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.”
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