Today I’m trying out a new series with my column to help Thunder fans learn an important aspect of being a true big league city. When we first were introduced to NBA basketball, the Hornets marketing team basically sold tickets by convincing Oklahoma City patrons to come out and watch the opposing team’s stars. More of their ticket solicitations involved pictures of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant than Chris Paul. Now that the Thunder are legitimately our team, that has tapered off. However, transitioning to becoming fanatics of the home team is just step one.
Step two is being openly hostile to the opposition.
That’s where we sort of fail. Oklahomans are just too nice. We want the Thunder to win, but we generally also wish the best for the opponent any other night. That needs to stop, and I’m going to help you.
Generally this series will outline five reasons you should hate another NBA team. Sometimes, that won’t be enough (teaser: the Lakers might merit a top-100). For the Jazz, who were my favorite team prior to their choice to pass over my draft crush, Chris Paul, and the unlikely chain of events that brought Paul to my hometown, five will be tough for me to accomplish. But that’s why I started with them.
5. Deron Williams’ Combforward
Considering Oklahoma City employs the king of the Caesar haircut in Nenad Krstic, it would probably be tossing stones at glass houses to make fun of Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams for failing to embrace his receding hairline. Then again, isn’t that what fandom is about? And Williams’ combforward is unique in that I wasn’t even aware African-Americans could position their hair in a futile attempt to hide a bald spot. Apparently, it is possible, but with the exception of Deron Williams, they just have better taste than white people.
4. Carlos Boozer double crossed a blind guy
The Jazz’ star power forward was a free agent in the Summer of 2004. At the time, he had blossomed for the Cleveland Cavaliers who drafted him in the second round after most team’s believed he would never make it in the NBA. In 2004, the Collective Bargaining Agreement limited “Bird Rights” on a guy with Boozer’s experience, and the best Cleveland could offer him was the “mid level exception” which amounted to about $4.5MM/year.
Hoping to keep Boozer as a building block to a team that had just drafted LeBron James, the Cleveland’s legally blind owner Gordon Gund offered Boozer the maximum amount they could for the next season. After that season, Boozer would be have to Bird Rights for a much richer contract from Cleveland, and Gund made an under the table offer to reward him richly in the Summer of 2005. Supposedly, Boozer agreed.
However, Utah had a ton of cap space that Summer, and had been shunned in the two prior Summers of possessing cap space. So, they swooped in with an offer to overpay and Boozer went back on his handshake agreement with Gund and has been a star year in and year out for the Jazz ever since.
Was it the right decision? Probably. If Boozer had signed a one year deal with Cleveland and then re-upped for something remotely close to what the Jazz offered, the Cavs probably would have received the “Joe Smith treatment” and torpedoed the LBJ era before it even started. On the other hand, who stabs a blind man in the back?
3. Stupid Team Name
When is the last time you were thought to yourself: “That Mormon dude sure knows how to play some blues?”
2. Andrei Kirilenko
After a playoff loss to Houston, one reporter set the scene at Kirilenko’s locker as such:
Forward Andrei Kirilenko used a towel to wipe tears from his red and swollen eyes Sunday while discussing his minimal role in the Jazz’s 84-75 loss to the Rockets in Game 1. Kirilenko played only 16 minutes – including only the last seven seconds of the fourth quarter.
Seriously, dude, maybe Coach Jerry Sloan didn’t have minutes in his rotation for a player who behaves like a little girl that didn’t get invited to the popular kid’s birthday party. Man up, and perhaps the legendary coach finds time for him to earn his max contract. In the meantime, Oklahoma City fans can pepper him with calls for the “Waaambulance.”
1. They are our division rival
As I write this, Utah is second in the Northwest Division, three games ahead of the Thunder. That’s despite OKC dominating them on the floor this year. Jerks.