In lieu of a distracting previous post, let me offer a fond memory of Marvin Webster, who passed away today.
I was a 20 year old Seattle native when Marvin Webster came to the Sonics in 1977. This was the team that went 5-17, fired its first year coach Bob Hopkins and replaced him with Lenny Wilkens. That same year, after defeating the defending champion Trail Blazers in the playoffs when Bill Walton went down, came within one game of the NBA championship. Marvin was part of the most remarkable single season turnaround in NBA history, and I was thrilled to be close to it.
That year, when Wilkens became coach, Tom Meschery who was a teammate and friend of Wilkens in the early Sonics years wagered some small amount of money in Las Vegas that the Sonics would win the championship. As I recall, if the Sonics had won that seventh game, Meschery would have won over $100,000. Oh well.
Webster was a huge part of that turnaround. That summer, we were sad to see Webster sign with the Knicks, but the league made the Knicks give the Sonics Lonnie Shelton. The Sonics managed to win the championship, in a year remembered for nothing else other than the Michigan State-Indiana State NCAA finals. The Sonics success came during the nadir of NBA popularity, and the success of the Sonics has become a very personal memory.
I attended the Knicks first game against the Sonics when Webster returned to Seattle in 1978. I remember seeing him warming up and then recognizing a member of the local media. He just stopped and gave this person one of the warmest smiles of surprise that I have ever seen from a professional athlete. I thought...good on you, Marvin Webster...at the end of the day, its relationships that count, regardless of the team you play for.
Memories of players like Marvin Webster make me very sad about Sonics and the events of the last year. I have lived in Portland for a long time, but for me, the rivalry during those years was a great thing for both cities. As for Marvin...more than once that season in '77 and '78, he made my day.