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The NFL Draft was just last weekend. The NBA Draft is just next month.
My favorite NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys, had a mixed-reviews draft.
My favorite NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, need a home-run draft.
The Cowboys are one of the most popular and successful sports franchises of all-time. Despite all the haters and admittedly funny memes, these are just facts. The popularity: proven time and again by television ratings, home and away attendance and merchandise sales. The success: proven by their five Super Bowl titles, their #2 greatest winning percentage of all-time (just .1% from the Packers) and #2 most playoff appearances of all-time (just one away from the dang Packers!).
Dallas is coming off a very successful season in which they finished 12-5, claimed the #3 seed and drafted a generational talent in Micah Parsons, the unanimous Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year runner-up.
The Thunder play in one of the smallest markets in the pro sports, have zero NBA titles to their name and are in the middle of a Philly Process style rebuild. OKC is coming off two straight seasons in which they finished with the fourth-worst record in the league, drafted #6 and #18 last season despite having two coin flip odds to nab two separate top 5 picks, and gave a prominent role to a 20 year old who wears a fanny pack.
But if you were to ask me which of my favorite pro sports team’s futures I am most confident in, I’d tell you hands-down, without a doubt, it’s the Thunder.
My two teams couldn’t be more opposite, starting from the top.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is arguably in the spotlight, in front of cameras and in the press more than any owner in all of sports. Thunder owner Clay Bennett may be the other bookend, the Sonicsgate documentary notwithstanding.
Cowboys General Manager Jerry Jones–or is it Stephen Jones?–used to be the biggest wheeler and dealer in the NFL. But has he won a single trade since the infamous Herschel Walker dynasty-maker (which wasn’t really on him; thanks Jimmy Johnson)? Thunder General Manager Sam Presti is, was, and always will be, the biggest wheeler and dealer in the NBA. And has he lost a single trade since the infamous James Harden dynasty-breaker (which wasn’t really on him; thanks retroactive Rose Rule)?
The stark differences in upper management are reflected in recent success, if you look further than the past year. As Janet Jackson sang, “What have you done for me lately?”
The Cowboys haven’t made it to a conference championship game since January of 1995. The only OKC players alive the last time Dallas was in the NFC Championship are Derrick Favors, Mike Muscala and Kenrich Williams… and Baby Kenny Hustle was a month old. The Thunder have made it to four conference championship games since 1995… and the team didn’t even exist until 2008.
The combination of management/mismanagement and recent success/failure has ingrained two vastly different cultures in Oklahoma’s most popular NBA and NFL teams.
The Cowboys have always, despite my renewed and misguided optimism to start every season, found a new and deflating way to clutch defeat from the jaws of victory over the past two decades. Whether it be in a run of the mill regular season game or an important playoff game, Dallas fans have become accustomed to disappointment and heartache. Roger Staubach, Randy White and Emmitt Smith created a culture of winning, but it got lost somewhere along the way.
The Thunder always seem, despite trying to finish with the worst record to start the season, to find a new and deflating (for some) way to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat over the past two seasons. Whether the young and upcoming OKC triplets era, the Brodie MVP season or the surprising .2% chance of the playoffs underdog squad, Oklahoma City fans have become accustomed to exceeding expectations. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul created a culture of winning, and it hasn’t been lost despite the losses.
My Cowboys (ugh, I sound like Skip Bayless right now) are a young team that should be primed for a title run this year. But the management, recent lack of success and culture make me fear it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
The Thunder are a young team that should be years away from a title run. But the management, recent history of success and culture make me feel like it’s going to happen… well, I don’t know, but probably before the Cowboys.