Byline: JANNY HU P-I reporter
Sonics Gus Williams took the microphone at halftime and promptly roared these enthusiastic words: 'Hello, Seattle!'
'Hello, Gus!' was more like it.
The Sonics celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 1979 NBA World Championship last night with a special halftime ceremony honoring the team, and more specifically, its leader.
Williams, looking spry despite his 50 years, beamed as his No. 1 jersey was raised to the rafters at KeyArena. The 'Wizard,' who played for the Sonics from 1977-84, stills ranks among the franchise's top five in four categories, including points, steals and assists.
'It doesn't get any better than this,' Williams told the sold-out crowd, adding that he did have one quibble. 'They give me one minute to say thanks, what took 25 years to accomplish - that's not fair.'
Almost the entire 1979 squad was on hand, including former stars Jack Sikma, Fred Brown and current team president Wally Walker. Only four players were missing: Tom Lagarde (who was home in New York with his expectant wife), Lonnie Shelton, and current NBA head coaches Lenny Wilkens and Paul Silas.
Williams also flew about 30 friends and family members from his hometown in Mount Vernon, N.Y., including his brother Ray and mother, Rosanna.
The Sonics feted Williams with a replica jersey, a Titleist golf bag with his name stitched on it, and a four-day, three-night golf vacation in the Bahamas.
'Gus was a lot of fun to be around,' Sikma said. 'If you had any weaknesses or exposed yourself, Gus found a way to bring it out in front of everyone. He was just a great guy to have around and a leader for us.'
Sikma and the players all wore what Williams described as 'Hell's Angels jackets,' heavy leather coats commemorating Seattle's only modern professional championship. The only thing shinier was the golden NBA trophy that was also displayed on the court.
'(To the) city and people and town of Seattle, this is an extra special moment for me,' Williams said. 'But, believe me, it would not be the same without people (to share it with).'
The crowd could only roar its approval. Said one arena employee: 'He was Magic before there was Magic.'
P-I reporter Janny Hu
can be reached at 206-448-8189