Russell Wilson’s deeply rooted reason for investing in Seattle’s best hope to bring back the NBA comes from playing an iconic basketball video game with his brother growing up in the 1990s.
“When I was about eight or nine years old, my older brother, Harry, and I would battle in NBA Jam on the Super Nintendo in our bedroom almost every day,” Wilson wrote in an article published Tuesday on The Players’ Tribune, a site in which he is a co-editor.
The article -- titled Boomshakalaka! after the line the video game’s announcer yelled for vicious dunks -- came out a day after Wilson announced he was investing in Chris Hansen’s bid to build an arena in the Sodo area of downtown Seattle with the intention of attracting an NBA and an NHL team to the city.
“I know some people probably picture me throwing footballs through tire swings and running stairs all day, and I definitely did all that,” Wilson wrote of his childhood. “But then I’d come home at night and play video games with Harry for hours. NBA Jam was our thing.
“I’d sit on the bottom bunk and Harry would sit on the floor. For those who don’t know NBA Jam, you had to pick your two-man combo. He’d usually pick the Chicago Bulls (Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant), and I’d usually pick the Seattle SuperSonics.
“If I remember it right, I think their one-two punch was Shawn Kemp and Detlef Schrempf.”
If that’s not a fantastic, authenic reason to throw millions into getting the NBA back to Seattle, what is?
If you don’t know what Wilson is talking about, you were either born in 2000 or beyond and think the game’s graphics are ridiculous -- like my 13-year-old son who saw the link this morning and said “Look how OLD that is!” Or you were born in the 1960s or before and still think Pong is cutting edge.
Wilson said he got a Sonics jersey one Christmas then went outside and pretended to be Gary Payton.
“I know the arcade version (of NBA Jam) we played at the mall had Kemp and Benoit Benjamin,” Wilson wrote. “For some reason, you couldn’t pick Gary Payton. The rumor at school was that you could get him through a secret code, but I still don’t know if that was real.
“The NBA needs that green and gold back,” Wilson wrote. “Seattle needs basketball back. And hockey, too. (The Seattle Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917, in case you didn’t know.)
“So I’m doing what I can to make that happen. I have partnered with the Sonics Arena Group to help bring the NBA and the NHL to Seattle.”
Wilson concluded by writing “this is about more than nostalgia.”
“We live in divisive times, and sports have a way of bringing people closer together. They allow us all — children and adults — to use our imaginations and dream,” Wilson wrote. “I want kids in Seattle to grow up dreaming of playing basketball or hockey for their hometown team.”
He detailed his impressions of watching the Chicago Cubs win the recent World Series, their first Major League Baseball championship in 108 years. He described what he saw in February 2014 during the Seahawks’ victory parade through downtown Seattle days after he led the franchise to its first Super Bowl title.
“It was 25 (degrees) in the middle of February, and I was standing on a float looking out at the crowd. That’s when it all slowed down and everything sunk in for me,” Wilson wrote.
“I tried to focus on every single face, even though it was impossible to take it all in. I saw people of every race — black, white, brown, everything. I saw men and women. I saw old folks crying. And I saw young kids who had obviously skipped school. All walks of life braved the cold that day just be a part of something.
“All those people had two things in common. They were smiling like it was the happiest day of their life, and they were all one color: bright green.
“That was a great day.
“This city deserves more like it, but not just for football. Let’s bring the NBA and NHL to Seattle.
“You can feel it, can’t you?
“It’s heating up.