College sports in general are nice compared to pro sports for one specific reason. Despite what media members like to call the transfer epidemic, players tend to stay with their one school. And if they decide to leave their next school, it isn’t like they are going to go from Michigan to Notre Dame or Duke to North Carolina (although UW to Gonzaga appears to happen from time to time).
That is a nice feeling, because in pro sports, players like Johnny Damon go from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees. Lebron James takes his talents from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat in a Beyonce level stage production. In the realm of professional sports, there are no allegiances except to money.
Which is why, up until last night, I didn’t realize that this could be an issue with any of the Gonzaga grads, mainly because it hadn’t happened before. Everything was rolling fine, the Orlando Magic drafted Domantas Sabonis with the No. 11 pick.
Look at our boy right there. So happy and sharp in his Orlando Magic hat. The magic was short lived however. Because almost immediately after Sabonis heard his name called, his name was on a phone call to another team.
Orlando will send Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and rights to Sabonis to the Thunder, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 24, 2016
And immediately, my love for Sabonis’ pro career became a bit more complicated, because I am from the Seattle area. I have grown up watching Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Big Smooth, Detlef Schrempf, Nate McMillian and all the other Seattle Supersonic legends. I don’t get to watch those legends, or any other future legends, because the NBA decided to showcase its allegiance to money in the strongest way possible in 2008.
Since then, I have been indoctrinated not to root for the Oklahoma City Thunder, as much of the city has, because our team was stolen by the highest bidder.
This is truly unfortunate, because Domantas Sabonis has been one of my favorite players on a team that consistently churns out favorite players. Sabonis on the Thunder means in no way, shape or form do I hope his career falls apart. Quite the contrary, the powerful Zag in me wishes that Sabonis becomes a key member of a squad that wins multiple NBA Championships in his lifetime. I want Sabonis to be successful.
But the Sonics child in me, the one that slowly, but surely, has been withering away with each passing year that any hope of a basketball team returning to Seattle becomes smaller and smaller, that child doesn’t want to root for the Thunder.
It doesn’t have to be so cut and dry, but to a certain extent, it unfortunately is. As a born and raised Washingtonian, I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. This isn’t an issue or a threat just for Zag fans either. If you grew up in Washington, especially in the Seattle area, there is a very strong chance that you greatly dislike the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But if you go to UW, Gonzaga, WSU, or even Seattle U, there is that 1 in 30 chance that a player that you love will end up on the team you hate the most. This is the stark reality that is professional sports, where money is the driving factor. At the moment, I’m not sure how to reconcile it, but I do know one thing right now: I’m bummed I can’t buy a Domantas Sabonis shirsey.