Golden State Warriors

Seattle couldn't be more excited for the return of NBA basketball to its storied city

Durant returns to where he played as a rookie
Durant returns to where he played as a rookie (Getty Images)

On Friday, there is going to be an official NBA game played in Seattle, Washington for the first time in over a decade.

"Tickets sold out in hours. There's been no NBA game here in 10 years, and any NBA action the people of Seattle can sink their teeth into, they're going to find it."

That's Dave Mahler, 45, who co-hosts the 3PM-7PM sports talk show on 950 KJR with Dick Fain every Monday through Friday.

Mahler, who is known around the city as "Softy," will be celebrating his 24th anniversary with the radio station this November. Born and raised in Seattle, Mahler is more excited than most to have the NBA in his backyard again.

"I'm excited for the game. I'm excited to get to the arena and see fans in one place wearing green and gold. Most fans there will be Sonics fans."

And while Mahler emphasizes that the excitement around the city for the game is palpable, he adds, "it's all about Sonics fans putting on a show - and Sonics fans are going to put on a show, trust me."

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The preseason game not only marks the return of the NBA to Seattle, but it is also gifting the basketball world Kevin Durant's return to Key Arena, as the Golden State Warriors will take on Marvin Bagley and the Sacramento Kings.

For the first time since April 13, 2008, Durant will play an NBA game in the first city he ever called home as a professional.

"Very smart by the league to have him come back," says Mahler. "He was only here for a year and did a great job connecting with the community. He would have been an absolute star here. The city is excited to see him. He came here a baby and is coming back as a man, coming back with multiple championships, MVPs, Finals MVPs, he's a global brand now, and we like to think we played a small part in that. He still feels like a part of the fabric of our community."

"It's 10 years later and people are still passionate about it," Mahler continues. "There is a ground swell of support for Sonic basketball. You walk around the city and people are wearing Sonics hat, Sonics shirts, Sonic gear."

The prevalence of people still wearing Sonics gear has not gone unnoticed by others, either - or, at least, by a specific local business owner.

Jamie Munson is the owner of Simply Seattle, a local sports apparel retailer that has three locations in the city. The store opened over 30 years ago, but Jamie has been the owner for the past year.

About three months ago Jamie opened the third location in Pioneer Square, the sports neighborhood of Seattle, where the store is within walking distance of Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field.

Munson's goal with the Pioneer Square location? Build the largest Sonics retailer.

"The Sonics have such a deep connection to Seattle. It's hard to find much gear other than online, so we wanted to create a place for Sonics fans to come, to remember those good ole days, and pick up a piece of gear they love," Munson explains. "No one in the country has built a collection quite like this for a team that doesn't exist."

Munson says the store is currently outpacing its initial projections and that Sonics gear makes up well over half of all sports gear sales, with the Seahawks coming in second and the Mariners third.

"The store is off to a great start, confirming our belief that the Sonics fan hasn't gone away."

Munson is from Montana but says Seattle teams were always his teams.

He had the good fortune of watching Michael Jordan and Bulls play the Sonics while he was on vacation. On Friday, Jamie will walk into Key Arena, the site of his vacation memory.

"I'm excited. I love basketball and I've got two sons who love hoops as well. We have the Storm and they killed it this year - MVP, best record, WNBA champions. This game gives the city a chance to enjoy basketball at its highest level and remember the Sonics from 10-plus years ago. To have a chance to watch the NBA again in Seattle is an exciting opportunity."

Regarding Durant's return, Munson says, "KD is well loved around here. It'll be fun to have him in town and on the court. He's welcome back any time!"

That sentiment is shared throughout Seattle.

For example, Jake Smidt, the store manager of the Simply Seattle Pioneer Square location, says he's "super hyped" for the game, in large part because of Durant's return.

"We staked out tickets in line to make sure we had a great seat to the action. This city is going to go wild for basketball. I think it will be exciting to see Durant back in the city where he got his start in the NBA. Seattle is excited to welcome Durant back. He is pretty popular in the city."

Sports are embedded into the Seattle culture. Walk down the streets during the middle of the day, and you'll see people wearing gear from a variety of teams, from the Mariners and Seahawks to the University of Washington. During football season, the city has it's own dress code.

There's just something particular about the Sonics that the city cannot shake.

"The Sonics are a part of the Seattle DNA," says Mahler.

All three of Mahler, Munson and Smidt said that their favorite Sonic of all-time is Gary Payton, in part for his tenacious defense.

That tenacity is representative of the people of Seattle, which by all accounts is currently being exhibited in an overwhelming excitement and enthusiasm for the return of NBA basketball - and Kevin Durant - to Key Area on Oct. 5.

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