The best players and moments in Washington sports from 2018 were honored Thursday night in Seattle. The annual Sports Star of the Year awards were presented. Among the winners: KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel. He received the Keith Jackson Award for excellence in communicating the sports stories of our state.
Thiel talked with KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about the awards. He also offered some interesting facts about sports fans in Washington.
The Seattle Storm received a lot of honors. Star forward Sue Bird was presented with the Royal Brougham Award for lifetime achievement in sports (no, she hasn't retired).
"Sue's career in Seattle (going on 17 years) has been phenomenal," Thiel said.
Breanna Stewart was awarded Female Sports Star of the Year. And the team's third WNBA championship was named the Sports Story of the Year.
The Male Sports Star of the Year was WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew.
"He did a great job with the Cougars, getting them to 10-3," Thiel said.
Thiel also noted that the event featured something really special: the 40th reunion of the 1979 NBA champion Seattle Supersonics.
"That meant coach Lenny Wilkins, Jack Sikma, Gus Williams, Fred Brown, Paul Silas and the remaining members of the team all showed up," he said. "That was Seattle's first major pro sports championship in the modern era."
In accepting the Keith Jackson Award, Thiel offered some interesting facts about sports fans in Washington and why covering sports in this state is so fun.
"One of the most remarkable things about this marketplace, to me, is its passion," he said.
"The Sonics, believe it or not, once led the NBA in attendance. In 1979 and 1980, they played in the Kingdome and had almost 22,000 fans a game.
"Another team that led their sport in attendance was the Mariners.
"I think people who are jaded and cynical about the current team have forgotten that in 2002, the Mariners drew 3.5 million to Safeco Field, which is bigger than any attendance by the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs.
"That was really a passionate response to the success of the 2001 season.
"The Storm have led the WNBA in attendance and last year led them in merchandise sales.
"The Sounders have been a remarkable franchise. They have led MLS (Major League Soccer) in their first eight years of expansion in attendance — a feat that's not been replicated by any team in any sport in North American history.
"The University of Washington football team last year led the Pac-12 in attendance — both in sales and in actual in-house — another remarkable achievement.
"And, finally, the Seahawks. I think we all know the breadth and depth of their fan base. It's global; it's intense; and it's made CenturyLink Field one of the most formidable place to play in all of sports."
Thiel also remarked on what receiving the Keith Jackson Award means to him.
"It's really gratifying to be in a place where people care so much," he said. "They may care to yell at me sometimes because I am a columnist and I write things that they don't agree with. But that's OK. I enjoy the give and take.
"It's been so great to be supported by so many not only readers but people at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where I worked so many years.
"I really want to thank the audience at KNKX and the staff here. To have KNKX allow me to share my thoughts with this audience has been such a delightful experience.
"I really want to thank everyone here and also to carry on and have some more fun with the most passionate audience in sports!"