, a question of what now?
The Seattle SuperSonics reached a settlement with the City of Seattle over their lease dispute, allowing the franchise to relocate to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season. In exchange, Bennett and his Oklahoma City-based ownership group will pay the city of Seattle $45 million to escape the final two years of the KeyArena lease and as much as $75 million depending on certain criteria.
"The transition and the move of this operation and this team begins (this) morning from Seattle to Oklahoma City,” Bennett said.
Oklahoma City's NBA journey began in earnest on Nov. 2, 2007, when Bennett officially applied with the NBA for relocation. The voyage ended Wednesday, with Bennett providing the long-awaited answers to questions such as ticket prices.
Although he was unable to provide concrete answers, Bennett also addressed the team's future name and colors and the state of the training facility.
"Another element of our settlement agreement was that we will reserve the name Sonics and SuperSonics and the marks and the colors and will not use them,” Bennett said. "But we will return them to (Seattle) if a team does indeed return to Seattle.”
Bennett said Seattle will keep its original 1978-79 championship banner and trophy, but the ownership group will create a duplicate banner and trophy to bring with the team to Oklahoma City "as a part of what we believe is the history that we purchased as part of this transaction.
Statement from NBA commissioner David Stern
Statement by Seattle Mayor Nickels
Sonics settlement agreement