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Detlef Schrempf discusses NBA's future in Seattle
They occasionally surface.
Faded bumper stickers and dingy T-shirts. The vibrant voice of announcer Kevin Calabro on the airwaves.
And once a year, former SuperSonics star Detlef Schrempf makes an appearance in Port Orchard. He hosted his 17th annual Detlef Schrempf Celebrity Golf Classic on Monday at McCormick Woods.
Schrempf, 47, has worked in wealth management for Coldstream Capital Management in Bellevue since leaving his position as an assistant coach for the Sonics after coach Bob Hill was fired following the 2006-07 season. The team played one more season in Seattle before moving to Oklahoma City.
But since the NBA left Seattle, there has been speculation about several franchises relocating. Brock Huard, a former quarterback at the University of Washington and in the NFL with the Seahawks and Colts, said during his radio show on 710 ESPN Seattle last month that he was "amazed at the effort that is ongoing right now."
Huard said local investors are looking into bringing NBA and NHL teams to the area, but declined to discuss details.
Without mentioning names, Schrempf said Monday that there are people working to develop an ownership group and structure, raising money and discussing where to build an arena. He does not see that happening quickly, though.
"I think it's still in its early stages," Schrempf said. "Everyone hopes something will happen."
He said there are several challenges to bring a team back to the Puget Sound region. In addition to paying the NBA a relocation fee — it cost Clay Bennett $30 million to move the Sonics — the new owner might have to build an arena. Sales taxes in King County helped build both Safeco Field and Qwest Field, but Legislature repeatedly balked at doing the same to upgrade KeyArena, which was renovated in 1995, or build a new arena.
Bennett said KeyArena was no longer was a viable facility for the NBA. Schrempf agrees.
"When we were there, it was always sold out and was fantastic," said Schrempf, who averaged 16.6 points a game in six seasons for the Sonics after being acquired from Indiana in a 1993 trade. "But it's an outdated arena and it won't work for basketball anymore. If there's a new team that eventually comes, they will have to build a new facility. That's a given."
Schrempf averaged 13.9 points per game during his 16-year career with Dallas, Indiana, Seattle and Portland, but his favorite memories were playing in the Emerald City. The Leverkusen, Germany, native came to the United States as a foreign exchange student and guided Centralia to a Class 3A (then AA) state championship in 1981. He also led the Huskies to Pac-10 championships in 1984 and '85. Schrempf later teamed with Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton to take the Sonics to the NBA Finals in 1996, where they lost in six games against the Chicago Bulls.
"It was a great time," he said. "Playing in front of my home city is fantastic. It's something that hopefully everyone gets a chance to do."
Schrempf hopes that others eventually have that opportunity again. Seattle native Jason Terry, who plays for the Dallas Mavericks, participated in Schrempf's charity tournament. Two other former Sonics — Nick Collison, who plays for Oklahoma City but maintains residence in Seattle, and retired center Jim McIlvaine — also competed.
But Schrempf said fans also can have an impact on the league returning. He noted the documentary "Sonicsgate," which drew national attention for documenting the team's demise and departure. It won a Webby award for Internet achievement in the sports-video category, as voted by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
"They obviously did a great job," Schrempf said. "That's the kind of passionate thing in the community we need to keep that fire alive."
He said it is important for fans to continue to talk about it.
"Tell people and tell your kids that we used to have a team that played here, and keep them interested in professional basketball," Schrempf said. "If it takes too long, people forget, and the next generation doesn't know what it's like to have a pro team in town, go to games and celebrate wins."