To some, he’s Kris Brannon — Tacoma native, Wilson High School graduate and standup comedian.
To many, however, he’s Sonics Guy — Brannon’s alter ego, who shows up wherever people are gathered to remind them about a professional basketball team that left the region in 2008 and campaign for a new team to take on the name, colors and history of the Seattle SuperSonics.
As the 39-year-old Brannon says, “When you’re 6 feet 5 with an afro and gold pants, you tend to get noticed.”
He has made more than 1,500 appearances, always with Sonics apparel and a sign like the one that reads “Save Our Sonics.” He even circulated a state initiative in 2011 that would have required the Sonics theme song, “Not In Our House,” be the official state song until a team returned to Seattle.
What began as a quixotic campaign became something much more after a group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen reached a deal to build a new arena and then saw an offer to buy the Sacramento Kings accepted by their current owner.
If approved by the National Basketball Association, the Kings would have begun play in KeyArena in the fall and then moved into the new arena when it was completed.
That plan went awry a week ago when a committee of owners voted unanimously to deny the transfer of the team from Sacramento to Seattle. The headline in The News Tribune sports section aptly summed up the reaction from area fans: “Super Disappointment.”
We checked in with SuperSonics Superfan Brannon to see how he was handling the news.
Q: Where were you when you heard the news?
A: I was walking down the street and a friend pulled over and said, “You’ve got to hear this.” I knew it was happening, but I kind of wanted to take a walk. So it was kind of funny that this woman pulled up and said, “Hey, it’s not looking good.”
Q: You’ve met Hansen at the various rallies. When you first met him, what did he say?
A: The first time I saw him was at the press conference (at which his plans were first announced) and he shook the hands of all the fans that were there and said thank you for showing up. He’s a fan. He’s just like us.
Q: When the bad news came out, you tweeted, “This is NOT over, we will get a team!” and, “After today’s action that just means I have to work that MUCH harder!” Is that still your attitude?
A: That was a vote of a committee; it was not the full vote of all the members. And just like any election you have to wait until all the votes are in and then take our leads from there. I know Steve Ballmer and Chris Hansen are not giving up. The memo of understanding (between Hansen and the city of Seattle) lasts for five years. I think people got attached to it happening right now, but five years is a long time. It could be another team, it could be expansion. I just have faith in the process.
Q: Tell me how Sonics Guy came to life.
A: I’d been to all the events. I’d been to all the rallies. I’m good friends with Brian Robinson, one of the cofounders of Save Our Sonics. It felt like all I did and all we did, it unfortunately wasn’t good enough. After a proper mourning period, about eight months later, one of my buddies was going down to a tea party thing (in Olympia). He wanted to check out what was going on.
I didn’t want to protest any policies of the president, but I thought, I’ll have my own protest at the protest. I had my little sign I’d stashed and when I got there I lifted it up and walked around. You could tell it was my first event, because it was a one-sided sign. That’s my first rookie mistake. I was mentioned on the radio and my buddy said, “Hey, I don’t want to encourage you,” but I was on the Sound Politics blog. That’s how it started.
I was letting people know someone still cared about the Sonics and that this region lost something when the team left.
Q: Favorite Sonic of all time?
A: Gus Williams. I watched on TV when they won the championship (in 1979). I went to the game when they retired his number.
Q: You were an usher in the Tacoma Dome the year they played there in 1994-95?
A: Yeah, I went down and got a job at the T-Dome just to see the games. I became an usher and then I worked sports hallway, the locker room area.
Q: What’s the best thing about being Sonics Guy?
A: On my Facebook page I’m promoting the Race for Casen. He’s a cute little guy who has a congenital disease, and they asked me to MC the event on June 15. If I wasn’t the Sonics Guy, those people wouldn’t have reached out to me and I wouldn’t have been able to help this cute little guy. That’s what it shows. It shows the Sonics is more than a game, it’s more than a team. It’s about a sense of community, a sense of pride. It’s about human relationships.
Q: If NBA commissioner David Stern was here right now, what would you say to him?
A: I would say the offer is financially sound. Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer and the Nordstrom brothers have presented sound funding for the arena. I believe this fits the NBA model. I’d say I believe this is a good market for NBA basketball. We supported it for 41 years.
Q: You’re going high road? You’re not going bitter?
A: Yeah, high road … the key is to stay positive.
Q: So, no Sonics jokes in your act?
A: Nah. I’m pretty serious when it comes to my Sonics.