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“The original Lob City”

shawn kemp & gary payton (1) (1)

When Chris Paul joined Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan in 2012 they immediately got labeled as “Lob City”. But long before them, in the '90s there were the Seattle SuperSonics that were one of the most exciting teams of their era.

They won zero titles but led by Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, and George Karl, the Seattle SuperSonics emerged as one of the most compelling, electric and memorable non-champions in NBA history. The Sonics of the 1990s were a frantic, frenzied, alley-oop-tossing, tomahawk-dunk-finishing bunch who beat you and then let you know about it.

Nobody played basketball in the '90s like the Sonics. In an era of post-ups, isolations, and slowdown styles, the Sonics were frantic. They trapped everything and switched even more. They wanted to turn you over and make you uncomfortable, and when they did, they threw down hammer dunks and alley-oops.

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They were also really good. Over a six-year span, the Sonics won 357 games and finished with the best record in the West four times, reaching the conference finals twice and the NBA Finals once. In between, they became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a team seeded eighth and followed that up with another first-round exit. They were unfortunate to be playing in probably the best era of NBA basketball.

The Sonics had disasters. There was no middle ground. When they were on top of their game, they were virtually unbeatable. But when they fell, they crashed, leaving a trail of collateral damage. What the Sonics had more than any of the other teams of their era was personality. The players fought with each other. They argued with their coach, who was just as crazy as they were, and the general manager fought with the owner.

In 1996 they finally managed to reach the Finals, playing against Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls. They dropped the first three games to the Bulls, then came roaring back to take the series back to Chicago, which was about the most Sonics thing ever. Just when you were ready to write them off, they came back for more. Yet the Bulls closed them out back in Chicago and that was as close as they would get to the ultimate prize. That was the end of them as they were forever labeled as one of the biggest what-if teams in NBA History.

Chris Gatling in action during the 1996 season

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