Jack Sikma followed his team’s owner and the NBA championship trophy down a chartered jet’s stairway under the bluest skies you’ll ever see on a summer’s day in Seattle once upon a time.
Moments later, the SuperSonics owner told a gathered crowd estimated at 30,000 people, “This is an experience we will probably never see again, until next year when we win it for a second time.”
That was nearly 35 years ago.
It also was the last — and only — time a Seattle team won an NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball title, a dry spell the Seahawks could end Sunday with a Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos.
Sikma was a second-year, 23-year-old farm boy from Illinois who quickly found a home in the Pacific Northwest, where a Sonics team that featured Dennis Johnson, Fred Brown and Gus Williams took Washington to seven games in the NBA Finals before losing his rookie year and then beat the Bullets in five games the next season.
“My first two years in the league, I got spoiled,” said Sikma, who never went further than the conference finals again in his 14-year NBA playing career. “I was the young pup on the team. I probably didn’t appreciate then just how hard it is to get there.”
He has called Seattle home ever since then, raising his family there even though he later played for Milwaukee and then embarked on a nomadic coaching career that now, at age 58, has brought him to Minneapolis as a Timberwolves assistant coach to Rick Adelman.
A “diehard” Cubs and Bears fan when he was young, Sikma attended Mariners games through the years but really attached himself to the Seahawks because he once palled around with stars Jim Zorn and Steve Largent during his playing days and he prefers the NFL’s Sunday pageantry.
His niece, Emily, works in the Seahawks’ sales department, a connection that led Sikma to raise the 12th Man flag — representing the role of the loud home crowd — before a September game against Jacksonville.
He stood atop the Seahawks’ CenturyLink Stadium field in one end zone and heard a roar rise much like it did when he played at the city’s old Coliseum.
“You’re like the emperor up there, with the adoring crowd,” Sikma said. “It was really something.”
So much has changed since the Sonics won the city’s only major pro title — the Seattle Storm won two WNBA championships and soccer’s Sounders won as well — way back in 1979.
It was so long ago that the Sonics have since moved away, to Oklahoma City in a disappearance Sikma still calls disturbing.
“There was an even more personal connection with fans back then,” Sikma said. “I knew most all the season-ticket holders in the front row. You could pretty much walk out after games and it was bedlam as far as autograph seekers and talking to kids. That personalized it. The media attention has changed, the world has changed. It was pretty special the connection with the city we had back then.”
Sikma predicts a 27-23 Seahawks Super Bowl victory for a city that watched both baseball’s Pilots and basketball’s Sonics leave town and hasn’t celebrated a big-time championship since an estimated 200,000 people turned out to cheer Sikma’s team all those years ago. The Mariners won 116 games one year but never have played in the World Series. The Seahawks lost to Pittsburgh in their only other Super Bowl appearance.
“Alls I know is that for everybody even now who has come up to me and said they were at the parade, you wonder if anybody wasn’t at the parade,” he said. “I’m sure if the Seahawks win it, 30 years from now everybody will be saying the same, only now they’ll have picture phones to prove it.”
NBA short takes
After 30 years, NBA commish leaves behind a changed game
David Stern watched his final game as NBA commissioner Thursday night at Madison Square Garden before serving his final day Friday after 30 years on the job. When he took over in 1984, the NBA had 23 teams — four of those headed toward bankruptcy — and the NBA Finals were shown late at night on tape delay. Now there are 30 teams and it’s global with games shown in 215 countries.
“I’m going to miss being in the middle of all the people, but I won’t miss my calendar,” Stern said during halftime of TNT’s New York-Cleveland broadcast seated beside his wife, Diane, and alongside his successor, Adam Silver.
Stern said he’ll keep busy and plans to do speaking engagements, some teaching and consulting and other stuff. “Don’t worry,” he said. “We’re going to ski. We’re going to hike. We’re going to play tennis.”
Yes, somebody got snubbed
The Eastern and Western All-Star reserves as chosen by each conference’s coaches were announced Thursday, and of course deserving players got left out.
So who was the most snubbed this year?
The East: Indiana guard Lance Stephenson was robbed and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry has something to complain about, too.
The West: New Orleans phenom center Anthony Davis, Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins and Phoenix guard Goran Dragic, although one of the three will be chosen by Silver as an injury replacement if starter Kobe Bryant can’t play because of his injury.
You heard it here first…
TNT analyst Chuck Barkley on Washington’s young guards Bradley Beal and John Wall, who was named Thursday as an All-Star game reserve for the East: “John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to be the best backcourt in basketball in five years.”
Wolves’ Week Ahead
Tuesday: 7 p.m. vs. L.A. Lakers (FSN Plus)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. at Okla. City (FSN)
Friday: 8:30 p.m. at New Orleans (ESPN)
Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Portland (FSN)
Player to watch
Kevin Durant, Thunder
He entered the weekend averaging 37.5 points while shooting 53.6 percent from the field in a 14-game game stretch that included his fifth career triple-double and a career-high 54-point game against Golden State. He had scored 30 or more points in 12 consecutive games until scoring only 26 Friday against Brooklyn.
"You have two of the best [power] forwards in the league. We have the best, they probably have the second best."
Portland coach Terry Stotts on that matchup of All-Stars that puts Kevin Love against the Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge on Saturday at Target Center