There have been many one hit music wonders, “My Sharona”, “Kung Fu Fighting” and “Spirit in the Sky” to name a few.
In sports, there has been the “one play” wonder, NY Giants wide receiver David Tyree, famous for a helmet-assisted catch during the waning moments of Super Bowl XLII.
And in the NBA, there have been “one season” wonders.
After going undrafted in 1973, his cousin Bill Russell, who was the coach and general manager for the Seattle Supersonics, gave him a tryout. He made the 1973-74 roster and worked his way into the starting lineup for the 1975-76 season.
That season, Donald Earl Watts led the NBA in total assists, assists per game, total steals, steals per game, and made NBA All-Defense First-Team. He was the first player to lead the league in assists and steals in the same season.
The Sonics would lose in the Western Conference Semifinals to the Suns, but the legend of “Slick” Watts was born. His trademark was his shaved head and headband, which he famously wore just a little off center.
“You have to have game,” Watts once said about the NBA’s new wave of headbanded players. “There’s nothing more aggravating than seeing a guy wearing a headband and shooting airballs. If you’re going to make a statement, you’ve got to bring your lunch.”
In 1976 Watts also received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his outstanding service to the Seattle community. By the end of the 1978-79 season, he was out of the league.
Bob Walsh, the Sonics GM during the 1975-76 season, said he has never met a person with the PR power and magnetism of Slick Watts. “You can talk about athletes getting too much money, but here’s one guy who’s worth every cent he gets,” he said. “Watts has been everywhere, knows almost everyone and has them in his pockets. They love him here. If Washington were ready for a bald black governor from Mississippi, Slick would be the guy. Only he’s too genuine.”
In a city which still mourns the loss of their pro basketball team, there will always remain Slick Watts and his 1975-76 season.
A reporter from Sport magazine shadowed Watts at the climax of his relatively brief career with the Sonics and wrote: “He’s the most popular athlete in the history of the state. He’s the most famous unknown who ever lived”.