A Sonic by any other name

Brent Schmidt was 10-years-old when he named the Seattle Supersonics. How does he feel about the NBA's recent Seattle shutdown?
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Brent Schmidt was 10-years-old when he named the Seattle Supersonics. How does he feel about the NBA's recent Seattle shutdown?

In the hangover-like aftermath of the disappointing NBA Relocation Committee vote earlier this week, it felt like a good time to pause and go back — for inspiration — to the beginning. Hair of the dog for me this time around meant another viewing of the excellent documentary Sonicsgate and a phone call to a man who takes anything about the Seattle Supersonics very personally.

And for this, you can’t blame Brent Schmidt, a residential contractor who lives in Issaquah. After all, when he was just 10 years old, Schmidt named the team (along with his late father Howard Schmidt) way back in 1967.

How personally does Schmidt take news about the Sonics? He blames Howard Schultz for the Sonics’ departure and, when asked where he buys his coffee, Schmidt says, automatically, “Certainly not at Starbucks.”

It was back in the days of drip coffee in Styrofoam cups that Seattle was first awarded an NBA franchise. Soon after, the unnamed team sponsored a contest in February 1967 to pick a moniker. About 5,000 entries were submitted, 163 of which suggested the name “Supersonics.”

Schmidt says that he and his dad came up with the name together. “At the time there was a local band called The Sonics and then there was the Supersonic Transport that Boeing was building. So we thought that the ‘Seattle Supersonics’ was the name that it should be,” Schmidt says.

Once the name “Supersonics” was officially chosen, the entry that Schmidt and his dad submitted was drawn at random from among the 162 other entrants. The prize package included season tickets for the Sonics’ inaugural year at the old Seattle Center Coliseum, and a trip for two to Palm Springs.

“So Mom and Dad went down and they got to meet [original Sonics’ owner] Sam Schulman, who was an excellent owner. He never would have let this team leave the city. I think when he passed the torch to the next owner, it was under the assumption it would stay in Seattle. Pretty disappointing that our Starbucks owner let it go,” Schmidt says.

Schmidt remains optimistic that the group led by Chris Hansen will bring an NBA team back to Seattle and will someday bring back to life the cherished Supersonics name.

But Hansen’s group, surprisingly, hasn’t been in touch with Brent Schmidt. “I don’t know if they even know the whole story,” he says.

Doesn’t Schmidt deserve recognition for his role in naming the team and some kind of new prize package — maybe even season tickets, if and when the new Supersonics are dribbling once again on local hardwood?

“I don’t expect it, but yeah, that’d be pretty special if they made us an offer like that. I wouldn’t turn it down,” Schmidt says, chuckling.


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