(Want to make your voice heard? Want to speak to the billions upon trillions of Thunder fans? Send in your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. Today’s guest lecture comes from reader Thunder Tim.)
An NBA fan is born
I would consider myself a bit of a sports junkie. I love the passion of the players, the competition of the teams and the tension of the unknown. As far as entertainment goes, sporting events take the cake. I’ve lived most of my life in Wichita and Tulsa and, as a kid, I fell in love with the Kansas City Royals, the University of Kansas basketball program and the Denver Broncos. Since I didn’t have a local NBA team to cheer for (I didn’t even know Denver had a team until a few years ago!), I never got into the NBA. Sure, I had a love affair with the Bulls when MJ was doing his thing and with the Knicks when John Starks (from Tulsa & OSU) was there (I still Hate the Rockets, and, yes, I appreciate the irony of Coach Brooks being on that team), but the NBA remained a mystery to me.
I understood college basketball because it looked a lot like the kind of ball I played – kids playing their hearts out on offense AND defense, jacking up shots, boxing out, diving on the floor, throwing everything they have at the game, every game. And then I’d watch an occasional NBA game and they, well, hardly looked like they were even trying. They were all huge, they beat each other up (picture somebody driving against Anthony “the thug” Mason of the Knicks back in the day) and it was just generally not an enjoyable game. In my mind, the only redeeming factor of the NBA was that the playoffs were 2 months long and the players looked like they were actually trying in the playoffs, so it made it much more enjoyable. But heck, even hockey is kind of exciting in the playoffs, but I wasn’t about to get all emotionally invested in either one of those lame sports, especially when I had pro baseball, pro football and college basketball to cheer for.
And then an “ownership team” led by some guy from Oklahoma bought the Seattle SuperSonics. Hmmm. Wouldn’t that be funny if the Commish let them leave Seattle and move to OKC? There’s no way in the world that would ever happen though, right? I mean, never. Right? But just in case, I kind of sort of followed important newsworthy items surrounding the Sonics, just in case. Trading Ray Allen, drafting KD, letting Rashard Lewis go, etc. Even with all the mess about Key Arena not being up to par and them wanting to move here and on and on, I never thought it would happen. There’s just no way. And then it happened. Holy smokes, it happened!
There is an honest-to-goodness professional sports team in my state! In the great mid-west. The big fly-over. In Okla-freakin-homa! Are you kidding me? LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett – all them – are going to get on jet planes, fly to Oklahoma and play regular season basketball games. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Total and complete shock. Sure, the team stinks, but KD sure is good (even though I kind of hated the UT grad), but we’ve got Nick Collison (one of my all-time favorite KU players), so that’s cool. Unbelievable.
I can’t hardly describe how excited, and nervous, and uncertain I was going to that first game. We played the Suns and I got to see Shaquille O’Neal, one of the best centers in NBA history play in my home state. Live. It was surreal. Oh, and we fielded a team, too. That was nice. But wow, the Suns played here! And, my goodness, watching an NBA game in person sure was cool. End to end action, music blaring, incredible athletes. Amazing.
I was hooked.
A Thunder fan is born
After the initial rush and euphoria of getting an honest-to-goodness professional sport team subsided and I got kind of used to the idea of the LBJ’s and Kobe’s and KG’s and D-Wade’s playing in OKLAHOMA, I started getting to know my Oklahoma City Thunder. I had a reason to check NBA.com, keep up with news and notes from the NBA and have a legitimate rooting interest in an NBA team. Somewhere in the offseason, I stumbled upon this site which has definitely helped me appreciate some of the nuances of the game – from coaching to calling plays to creating a roster, etc. At first, cultivating a new sports team interest just seemed like a decent way to pass the winter. I thought, well, they still stink, but at least I’ll get to cheer for my stinky little team from Oklahoma.
My favorite player at the beginning of the year? Easy. Nick Collison. As one of my favorite players from my favorite college basketball team, he plays NBA ball with a collegiate intensity. I still didn’t appreciate the pro game or know the rest of the players, but I knew and loved Collison – and that was enough to get me going. I even bought a Collison jersey (I am pretty cheap when it comes to buying clothing, so even getting the replica jersey was kind of a big emotional decision for me).
Yeah, so I loved Nick Collison and his team…but with as much as I loved these guys, something was holding me back still from these guys being my team. It was that kid that played in Texas. Yeah, I know, I should’ve just been excited to have one of the best players in the game on my team, but, dangit, he played at Texas! Yuck! He’s unbelievably talented, he’s amazingly genuine, and he’s awfully hard not to like. But, dangit, why’d he have to play at Texas? I hate Texas. I hate just about everything about Texas. Grrrr. This Texas thing was holding me back and I was having a hard time getting over it.
But then a funny thing happened. Just as I got used to the idea of having a pro team in my state, I got used to the idea of Kevin Durant. I love this team so much and feel so fortunate to be able to cheer for a professional sports team in my state that, somewhere along the line, I sort of forgot that he was from Texas. For all of his amazingness and for as much as I have come to appreciate the player and the person, I mostly love him because of the jersey on his back. He plays for my Oklahoma City Thunder and that’s enough for me. It was sort of like that scene from Miracle when Kurt Russell has the hockey kids skating “suicides” until they puked, which transformed their identities from players on their college teams to players for the United States. As my emotional investment with this team has grown, I was transformed from simply being a fan of the team on which one of my favorite college players was on to being a fan of his team, which was now my team…my Oklahoma City Thunder.
As a life-long pro sports fan, I understand that franchises endure, even as players come and go. I know that Collison and Durant will not always play for the Thunder. Even if this is Collison’s last year with the team, my loyalty lies with the Thunder. And even when KD is no longer with the team (which hopefully won’t happen for another 10-15 years, but this is pro sports and things happen), I’ll still love my Thunder. I have a professional sports team in my state and I…LOVE…THE…THUNDER. Even if they never bring home a world championship (can you imagine?!?!?!), this team is MY team and I love them.