Tacoma icon Kris Brannon, the Sonics Guy, dies at age 47

Kris "Sonics Guy" Brannon, left, look on during testimony before the Seattle City Council rejected a street vacation for a new arena in the city. (AP)

TACOMA, Wash. — Kristopher Brannon was known around Puget Sound as the Sonics Guy. To his friends and family, he was just Kris.

Brannon died Thursday from heart failure at a Tacoma hospital, according to sister, Zaraya Skea. He was 47.

Brannon was already a popular fixture in Tacoma comedy clubs before the 2008 departure of his beloved Seattle SuperSonics. The team’s move to Oklahoma sent Brannon on mission that would propel him into the consciousness of thousands of Puget Sounders.

“Bring back our Sonics” was the rallying cry for Brannon when he would appear at sporting events, farmers markets and festivals holding a sign aloft that pleaded for an NBA team to return to Puget Sound. He said he had been to more than 1,500 events to “remind people of what we lost.”

“You’ve got to look at the long view,” Brannon told The News Tribune in 2016. “People ask me all the time, ‘Are we ever going to get a team back?’ I say ‘yes’ because ‘ever’ is a long time.”

Brannon would cut a striking figure with or without his signs. He was a tall man with a salt-and-pepper afro, often holding a comb. He was seldom without a grin. He and his likeness became the subject of memes, artwork and a short documentary.

In 2016, he rode in a convertible in the Daffodil Parade.

“Come on kids, smile,” Brannon urged a group of children in downtown Tacoma. “It’s a parade.”

But Brannon wasn’t just a Tacoma icon.

“For his family and friends, he was more than just the Sonics Guy,” Skea said. “I know that’s how people will see him, but he was more than that.”

Brannon was born Dec. 24, 1973 in Pierce County to Jill Skea and William Brannon, according to Zaraya Skea.

Growing up, Brannon suffered from a congenital heart defect which prevented him from playing sports at Wilson High School. In recent years, he had been dealing with heart issues, Skea said.

“He had a larger-than-life personality,” Skea said. “He was the guy in the room that would make any party worth it. He always had to have jokes. That’s why he became a comedian.”

Skea, eight years younger than her brother, recalled Brannon’s pristine comic book and other collections.

“He was the type of person that collected action figures, but would keep them in the box, because they were more valuable that way,” she said.

He was active with Pierce County Young Democrats. In 1996, he served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, according to Skea. He dressed as basketball star Dennis Rodman during the convention, she said.

News of his death both saddened and shocked his legion of friends. Tributes to Brannon poured into his Facebook account and Twitter. Many described him as their best friend.

For the last four years, Brannon worked as a cashier at Tacoma cannabis store Mary Mart.

“He was really loved by the community,” said manager Billy White. Positive online reviews of the store often mentioned Brannon.

Brannon is survived by his mother, sister, brother-in-law Jeff Weickum and nephew George Weickum.

A memorial has not yet been announced.

This story was originally published in The News Tribune.