Almost to a man, NBA analysts who I have talked with speak glowingly about Oklahoma City as a permanent home of an NBA franchise. As part of an ABC/ESPN conference call Wednesday, I questioned Bill Walton and Rick Barry, both analysts and former league standouts, about the city’s prospects as an NBA city. Walton’s son, Luke, a Los Angeles Lakers forward, also weighed in on the matter. Although Bill Walton spoke highly of Oklahoma City, he said he would be disappointed if the Sonics moved here from Seattle.
Rick Barry: I was in Oklahoma City for the last game, before they were going back to New Orleans. I was pretty amazed at the tremendous following they had, knowing farewell that this was an interim situation. The fans really seemed to take the team to heart. It was a wonderful experience seeing that. I see no reason they wouldn’t be successful if they (the NBA) were to go back to Oklahoma City. It’s all going to come down to what Seattle does regarding an arena. Oklahoma City, to me, was very professional in the way they supported the team.
Bill Walton: I was there for Oklahoma City’s first game and a number of games subsequently. I was extremely impressed with every aspect, not only of the management and organization of the team there, but also the support of the city, in the ticket base, sponsors and corporate community. I think Oklahoma City is a marvelous market for the NBA, but I personally would hate to see Seattle drop out of the NBA. That has always been one of my favorite places. I’m a big believer in basketball in the Northwest and the championships from the ’70s, right on the heels of Rick Barry’s championship in 1975. West Coast/Northwest basketball was dominant a couple of decades ago and we’re looking forward to a return of that with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant coming to the Northwest.
(Led by guard Dennis Johnson, the Sonics won their only NBA championship in 1979, routing the Washington Bullets, 4 games to 1. Barry led Golden State to a title in 1975, and Walton led Portland to a title in 1977).
Luke Walton: I played in Oklahoma City twice in the last two years. They were very professional about everything. It’s just like you’re playing in any other NBA city or arena. And the fan support was amazing. We played them four times in the last two years, twice in Oklahoma City and twice in New Orleans. Both times in Oklahoma City they blew us out and the fans were standing the entire game and they were loud. It was a lot of energy. It was a lot of fun. The two times we played them in New Orleans we got wins. I definitely think Oklahoma City could support a team.