O’Neil: Here’s to schadenfreude as OKC again suffers a satisfyingly painful exit
The ongoing abomination that is this calendar year gave us a brief reprieve on Wednesday. One sweet moment in this most sour of all years.
Oh wait, that was just Oklahoma City’s tears. (They were delicious by the way).
The Thunder’s season ended on Wednesday night. Its bubble burst in the NBA playoffs, and this fact might just be the one thing capable of bringing all of Seattle together at this particular point in history. The franchise that was pulled out of Seattle by its roots in 2008 was beaten 104-102 in Game 7 of its first-round series against the Houston Rockets.
The Curse endures. This franchise, which at one point had three future MVPs on the roster, watched its season come to an end with a first-round playoff loss for the fourth consecutive year. Suckers.
I’m not exactly proud of how deeply I loathe Oklahoma City. Well, not the city per se, but the franchise. I’m not embarrassed about my feelings, either. This is a pettiness that I wear on my sleeve, and while I don’t personally begrudge any specific member of the Thunder or any of its fans in particular, I do not want that franchise to bring even an ounce of joy to anyone who supports it.
To the pain.
I used to toast the end of each Oklahoma City season by cracking a Red Hook ESB. You know, Extra Special Bitter. But I put a plug in the jug in 2017 and quit drinking, which really was best for everyone involved, so now I mainline unadulterated pettiness on Twitter throughout the end of a Thunder season. I search #ThunderUp, which is a hashtag for OKC fans, and respond to random fans. I found some guy who seemed to make a habit of making snide comments about Seattle and its loss of the Sonics and gave him a good fisking.
The technical term is schadenfreude, which is some shrink’s description for deriving happiness from the failure of others. Well, I lapped up every bit of schadenfreude I could find on Wednesday night and was still looking for more.
I’ll admit it wasn’t always this way. I was mad for the first few seasons the Sonics were gone, but it was mostly the absence of the franchise that hurt. Not its presence in Oklahoma City. I actually kind of liked the team that Oklahoma City was assembling. Kevin Durant played his rookie season in Seattle and is one of the most skilled scorers in league history. He won a scoring title at the age of 21. Russell Westbrook is as aggressive a guard as there has ever been in the league and Nick Collison was as good and decent of a dude as I’ve met in 20 years covering Seattle sports.
I was unbothered by the Thunder’s postseason debut in 2010, a loss to the Lakers in the first round. It was the next year in a first-round series against Denver against a Nuggets team coached by George Karl when I saw the fans in Oklahoma City celebrating their team’s success that something in me snapped. I did not want that franchise that was stolen from the city to bring happiness to anyone in that new city.
And to be honest, the past eight years the Thunder have been about as unfulfilling as possible given the sheer amount of talent that it had, drafting Durant then Westbrook and then James Harden. All three players won MVP awards. All three eventually left, too. Harden and Westbrook were part of the Rockets team that beat the Thunder.
And before Game 7 started, I wondered what would be the single most dispiriting way for the Thunder to lose. Would it be on a buzzer-beating final shot such as the one Damian Lillard made from 37-feet out last year to send the Thunder home in the first round of the playoffs? Or would it be a lopsided blowout? My sole criteria in determining which I preferred was which would bring the most displeasure to Thunder fans.
Nope. Turns out the best way to watch the Thunder lose a Game 7 is to watch two possessions in the final minute be utterly frittered away when Oklahoma City has the chance to tie or take the lead. The first one resulted in James Harden blocking a jump shot by Lu Dort.
HARDEN STRAPS WITH THE GAME ON THE LINE pic.twitter.com/hJpINlvapk
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 3, 2020
The second ended in a turnover when some hyphenated guy the Thunder had inbounding the ball threw it to Steven Adams, who resembles an ungroomed Lurch from “The Addams Family.” Now, I’m not going to say Adams was the worst option, but he is a 7-foot stiff who was on the move so there were certainly better options with 1.1 seconds left and the Thunder trailing by two points.
THE ROCKETS HOLD ON TO WIN GAME 7. pic.twitter.com/Gd0hSKGo6z
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 3, 2020
Plenty of Oklahoma City fans will try to sell you on the idea that this season is a success. The team traded Westbrook and Paul George in the offseason. It is rebuilding. It was a surprise in many ways to make the playoffs let alone push the Rockets to a seventh game in this series.
It was certainly a success in my book. It’s over. Time to toast another title-less season for the team that should have never been taken away from us.
Last year from Danny: Blazers provide Sonics fans satisfying OKC exit