Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com penned a fantastic piece today, connecting this Thunder team to the tragedy of April 19, 1995. No Oklahoman has forgotten where they were that day, what they saw or what they felt. There’s no way to accurately sum up the transformation this city has experienced in the 15 years since the bombing, but Howard-Cooper does a pretty stinking good job. (Plus, Kevin Durant’s quote in it darn near choked me up.)
This Thunder season has become higher-power stuff. God and basketball — that’s what it has come to. They went from a promising team with a chance to challenge for a playoff berth to a genuine factor in the Western Conference, on a 52-win pace as small forward Durant turns into a superstar at age 21, Scott Brooks becomes the leading contender for Coach of the Year and Sam Presti a top candidate for Executive of the Year.
They may charge all the way to home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.That’s nothing. Try: They may charge all the way to home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs when the first round of the playoffs opens the week of the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, with President Clinton scheduled to be in town for ceremonies. The Thunder, by making up the 1 1/2-game deficit to finish in the top four in the conference, could even host a game April 19, the date a guy with a grudge against the government for Waco and Ruby Ridge parked a Ryder truck with 4,800 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil in front of the nine-story structure, put in ear plugs to protect himself from what would come next, set a timer and jogged to a getaway car parked in a nearby alley.
If there is a Thunder love fest that night, said Kari Watkins, the executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, “you’ve got to wonder if it’s someone bigger than us telling us, ‘You’ve done it. You’ve come full circle. Now keep going.’ “
Even if you’re a Thunder fan from afar, give it a read. Maybe it’ll help you understand the connection this city has for this team and its players. Maybe this will give a small glimpse into where this deep-rooted passion comes from. Oklahoma City has come a long way in just 15 years, so much so, that I can’t wait for the next 15.