Chanting "We're No. 1" a crowd estimated at 15,000 greeted the Seattle SuperSonics as they arrived home this afternoon, the champions of the National Basketball Association.
Under some of the bluest skies ever seen in Seattle and with temperatures in the 80s, a yellow-and-green wave of T-shirts, pennants and pom pons greeted the chartered plane.
The Sonics brought home a large gold trophy signifying the first major professional sports championship won by a Seattle team since the Seattle Metropolitans won hockey's Stanley Cup 62 years ago.
The SuperSonics earned the title Friday night when they defeated the Washington Bullets, 97-93, at Capital Centre in Landover, Md., winning the best-of-seven series, 4-1.
The victory set off a celebration throughout Seattle that continued through the night and the airport arrival. It was to continue Monday with a parade through downtown with the mayor turning over the keys of the city to the team that already had won the city's cheers.
"You brought tears to my wife's eyes," said the Sonics' owner, Sam Schulman, as the team was introduced to the aiport crowd. "This is an experience we'll probably never see again till next year when we win it again."
Coach Lenny Wilkens said his team had silenced the Fat Lady, a favorite of Dick Motta, coach of the Bullets, who defeated the Sonics in last year's playoffs.
"Last night we had an operation," Wilkens said. "The operation was a success. We removed the Fat Lady's tonsils."
"We appreciate our guys coming out and supporting us," said guard Dennis Johnson, who was named the most valuable player in the series.
"I'd like to thank everybody for coming out," said Lonnie Shelton, who came to the Sonics from New York as part of the compensation for Marvin Webster. "I'd also like to thank (NBA Commissioner) Larry o'brien for making me a SuperSonic."
Veteran Paul Silas played on two championship Boston Celtic teams, but called this title "the best one of all." Silas, who has played in more NBA games than anyone except John Havlicek, said he's coming back next year for a 16th season.
"Thank you very much - we love you all," said the Sonics' captain, Fred Brown.
Fourty of the fans were overcome by the heat and treated by medic crews. A fire department spokesman said one woman was taken to a hospital with ribs cracked in the crush of the crowd.
An airport official said the crowd was estimated at 15,000 though various security officers earlier, said 30,000 were present. The Sonics' supporters were packed elbow to elbow in a roped-off square of concrete.
As the crowd left it created traffic promblms on streets and highways near the airport.
The Sonics' victory began a weekend of revelry, and police said they packed off as celebrations were taken into the streets Friday night.
"There was dancing in the streets, the entire town went bananas," said a police officer. He said people danced until dawn and the only drawback was a mountain of trash left behind.
"Monday this town is going to just go zonkers at noon," when the victory parade is held downtown.