Gallant: How did it feel when these 8 Seattle sports stars left town?

Jun 17, 2020, 1:20 PM | Updated: 1:25 pm

Ken Griffey Kr. was traded from Seattle to Cincinnati after 1999. (Getty) Randy Johnson went from Seattle to Houston in a 1998 deal. (Getty) Alex Rodriguez signed a record deal with the Texas Rangers after leaving Seattle in free agency. (Getty) Ichiro was traded to the Yankees from Seattle during the 2012 season. (Getty) The Seattle Sonics traded Gary Payton to the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2002-2003 season. (Getty) Shawn Kemp went from Seattle to Cleveland in a three-team deal in 1997. (Getty) After a one-year retirement, Marshawn Lynch left Seattle to play for his hometown Oakland Raiders. (Getty) After the 2017 season, Richard Sherman left Seattle for San Francsico. (Getty) After nine years in Seattle, Earl Thomas signed on with the Baltimore Ravens. (Getty)

Seattle sports has had some incredible lifer athletes like Steve Largent, Edgar Martinez, and Walter Jones. But there’s a long list of players who ended up moving on.

Related: Seattle sports have their own versions of Brady in a Bucs jersey

It makes me wonder, would the sports fan in me have been able to root for them in their new home?

1) Ken Griffey Jr.

I understand that the death of Griffey’s neighbor – golfer Payne Stewart – made him want to live closer to his family in Cincinnati. But he had one year left on his contract going into 2000. Couldn’t he have played it out, and THEN made the decision?

“The Kid” obviously didn’t know that the Mariners would have the success they did in 2000 and 2001. And that makes it all the more painful. If he’d played out the final year of his contract with that 2000 playoff team, maybe he’d have stayed for Seattle’s historic 2001 season.

Yeah, he’s Ken Griffey Jr., but that would have been frustrating to stomach. And for that reason, I would NOT have rooted for him.

2) Randy Johnson 

It’s not Randy’s fault that the Mariners refused to give him an extension going into the last year of his contract. And it’s not Randy’s fault that Seattle was 8-20 during June of 1998. I’d absolutely have rooted for Randy in Houston, not to mention for his World Series appearance in Arizona.

3) Alex Rodriguez 

He left an elite Seattle sports team for the last place Texas Rangers and a quarter of a million dollars. HARD NO.

4) Ichiro Suzuki 

Seattle made the playoffs during Ichiro’s first season, but never made the playoffs again. He deserved to have a chance to win a World Series, and I have no problem with him asking out. But on the Yankees? Who can root for that?

5) Gary Payton 

This one would have hurt. I wish that the entire NBA was full of trash talking, defensively dominant players like Gary, especially when they can also score. Still, the SuperSonics traded him at age 34 to an out of conference team for Ray Allen, a first-round pick, and more. That’s a pretty good haul for Payton, who ended up in L.A. the next year.

I’d have been able to cheer for him in Milwaukee. But I root for no Laker.

6) Shawn Kemp 

I understand why Kemp got upset during his last season in Seattle. The Sonics had signed C Jim McIlvaine to a seven-year, $33 million contract, only to watch him play poorly. But it wasn’t Seattle’s fault that salary cap rules prevented them from giving Kemp a similar contract.

He held it against them anyway, started showing up late for team flights and practices, and was pretty unprofessional his last year here. For that reason, I wouldn’t have been able to root for him in Cleveland.

7) Marshawn Lynch 

To fully appreciate Marshawn, you must let him be FREE. Even with that whole not showing up to the bus for a playoff game thing. I mean, they won it. And the Beastquake is eternal in Seattle sports history. Heck yes.

8) Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas (tie)

I’m going to combine these two. I understand why the Seahawks could have moved on from one or the other of them. To move on from both? It’s hard to reconcile with, no matter if the duo felt the team had peaked.

Bobby Wagner is one of the league’s best linebackers, and an important leader. But is paying a linebacker instead of a corner and/or safety wise? I’m not so sure.

I also understand why Sherman signed with the 49ers. But you can’t root for someone in San Fran. For Earl? You can. Especially if you’re a safety fanatic like me.

In the other half of this two-part series, which you can read here, I explain how weird it is for me to see Tom Brady in a Buccaneers jersey and look at some similar instances in Seattle sports history that stand out.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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