Originally Published: May 10th, 11th, & 14th, 2013
You’ll forgive me if I’m not exactly in the most chipper of moods. That’s what happens when some useless cunt brings bedbugs into your apartment building and you spend a sleepless week itching, cleaning, and bagging up all your shit. Suffice it to say, I’m not exactly looking on the bright side of things.
I actually had this idea before. It was supposed to be a series of posts dedicated to the most loathed sports figures in Seattle history. Over two years have passed and I’ve let it go by the wayside, but while it has been neglected, the idea has not been forgotten.
The primary reason for this site’s existence is that notion that there is a Culture of Losing in Seattle. Losing has become commonplace. Losing has been the norm. And losing has been accepted, which is most damning of all. It’s the main reason why I can’t stand most Seattle sports fans, because they’ve cultivated this Everybody Gets A Trophy attitude about the sports they follow. Granted, it’s probably HEALTHIER; it’s a hard fact of life that we certainly take sports too seriously. But, it still pisses me off.
Oh, good try sweetie!
It doesn’t matter who wins, all that matters is how you play the game!
Well, we didn’t win, but if you had a good time that’s all that matters!
You played hard out there fellas, now let’s all go out and get some ice cream!
There’s always next year!
This is what I have to put up with whenever a Seattle team ends its season. Nobody in Seattle ever expects to do well, so when a Seattle team makes the playoffs THAT’S a thrill in and of itself! Like just making the playoffs is “good enough”. Sure, winning a championship would be an incredible bonus, but isn’t being one of the top 4-8 teams in the league reward enough, you guys?
But, I suppose it’s not all the fans’ fault. I mean, THIS is all they’ve known. These shitty Seattle teams who have always let us down every year since 1979. Yes, the level of shittiness fluctuates, but they’re shitty all the same because it’s been over 30 years since we’ve tasted the sweet nectar of championship victory in this city.
I have a list of people here – athletes, GMs, and owners – who are more or less universally despised. My list is by no means complete, and I encourage anyone who has names to add to come forth and state why you feel that way. I may eventually return to my “Seattle Hates …” series and single out these losers in their own individual posts, but for now I thought I’d just list as many as I can think of and go from there.
The Mariners are far-and-away leading the pack of the most hated Seattle sports figures. It’s almost impossible to rank them, but I’m going to give it a shot.
This hasn’t always been the case, but it’s definitely true today: the most loathed Mariners figures of all time are now Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong. I’ve written about these two before, so I’ll keep this brief. Rest assured, it’ll be a happy day in Seattle history when the team is sold and these two lame-asses are shit-canned. Why they haven’t resigned in shame years ago is beyond me.
Time makes the heart grow fonder is the famous quote by some guy. In this case, time makes the heart grow less enraged. At one point, I would argue that no one could possibly be hated more than Bobby Ayala. Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t fair. Then again, I’m sitting here with my eyes closed and I can still picture it:
Ayala hurls a split-fingered fastball that hangs in the middle of the plate as he falls off of the left side of the mound. Opposing Batter X takes a mighty hack and launches the ball into the Kingdome seats. Ayala turns to watch the ball leave the yard as the cascading boos provide the perfect soundtrack to the four opposing runners trotting across home plate. Ayala, takes his cap off and wipes his sweaty brow with his sleeve as Lou Pinella walks out of the dugout, pointing at his left arm.
Bobby Ayala was kind of a joke (seriously, what grown man goes by the name “Bobby”), but the target of our vitriol shouldn’t have stopped with him. Bobby Ayala represents the total and utter futility of those Mariners bullpens from 1995 … really through 2001. In the mid-to-late 90s, those bullpens were terrible. Granted, we were playing in a bandbox known as the Kingdome, but still. Even after we left that concrete prison and moved into the pitcher’s paradise that is Safeco, and even after we drastically upgraded our bullpen talent with guys like Jeff Nelson, Arthur Rhodes, and Kaz Sasaki, our bullpen STILL let us down. Nevertheless, you rarely hear about Seattle fans bashing The Sheriff. You almost NEVER hear people killing Rhodes or Sasaki. You might get some grumbling about Heathcliff Slocumb, but who are you madder at: the pitcher who wasn’t any good, or the bumbling idiots who traded two studs (Varitek and Lowe) for the pitcher who wasn’t any good?
Nope, the hatred always comes back to Bobby Ayala. To this day, I don’t understand it. But, at the time, back in the day, I could certainly condone it.
A more-recent villain in this saga of the Mariners sucking is Bill Bavasi. I know, for me, he’s one of my most hated Seattle sports figures of all time (not involved with the Sonics leaving Seattle, that is). This website is pretty much a love letter to how much I can’t stand that guy; I don’t know if I’ve ever gone more than a few weeks without referencing him and lamenting how terrible he is at life. At this point, it goes without saying. But, if you need any fuel, I suggest taking a look at his very large section of idiocy.
I don’t really have the heart to do the research on these next few guys to see who was ACTUALLY the worst as a Mariner, but I’ll give you my opinion on who I disliked the most.
I’ll start with Richie Sexson. He was the first installment in my “Seattle Hates …” series, so I won’t go too in depth here. What I will say is that it has always boggled my mind a little bit that Adrian Beltre never saw the same amount of invective. He made more money than Sexson, he signed for more years, and he was coming off of this 2004 season with the Dodgers:
200 hits, 48 homers, 121 RBI, .334 batting average, 1.017 OPS
Here is what he averaged in five seasons with the Mariners:
150 hits, 21 homers, 79 RBI, .266 batting average, .759 OPS
I don’t care what anyone else thinks, I’m
calling Steroids on this bullshit not going to make wild accusations about something I know nothing about, even though this guy doesn’t pass the smell test by any means. For funsies, here is what Beltre averaged in the three seasons since he left Seattle:
176 hits, 32 homers, 103 RBI, .314 batting average, .912 OPS
Are you kidding me? OK, maybe that steroids crack was out of line, but COME ON! How are you, as supposed Mariners fans, not enraged by this? You boo and throw money at A-Rod decades after he left for an insane deal with the Rangers … why aren’t you fucking raining down sandbags at this fucking gold-bricker??? Adrian Beltre is a fucking bullshit artist and I’m leading the bandwagon to turn the tide against him; who’s with me? Good defense at third base? Fuck you, go home and play with your kids. You were brought in here to fucking hit. You hit with the Dodgers, you hit with the Red Sox, you’ve hit with the Rangers. Man up and quit blaming the stadium for your insecurities you fucking mental midget.
Up next, we have Chone Figgins. Who was a much better player when everyone thought his first name was pronounced “Ch-own”. He signed a 4-year deal and sucked more and more every year he was on this team. What’s worse, he didn’t appear to be even remotely sorry for the fact that he was the most over-paid piece of shit in the Major Leagues. You’d hear stories about how hard he was working behind the scenes, but then you’d watch him play and what would you see? An emotionless pile of shit striking out. An emotionless pile of shit letting a ground ball go right past him. An emotionless pile of shit unable to catch a routine fly ball. Then, after the game, whenever he’d consent to an interview, you’d hear about how he needed MORE playing time to “play his way out of it”. Or, if by the grace of fucking God he managed to have one of his three good games as a Mariner, he’d chirp his fucking head off after the game, talking about how he’s “still got it” and how he should be playing every day. What a motherfucker. To the bitter end, he left here thinking that he was a legit Major Leaguer. I suppose that’s why he was released by the Miami Marlins in Spring Training this year.
Chone Figgins is a guy who grabbed his big payday, then proceeded to dog it until he was run out of town. He didn’t give a shit! He got his money and that’s all he cared about. Now, he gets to sit on his ass while making upwards of $9 million for doing absolutely nothing.
Carlos Silva is another fan favorite, if by Fan Favorite I mean guy who we’d like to tar and feather. He was supposed to be this adequate ground baller who would earn his money tenfold by pitching in the cavernous Safeco Field. Instead, he got shelled, constantly. And since he was signed for so long (4 years) and for so much money ($48 million), we had to give him every opportunity to try and turn things around. Imagine it: you and me and most everyone we know will live our entire lives scraping by like a dog on the streets; meanwhile Carlos Silva received nearly $50 million to suck dick. Kinda makes you want to stop following sports, doesn’t it?
I’m going to wrap up this Mariners section with some rapid-fire. Because it’s going on far too long and because I’ve got other things to do.
Jeff Cirillo was brought in after our 116-win season to lock down third base. He was supposed to be one of the final pieces to push us over the top as a championship contender. Instead, he was terrible. My booze-addled mind has mostly blacked out the Jeff Cirillo stint as a Mariner, so bully for me.
Alex Rodriguez is a different animal entirely, but I can’t leave him off this list. Where he differs from the rest is that – as a player wearing a Mariners uniform – he was universally beloved. A-Rod was on the fast track to being as beloved as Ken Griffey Jr. And, had he taken less money to remain a Mariner (or, had the Mariners ponied up a proper offer, depending on which story you choose to believe), A-Rod would PROBABLY be #1 on the all-time favorite Seattle sports figure list. Instead, the moment he signed that 10-year, $250 million deal and put on a Texas Rangers uniform, A-Rod was Public Enemy #1.
Not by me, mind you. Even at the time, I didn’t understand the sentiment. Who WOULDN’T take that deal? It was the biggest deal in MLB history! How can you fault a guy for accepting that deal when it’s universally known that the Mariners weren’t able to come CLOSE to matching? On top of that, the deal essentially crippled the Rangers and it took him until 2009 to finally win a World Series. He’s been a laughingstock everywhere he’s been, he doesn’t appear to know how to relate to people, he has an addiction to strip clubs and banging chicks with muscular, dude-like bodies, and – oh yeah – he’s a steroids cheat. Even if you don’t think he would’ve helped us win a World Series in 2001-2003, don’t you think we kinda dodged a bullet by NOT having him embarrass us seemingly every year?
In recent years, there have been any number of hated Mariners, as this franchise has found new depths of ineptitude. Miguel Olivo, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Jeff Weaver, Horacio Ramirez, Erik Bedard, Brandon League, Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Brad Wilkerson, Eric Byrnes, Kenji Johjima, Casey Kotchman, Rob Johnson, Ian Snell, Jack Cust, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan … just to name a bunch. As long as there are losing Mariners teams, there will always be people to hate.
I’m not gonna lie to you, this one was a lot tougher. Aside from a couple of very obvious names, not a lot of Seahawks immediately jump out as annoying. Unlike baseball – where your every move is on display for everyone watching, so if you screw up regularly, you WILL be noticed – it’s a lot easier to mask your mistakes.
Of course, that doesn’t make a ton of sense, because look at all the mediocrity, especially in the late 80s and all of the 90s. But, that’s just it: sure, they were mediocre, but it’s hard to point to just a couple of guys as the primary culprits. When you have a bad football team, it’s because the whole TEAM is bad. Not a lot of people really stood out, at least to me. Maybe you have ideas that I don’t.
At the top of this list, now and forever, is Ken Behring. He bought the team from the Nordstrom’s in 1988 for a scant (in today’s dollars) $80 million. Ironically, at the time, in an article in the Spokesman-Review, he called out then-Mariners owner George Argyros who was threatening to move baseball out of Seattle, saying:
I sure don’t agree with anything he does. I’m not sure he even wants to win. I’m not sure he knows where he wants to be. We’re far, far apart in what we’re trying to accomplish.
Bold words from a guy who – less than eight years later – was looking to move the team to Los Angeles. It’s telling, actually, in that same Spokesman-Review article, he was asked about the possibility of moving the Seahawks to Oakland (after Al Davis had moved the Raiders down to L.A.). Seemingly, there was no trust for this man from the get-go, which would seem to jibe with the family’s feelings that Seattle never really embraced Ken Behring.
Ken Behring’s reign started with a division championship in 1988, but then everything fell apart, with the nadir being the 1992 season and its 2-14 record. After that first year, no Behring-led team would finish better than third in the AFC West. Finally, in February of 1996 (a decade before this team would play in its first Super Bowl), Behring ordered the moving vans and drove the equipment to Los Angeles to play where the old Rams called home prior to moving to St. Louis.
Luckily for Seattle, two things existed: a local government willing to work to keep the team here, and a sports league that was unwilling to see yet-another team change cities (after the Raiders moved back to Oakland, the Rams moved to St. Louis, the Oilers moved to Tennessee, and the Browns moved to Baltimore). Gary Locke partnered with Paul Allen to help the billionaire purchase the team, and we passed measures to build what is now CenturyLink Field.
Ken Behring is one of the all-time pricks, no doubt about it. But, this isn’t exactly the same thing as Clay Bennett buying the Sonics and moving them to OKC. Even though the trust might not have been there from the beginning, I think that comes with the territory. Whenever a non-local guy (or group) comes in to buy your team, you’re wary of the possibility of them moving. But, to be honest, there was no inkling back in the late 80s about Behring having an agenda. Besides, the lease on the Kingdome ran through 2005. When the Sonics were purchased, the lease on KeyArena was much MUCH closer to running out.
However, similarities they share include an unwillingness to make things work here. That means, the instant the going got tough, Ken Behring was on the horn to Los Angeles. Which leads me to believe this L.A. move was a longer time coming than simply a snap reaction to the county rejecting $150 million in Kingdome improvements. He also, let’s be honest, didn’t do everything he could to put a winning product on the field. In that same Spokesman-Review article, Behring is quoted as saying:
We want the coach and the general manager to run the team.
This was in response to a question about having minority owners, with Behring taking the stance that local minority owners would try to butt into the affairs of the team. Which is FUNNY, because in 1991, with the 16th overall pick, the Seattle Seahawks selected one Dan McGwire out of San Diego State. It’s reported that then-head coach Chuck Knox really wanted to draft Brett Favre. But, Ken “We Want The Coach And The General Manager To Run The Team” Behring stuck his big snout into the proceedings and forced the team to draft the all-time greatest bust in Seahawks history. Brett Favre went on to be a Super Bowl winning Hall of Famer. Dan McGwire went on to suck dick for crack rock (allegedly).
Ken Behring was no NFL owner. He was a fucking tourist. He was a sexual harassing Good Time Charlie who enjoyed the power and prestige of owning an NFL franchise, but he wasn’t really an NFL fan. This quote, from his own son, then-team president David Behring, is pretty telling:
“I had tremendous passion for the game,” said David Behring, who opposed his father’s decision to move the franchise. “I felt that I was getting along with many of the people, and I was trying to push my father into background so as not to be a target. But the ’92 season really turned him off from football. When you’re 2-14, you’re criticized daily.”
Bring a little adversity into his life, and look at what he does! Tries to take his prestige and power to a city that placates people with prestige and power. Seattle doesn’t give a FUCK about your money or your status (at least, not compared to L.A.). So, while he might not have been a snake in the grass a la Clay Bennett, we’re still talking about an inevitability. Seattle wouldn’t embrace him as being the King Sultan of the World, so he wouldn’t embrace Seattle. It’s as simple as that. You want to know why people from the Pacific Northwest tend to badmouth people from California? Look no further than the example set by Ken Behring.
The other big name on this list for the Seahawks is Tim Ruskell. Ruskell was brought in to replace Bob Whitsitt (who himself had supplanted Mike Holmgren in 2003 as the primary general manager). This move was a no-brainer, because Whitsitt (originally hired by Paul Allen when he purchased the Seahawks to be the president of the team) was a basketball guy (also being Allen’s right hand with the Trail Blazers down in Portland). Ruskell immediately selected Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill in the 2005 draft and the team went on to lose in the Super Bowl that very same year.
We thought, “All right! We got something here!” Holmgren was largely believed to be spread thin by doing double duty as head coach and GM; most people here thought his GM duties suffered. He needed a football guy to handle player personnel, and after one season, Ruskell seemed to be the magic man.
But, Ruskell immediately lost all his goodwill by dicking around with Steve Hutchinson. He also traded away a first round pick for Deion Branch (an insane price for a sub-par receiver), drafted an endless string of busts (Kelly Jennings, Lawrence Jackson, Josh Wilson, Aaron Curry), and signed an endless string of useless, old players (T.J. Duckett, Julius Jones, T.J. Houshmandzadeh). By the time he was forced to resign after the 2009 season, it was pretty clear: that Super Bowl team was Mike Holmgren’s team. Holmgren brought in the bulk of the core that got us to the promised land. Ruskell just caught on at the right time and bought himself five seasons even though he was a complete moron.
After those two guys, I’m finding it hard to find Seahawks I hate. I think there’s a reason for that: in baseball, it’s a lot easier to hate the player, because all of his money is guaranteed. If you sign a huge contract in baseball, then you go on to suck, you’re stuck with him! In football, if they sign big and suck, you just cut him and save yourself the cap space.
The first player that comes to mind for me is Jerramy Stevens. I can’t STAND that guy. He was a first round pick at tight end that was supposed to lock down the position for a decade or more. But, of course, he came in and was middling at best. He was NOT the dynamic game-changer you expect out of a first round pick. Then, he ran his stupid fucking bitch mouth in the week leading up to Super Bowl XL, and THEN he proceeded to drop crucial, game-changing balls IN the Super Bowl!
I blame the refs for a lot when it comes to losing that game, but a VERY close #2 is Jerramy Stevens. I hope that game haunts him until his dying breath. Jerramy Stevens is the primary reason why you should NEVER draft a home town guy who is known to have legal issues in college. If a guy has legal issues in college (drugs, drunk driving, date rape, plowing your vehicle into nursing homes), that means he’s a fucking idiot. It also means he has fucking idiot friends. When drafting a fucking idiot, you’ve got to get him as far away from his fucking idiot friends as possible, otherwise he’s never going to mature to the level you need him to.
After Stevens, I guess I’d throw Rick Mirer on this list. This one’s a stretch, though, because he’s been gone so long. And, when we traded him, we got a pretty hefty haul from the Bears in draft picks, so that mitigated a lot of the hate. Nevertheless, he was a #2 overall draft pick after the Seahawks went 2-14. A #2 overall drafted quarterback is SUPPOSED to be a franchise guy you can build your team around. Mirer went on to have a decent rookie season, then made absolutely no strides whatsoever, and was a constant disappointment every season thereafter.
I don’t know what to tell you after those four guys. The Boz? There were quite a few Seattleites who didn’t like the guy. He was KIND OF an overrated pile of shit who Bo Jackson made his bitch. Then, he was an action movie star? Then he was irrelevant? I dunno, man. I read his autobiography and I find him entertaining. And now? Now, I just kinda feel sorry for him. Not only is he a punchline for his “movie career”, but he’s a punchline for the thing he ostensibly did the best: play linebacker. I don’t know what the Boz is doing with his life right now, but if it doesn’t involve soliciting gentlemen to pull out their dollar bills while playing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and asking that we all “give it up for Roxie”, then he has REALLY missed his life’s calling.
I know there are still some hard feelings about the whole Hutch debacle, with Seahawks fans soured on him for his dickish attitude following his signing with Minnesota, but truth be told I put 100% of the blame on Ruskell. First, for not getting the long-term extension done, and second, for not using the Franchise Tag (but, rather, the Transitional Tag, which doesn’t come with nearly the penalty for other teams when they poach your players).
In fact, it’s hard to hate any of the free agent or draft busts either, because we know the person who was in charge. Were Housh and Deion Branch irritating? Sure they were! It’s always irritating when you’re confronted with aging stars who think they’re better than they are (or better than they were five years prior). But, they didn’t ask to come here. They were brought over on the whim of a GM who was willing to over-pay so this team would be JUST good enough to be mediocre (but not so bad as to be blown up and start a true rebuilding process, which this team so desperately needed as it aged into retirement).
A lot of real obvious candidates here. It’s just a matter of organizing them in the proper order.
I, along with many of you, have Howard Schultz smack dab at the top of this list. In fact, I would have to say – even though it’s been nearly five years since the team moved, and even though it’s been nearly seven years since he sold the team to those OKC goons – that Howard Schultz is Public Enemy Number 1 (regardless of sport) in the Most Hated Seattle Sports Figure list.
Really quick, my top 5 looks like this: 1. Schultz, 2. Behring, 3. Lincoln & Armstrong, 4. Bennett, 5. Bavasi
Easy, right? For the record, Lincoln & Armstrong are a package deal; they have morphed into this singular blob of incompetence. Also for the record, Ruskell is a close 6th on that list. My most hated PLAYER is and might always be Richie Sexson, because I’m irrational like that.
Anyway, getting back, I think it should be obvious why Schultz heads this list. He’s the worst. THE. WORST. First, let’s just get this out of the way: he had NO BUSINESS getting involved with the NBA. He should have just stuck with his season tickets and his corporate sponsorships and been happy with that. He didn’t have the stomach to properly run the organization; instead, he tried to run it like a business. This isn’t Starbucks, this is sports. It’s a completely different ballgame (so to speak). If your goal is to buy a team and try to turn a profit every year, then congratulations, you’re the Seattle Mariners. You go forever without winning, you scale back payroll, you trade away your superstars for nothing, and you do just enough to turn a small profit every year (which, hey, beats losing money).
If your goal is to run a winning franchise, then guess what? You can’t be all-consumed by the money coming in. Turning a profit can’t be goal #1. It’s got to be a residual from sustained success.
The Seattle Supersonics, as far back as I can remember, were a well-oiled machine. Yeah, they’d have some down years, but they’d bounce right back and be contenders in short order. That includes a lot of the 70s, most of the 80s, and most of the 90s. Then, Howard Schultz bought the team in January of 2001. In the five full seasons the Sonics were owned by Schultz, they made the playoffs twice: once as a 7th seed and once as a 3-seed. Both times, they lost to a far superior franchise, the San Antonio Spurs. In the other seasons, the Sonics ended up 10th, 11th, and 12th in the West.
Schultz was involved with a controversial trade of Gary Payton. He also let head coach (and Mr. Sonic) Nate McMillan walk (over to Portland where he coached the hell out of a mostly-mediocre team). He did battle with the local & state governments over getting financing for a new arena, but once that failed he essentially threw up his hands and gave up.
Schultz had no interest in keeping the Sonics in Seattle. If he had, he wouldn’t have sold them to a group that so clearly wanted to move the team out of state. He can sit there and pretend he had “no idea”; he can cry out about how they “misrepresented” themselves when they purchased the team; but if he’s being honest then he’s the biggest fucking moron the world has ever known.
Here’s the thing: Schultz isn’t being honest when he gripes about how he was duped (along with the rest of Seattle). I’d like to point out that from the moment this deal was made, I knew those fucks from OKC would do everything in their power to move this team. If I know that, and I’m just some yahoo fan with a pottymouth, then Howard Schultz sure as shit knew that too. He just didn’t care. All he cared about was receiving $350 million for a team he paid $200 million to acquire five and a half years earlier.
And that’s all you need to know about the Howard Schultz Era. He was a greedy old man who let the Sonics move away. He ran the team like a business, but not like a business he gave two shits about. He ran this team like Ken Lay ran Enron. Schultz may not have faced decades in prison, but he probably should. If I had it my way, he’d be rotting in prison until the Sonics return to Seattle, but that’s neither here nor there.
If we’re jumping on the whole Sonics leaving Seattle saga, I’d rank former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels number two on this list. That spineless weasel forced an agreement down our throats letting those OKC fucks take the team while the city received $45 million in return for the last two years of the KeyArena lease. Had we forced them to honor those final two years, who’s to say what might have happened? But, he was never officially a member of the Sonics organization, so fuck Greg Nickels.
Truth be told, I hate Clay Bennett’s puppetmaster – David Stern – far more than Mr. Bennett himself, but we’re sticking with a theme here of people specifically related to the Sonics organization. Clay Bennett’s a rat bastard, to be sure, and when all is said and done I’d like to know what kind of buttfucking arrangement he has with Stern to make them so buddy-buddy; his blowjobs must be SOMETHING ELSE. As such, now he does whatever David Stern says, essentially making them both one and the same.
It takes a lot of work to keep up a lie for so long. Bennett bought the team in July of 2006. Nearly two years went by before we finally got the official word that his intentions all along were to move the team to OKC; and even then, “official word” came in the form of e-mails to his cronies that were uncovered in the days & weeks leading up to the team leaving. To the bitter end, Bennett affirmed his bullshit, and he has been rewarded with one of the best and most exciting teams in the NBA today. There is no justice in this world if that team ever wins a championship.
From what I’ve been told, Wally Walker has been instrumental in the behind-the-scenes efforts to bring the team back to Seattle. Also, from what I’ve been told, Wally Walker was dead-set against selling to those OKC fucks in the first place. Nevertheless, Wally Walker appears on this list, because his tenure as GM of the Sonics was rocky at best. You can’t have a Most Hated list without having a few GMs appear first.
For the record, yeah, Walker has been instrumental in working with Hansen & Ballmer, but he was also instrumental in getting Howard Schultz to be our primary owner in the first place to start this whole fucking mess. It’s complicated with Wally Walker; he tries his fucking best, but God bless him, in the end he’s just a fuck up who can’t seem to ever get things right.
He joined the Sonics in 1994, right as this team was on its rise to the elite of the NBA. In 1996, the Sonics were in the Finals, losing to the greatest team of all time, the 1996 Chicago Bulls. From that moment, this franchise started on its long, slow decline to mediocrity, and it all starts with the next name on this list: Jim McIlvaine.
Jim McIlvaine was signed to a 7-year, $33.6 million deal in July of 1996. To that point, Jim McIlvaine had been a worthless pile of crap. He would go on to continue being a worthless pile of crap. So, not only was he overpaid and useless, but he also served as a reminder that this ownership group – and this general manager in particular – would rather reward potential from outside the organization than reward the superstars already IN this organization. Shawn Kemp was resentful and rightly demanded a new contract. He was denied, so less than a year after signing McIlvaine, Kemp demanded a trade. Just before the 1997/1998 season, Shawn Kemp was traded for the NEXT name on this list: Vin Baker.
One could argue that the Sonics dodged a bullet by trading away Shawn Kemp. He went on to Cleveland, sat on his ass during the Lockout, got fat, and was never the same. One could also argue that had the Sonics rewarded their budding superstar, he would’ve been kept in shape and kept in line by team leader, Gary Payton. In Cleveland, Kemp was the big kahuna, and nobody was going to tell him what to do. There was veteran leadership in Seattle that could’ve prevented such a fate.
Oh yeah, by the way, don’t forget that Vin Baker also sat on his ass during the Lockout, also got fat, and was a huge drunk to boot. So, why didn’t this veteran leadership keep HIM in line like I’m saying they would’ve kept Kemp in line? I dunno, probably because you can’t rationalize with a fucking alcoholic! Also, probably because you have to have the Want To in order to succeed. Vin Baker lacked that passion, that drive. He took his solace in a bottle and that’s all there is to it.
Mind you, this chain of events all started with Wally Walker meddling with a good thing, then bungling things away. More often than not, Walker made moves just to make moves. Sometimes, you just need to let a team settle and grow on its own. You don’t have to keep adding and subtracting to make things JUST RIGHT. Just leave it be and hope things shake out as best as they can! If it ain’t broke, don’t fucking fix it!
Any number of bumbling big man buffoons could also make this Most Hated list (Calvin Booth, Jerome James, Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene), but that would ignore the real problem with the Sonics at the turn of the century: Rick Sund. Remember him? God, I wish I didn’t. Rick Sund took over for Wally Walker (as Walker was promoted to president or some damn thing) in 2001 and proceeded over one of the longest stretches of ineptitude in team history.
Seemingly every year, this team needed a big man. Seemingly every year, this team went after a big man, either spending an ungodly amount of money in free agency, or by squandering a high draft pick. Seemingly every year, this team failed to bring in a big man of any quality, and so seemingly every year this team struggled under Rick Sund.
Finally, there’s a name on this list I won’t ever forget. Kendall Gill. Back when Bob Whitsitt was still in charge, he traded a number of quality supporting players (Dana Barros, Eddie Johnson) to the Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill. In his previous two years, Gill averaged 20.5 and 16.9 points per game. We brought him in to be our starting shooting guard next to Gary Payton. As chance would have it, he arrived on the scene in 1993/1994, as the Sonics had the best record in the Western Conference. We would go on to lose in the first round to the Denver Nuggets. The very next season, this team would make the playoffs again, and once again it would lose in the first round.
I’m not blaming it ALL on Kendall Gill, but he sure as shit was not a good fit for this team. I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that as soon as he was traded (back to Charlotte for Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate in June of 1995), the Sonics would go on to make a run to the NBA Championship.
Gill didn’t get along with coaches or teammates. He was a ballhog who shot too much. Oh yeah, and he SUCKED DICK. He immediately saw a dip in his scoring average (14.1 and 13.7 points per game in a Sonics uniform). His pissy attitude didn’t endear him to Seattle fans either. In short, Kendall Gill was a worthless dickhole and I can’t believe he managed to have such a sustained NBA career, considering what a joke he was.