We conclude our week of looking back at OKC's history, centered around our interview with Oklahoma State Senator David Holt, by getting our own writing team to share their own perspectives.
David Holt Interview
As long as I can remember, I've been a pretty big basketball fan. I have fond memories of going to OU games with my Dad, playing basketball in the driveway, and firing up NBA Live '98 on my PC. But my interest in basketball really peaked when the Hornets came to town. I went to most the games, and cheered my heart out for that injury-riddled team. But throughout it all, it was pretty obvious that the team wasn't really "ours". There wasn't a lack of support, but it was stated from the beginning that Oklahoma City was a temporary home, and the "Hometown Hornets" moniker only served to reinforce that notion.
Nevertheless, the team's departure left a definite hole in the city. I'll always remember the Pre-Season game that the Hornets played in Oklahoma City, as a final farewell. I got a program printed on a single piece of construction paper, was treated to the basketball talents of Adam Haluska, and gazed upon a totally empty Loud City. It allowed me a bit of closure, but knowing that the closest basketball was three hours away was still a saddening thought.
But the dramatic tension in my story ends there. The absolute truth is that I had no idea the Sonics were coming. I was in Germany that June on a foreign exchange trip with my High School, and first found out about the news as I was about to board a plane home. The feeling was strange, to say the least. I wasn't really expecting a new team, but I was definitely excited to have them here and watch them build from the ground up. Being a long time fan of Golden State of Mind and having free time over the rest of the Summer, I immediately started my own blog and put my full commitment behind our new team. I was ready to cheer for these underdogs as long as it took, even if we were this century's version of the Chicago Cubs.
Of course, things turned out quite differently than I expected.
For most of us, growing up in Oklahoma as a sports fan meant one of two things: you either bleed crimson and creme as a Oklahoma Sooners fan or you bleed orange and black cheering for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The addition of the Thunder in Oklahoma City has not only turned a once bleak downtown into a flourishing hotspot for tourists, it has also breathed life into fans across the state. We used to cheer for our teams from the couch in front of the television set, but now we can attend a NBA game without making a three-hour drive to Dallas. Fans across the state have already grown to appreciate what the Thunder bring night in and night out throughout the season and it shows as they have made the Chesapeake Energy Arena one of the loudest in the NBA.
Altogether, Oklahoma City is a better place because of the NBA and the Thunder.
I'm actually from Vancouver, and before the Sonics left, they had been the closest NBA team to home after the Grizzlies moved on to Memphis. So, when the Sonics became the Thunder, I was one of those people that had to come to grips with losing yet another team in the Pacific Northwest. I might be a bit rare in that I've remained a fan of the team after they've left, but I was able to witness the sadness of local fans first-hand. With that said, however, the Thunder have really turned out to be something special in the few years. While I can't speak for Seattle, many fans in the Vancouver area have really bought back into the Thunder. They're a re-energized franchise powered by an electric fan base in Oklahoma City, and the move there seemed to spur a complete turnaround of the franchise as they made an impossible leap into contention. They play exciting basketball and they have an extremely bright future, and with many fans, that's more than enough to rekindle old bonds.
I eat, breathe and sleep sports, so to have the opportunity to have a major league sports franchise in my own backyard is awesome!
I grew up watching MJ play for the Bulls and was jealous of all the fans watching him play live and I was stuck at home watching him on the TV. Now, I'm able to drive 2 hours and watch the game I grew-up watching and it's pretty fantastic!
I have lived in Kansas City, Missouri my entire life. I was born here and I am pretty sure I will die here. Clearly having an NBA team in my home town has never been a regular part of my life. NBA was always one of the sports I gravitated towards in my youth. Mainly because my older brothers loved it and I wanted to fit in with them. With no NBA here you have to settle for what you can get, which in this case is Big 12 basketball.
That settling lead me to enjoyment of the absolutely ridiculously freshman season of Kevin Durant. I remember Kevin Durant going for 30 and 16 in the double OT victory over Texas A&M and I will never forget him dropping 25 in the first half at Allen Field House vs. KU. The intro video at Allen Field House is something that gets much discussion in these parts. Many teams and players find themselves in awe of the intro video when it plays and the thought is that it tends to lead to a level of intimidation. When that video played Kevin Durant stared at the video board and you could see him acting different than most college basketball players. He stared at the video and used it as his own personal hype man. That video fired him up. Plain and simple. It resulted in a KD making 10 of his first 14 shot and scoring 25 point first half on. The only thing that slowed him down in the second half was him rolling his ankle on Julian Wright's foot.
I knew Durant was a player I would love watching for the rest of his basketball life. When the Supersonics were moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City it made it that much easier to follow Durant's career. A five hour road trip west and I can be in the same arena as one of the most exciting players in the NBA. Not too bad of a set up at all.
I have a confession to make. I don't live in OKC. In fact, I've never even visited (although this is one transgression I hope to remedy one day). I have followed the NBA since about 1986, but the mid 2000's were a time when I was having a hard time figuring out what I wanted my interest in the league to be. As a result, the drama surrounding the Sonics and the new team in OKC only registered for me on a passing level, not personal.
When I waded into WTLC a few seasons ago, that's all it really was - a piece of NBA history that happened far away. However, what it has become, as I've read, listened to, and tried to comprehend, is that it is about 2 sets of passionate fans trying to figure out how professional basketball makes any sense at all in the larger scheme of things. For Seattle, it has been about the bitterness of watching powerful men on whom they have almost zero impact, watching these men change their lives in a silly yet heart-wrenching way. Basketball and sports in general, are like music in that, when you strip away the "industry of cool," what is left is something that touches your soul and you can't imagine your life without it. For Thunder fans, it has been about trying to find a way through the healing process of wanting to be something known more, by outsiders and themselves, than simply the city that suffered a bombing. And now that they have it, experiencing all the ups and downs, heartbreaks and hopes, and yes, the powerlessness, of watching something on which they have minimal impact, impact them greatly.
Sports are great. Basketball is great. You can insert your favorite musical lyric here. I'm going to go listen to some Hendrix and hope that the redeeming story that has taken place in OKC will soon take place again in the northwest.
More from Welcome to Loud City:
- Big League City: Oklahoma state Senator David Holt explains how the NBA came to OKC, Part 1
- Big League City, Part II: David Holt discusses OKC history, the decision to pursue a pro team, and SonicsGate
- Big League City, Part III: David Holt discusses the OKC bombing, the future of the city, and a new identity for Thunder fans
- Sonics Rising Responds: a view on "Big League City" from our Seattle brethren
- J.A. Sherman reviews "Big League City," the story of how the Thunder came to OKC