As the Oklahoma City Thunder warmed up for Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the city of Seattle made a clear statement that it wants its NBA team back.
"I just can't wait till we have a [basketball] team come back here," Hansen told the crowd during the rally.
While several events in the past few years have showcased the strong public outcry for the return of NBA basketball to Seattle, including Sonics fans marching and chanting throughout Safeco Field last July on the Mariners' "Sonics Celebration Night," this was, of course, the first rally led by an actual investment group seriously interested in buying a team.
For many, the event -- which included several former Sonics' greats like Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, as well as music from The Presidents of the United States of America and Blue Scholars -- was a chance to celebrate the Sonics' past as much as openly hope for the team's future.
"It's people coming together to celebrate 41 seasons of pro basketball history, and we're trying to get an arena plan for more years of pro basketball," said Kris 'Sonics Guy' Brannon, a 38-year-old from Tacoma whose followed the team all his life. Brannon says he even worked for the team during its year-long stay in the Tacoma Dome.
While not everyone matched the outward passion of Brannon, the majority of the crowd was clearly in support of this week's arena developments, including Chris Hansen's announcement of Steve Ballmer and Peter and Eric Nordstrom as part of his investment team.
"I was happy to find out that more people were involved," said Catherine Chatal of Seattle. "Now it seems that if something happens to Chris Hansen's money, there is Microsoft and Nordstrom money to back him up."
Among the former Sonics' stars and musical performances at the rally -- which was mc'd by 710 AM ESPN Seattle voice Kevin Calabro -- there was also an appearance from King County Executive Dow Constantine. Last month Constantine, along with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Hansen, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the plan for a new arena -- subsequently sent to the Seattle City Council and King County Council for approval.
"Those were good times [the Sonics 1979 Championship], and they can be good again," Constantine said during the rally. "We need the NBA Finals back in Seattle and we need our Supersonics back out here."
Besides Payton and Kemp, the largest cheers anyone received on stage during the event echoed for Hansen, a man several members of the crowd referred to as a neighborhood hero.
"You can't thank him enough," 27-year-old Jeff Brown said, who with his father David started the fan organization Bring Back Our Sonics (Twitter handle @BringBackSonics) a year-and-a-half ago. Browns says he felt such an organization made sense after the group Save Our Sonics ended with the team leaving.
"We don't have the hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the team back, but that doesn't mean we can't help make it happen," Brown said.
Before news of Hansen's rally broke, Bring Back Our Sonics had planned a Bring Back Our Sonics Night for the June 27th Tacoma Rainiers game. And while Brown's organization didn't expect Hansen's rally to come to fruition so fast, they were very pleased it occurred.
"This is a great idea. People have been asking for a rally forever from us (Bring Back Our Sonics)," David Brown said. "We said we could do it but we were hoping somebody bigger could. It's really nice Chris Hansen is willing to do that."
A major theme during the rally today was for people to continue to tweet, e-mail and communicate with members of the city and county governments. Almost every person who spoke on stage talked about communicating with local officials in some way, with Seattle Weekly's very own Duff McKagan actually sending a tweet live on stage.
"Get on those computers, get those e-mails going, we got to get a team," former Sonics star Slick Watts said during the event.
According to Peter McCollum of Gogerty Marriot, representing Hansen in his attempt to build a Sonics Arena, a major goal of the rally was to send a message to Seattle and King County officials
"We hope the city and county council will hear that [public outcry] and know this [building an arena for the NBA basketball) is the right thing to do," McCollum said.
McCollum also noted that other members of the local government still needed to agree to the MOU before it truly gains significant weight -- something he said he hoped the rally would help accomplish.
On top of the discussion of the Sonics, Hansen and others brought up the future of NHL in the Emerald City.
"Seattle Metropolitans sounds pretty good, too," Hansen said, referring to the name of the former professional hockey team here that won the first ever Stanley Cup in 1917.
But even with the hockey talk, today's event was all about the Sonics and bringing back one of the greatest franchises this area has ever known. For Jeff Brown and many other Seattleites, the return of the green and gold couldn't be topped by anything.
"I'd have to say it would be the best moment of my life," Brown said.