(Tanner Bean's "Thunder L.A. Story" is a series depicting how a native Oklahoman travels to Hollywood to follow his dreams of rock n' roll and cinema, only to be beckoned back home by the siren song of the Thunder)
The upcoming NBA season is still about a week away, so I thought I'd try something a little different for this column. Or maybe I'm just distracting myself in order to cope with Kevin Durant's busted foot. I swear I've got so many texts from friends and coworkers about KD that it feels like one of my family members just passed away. But enough about those depressing topics.
For as long as I've been a Thunder fan, I've been at odds with their lack of, shall we say... "presentation." In my opinion they come across too... "small market." And no, that's not a compliment. Let the "You're an elitist jerk from Los Angeles!" hate mail commence. To be fair, I spent my first 23 years in Oklahoma so I feel completely justified in calling out the Thunder's podunk aesthetic.
With all of that out of the way, here are the two recent items that inspired me to finally put fingers to keyboard:
1. Grantland's Zach Lowe ranked the court designs of all 30 NBA teams. The Thunder came in 27th and I think that's totally fair.
2. The Thunder unveiled the name of their new D-League team: the Oklahoma City Blue. Man, that is horrible. Who does the marketing for this organization?! Seriously. They're not even trying anymore. I always thought the "Zombie Sonics" moniker was stupid, but I'd rather call this team the Zombie 66ers than the Blue. And the logo? It's just as bad as you'd imagine. My first thought: it looks like the logo for some STD medicine you'd see in one of those hilariously tragic commercials.
Not that I'm an expert or anything.
Believe it or not, my time as an LA jerk has taught me a thing or two. In the entertainment biz it's usually frowned upon to crap on a screenplay or a movie scene without having a pitch for how to fix it. Taking that into consideration, I've tried to come up with solutions rather than just complain the whole time. Let's get started...
I'll never understand why the team wasn't named the "Oklahoma Thunder." It's not like Tulsa is getting their own team any time soon. In fact, they just lost their D-League team! That being said, I like the "OKC" chants during games, so I take this one back.
Team Name - I didn't like the Thunder name at first. Naming teams after inanimate objects like the Jazz, Magic, and Heat always seemed a little weird. But the Thunder name has grown on me, so I guess I take this one back too.
Something I won't take back? My feelings on the Thunder's jerseys and colors. They SUCK! Sorry, but there's no other way to say it.
The Away Jerseys - Oklahoma City is the longest city name by a couple characters and it looks silly with "CITY" on its own line below "OKLAHOMA." Why can't the team's away jerseys just say "Thunder" like the home ones? It'd look way better. And it's not like it's taboo to not use the city name. The 76ers, Lakers, Jazz, Spurs, and Celtics (besides their alternate jerseys) all do this already.
Speaking of alternate jerseys, the Atlanta Hawks' "ATL" jerseys are awesome. It would be badass if the Thunder's alternates just said "OKC." But first you'd have to completely scrap their current ones, and that my friends, would be a very good thing. The current alternates bear literally zero resemblance to the regular jerseys. The Denver Nuggets are the only other team that does this, but their alternates are essentially throwbacks to the Dikembe Mutombo era.
The Thunder's colors? Absolutely horrendous. Most teams have 3 colors, including white, and some like the Nets and Celtics just have two. The Thunder, on the other hand, use 5. Light Blue, Thunder Red, Yellow, Dark Blue, White. Yuck. Even if all the colors complimented each other, that'd still be too many.
Let's discuss the glaringly obvious problem first: Thunder Red. It's actually orange. Before we go any further I must confess that I am an OU alum, so naturally I'm not a huge orange fan. But I'm NOT suggesting the Thunder adopt crimson into their color palette. Quite the opposite in fact, I think the Thunder should refrain from using both teams' colors, considering college football is practically a religion in Oklahoma. Ironically, that's not even the biggest reason they shouldn't use orange. Like the Thunder, many NBA teams incorporate a basketball into their logo. Some examples: the Pacers, Lakers, Magic, Pistons, and Clippers. And that's only naming a few. The Thunder are one of three teams that actually use an orange basketball in their logo. The other two teams - The Knicks and The Suns - both get a pass though because orange is one of their main colors, whereas the Thunder seem to use it solely because they're unimaginative. Lame.
My solution? Stop hiring colorblind people to design the uniforms.
Was that too mean? Whatever.
Here's what I'd do...
Light Blue - Well, I guess we're stuck with this one. Otherwise the D-League team would have to change their name again. Can you imagine what the runner-up name to the Blue was?! No, you can't, there was no runner-up, there's no way the marketing team even bothered to come up with other options, they've completely given up.
In all seriousness, I like blue being the Thunder's main color.
White - You need white for the home jerseys (unless you're the Lakers).
Orange (Thunder Red) - Goodbye. Don't let the door hit ya on the way out.
Yellow - Currently, the Thunder use an uninspired shade of yellow that kind of looks like mustard. Instead, they should use a brighter and more vibrant "lightning" yellow. And they should use it only to highlight and accent - similar to how the Seattle Seahawks use Action Green.
Dark Blue - It's so dark and used so minimally that it looks black on TV, so lighten it up a bit and/or use it more.
In conclusion, I'm basically ripping off the San Diego Chargers' color scheme. And why not? Their uniforms are great.
Image via Mike Nowak, San Diego Chargers
Granted, the Nuggets, Grizzlies, and Pacers all use variations of blue, yellow, and white. But so what? The Hawks, Wizards, 76ers, and Clippers all use red, white, and blue, and they all manage to have their own distinct look.
Quick tangent: only the Wizards and 76ers should use red, white, and blue in my opinion. And... do the Wizards have the worst team name in the NBA? Almost. That honor is bestowed upon the Toronto Raptors. Although they compensate for it with awesome uniforms and colors, as well as a first-rate court design.
Another quick tangent: Steve Ballmer is worth $20 billion dollars, but if he doesn't rename the Clippers then he's a 20 billion dollar idiot. They've arguably been the worst professional sports team for the last 30 years and after all the Donald Sterling crap, they're in more need of a makeover than ever. But... what about the Clippers' brand equity? Stop. "Los Angeles" is their brand equity. It doesn't matter what the team is named. As long as it's not the Clippers.
Back to the Thunder...
They need to get creative with who they hire to redesign their logo and uniforms. And they need to hire local. I'd start with scouring the Paseo Arts District and Plaza District of Oklahoma City to see if I could find some cutting-edge artists to do some mockups. Our man and OKC resident artist Bill Champion is a busy guy, but I'm sure even with his limited time and weird obsession with Falkor the Luck Dragon, he could still create something superior to what we have now.
In reality, the design/logo shouldn't be anything outlandish, but it would be cool to add a tinge of homegrown Okie flair to the overall look. If it were up to me, I would've hired the Warpaint Clothing Company. They created a ton of unique Thunder shirts that I sport on the reg. Unfortunately, it looks like Warpaint has gone out of business recently, so it's too late for that. Bummer. And yes, this is the same clothing company that received death threats from Sonics fans for their infamous "Thanks, Seattle" shirt. Okay, so maybe I would've "secretly" hired the Warpaint guys. My point: find a hidden gem in the local art community and hire them to come up with some refreshing and innovative designs.
Speaking of the "Thanks, Seattle" shirt... Was it disrespectful? Yes. Was it in bad taste? Probably. Do I own one? Absolutely.
Lastly, maybe even involve Westbrook, Durant, and/or Ibaka in the new logo and uniform design. All three of them hold fashion in high regard but are different in their own right. Westbrook has his own line at Barneys. Durant has Nike. Ibaka has...his own skin. Either way, would having a voice in designing new uniforms have any bearing on whether those players re-sign with the Thunder? Of course not. But it's still something, right? It can't hurt, right?
Never mind. Involving Westbrook in the uniforms might hurt a lot.
Okay. That's enough about their uniforms and colors. The Thunder has one of the best fan bases in the NBA and the "college atmosphere" at The Peake is truly electric. But can we make going to a game in Oklahoma City an even better experience? The ideas below are a little stream of consciousness, so bear with me.
It looks like Steven Adams might've already pushed his way into the starting lineup, so maybe this idea would've been better last season, but I guess it could still work whenever he checks back in after a rest. But when the PA Announcer calls out Steven's name, can the home crowd please start humming the main theme from the Addams Family song with the in unison finger snaps? And the fans that used to wear the James Harden beards could start dressing up like Uncle Fester and Pugsley! Yes, I know all of this is insanely cheesy, but I think it could be kind of fun too.
Can the in-game music be more unique? I know there are some standards that they do in every NBA arena like the "Everybody clap your hands" thing, but we can trade a few clichéd songs out for something more original? There's way too much "Crazy Train" by Ozzy and "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses during games. Now listen, I was born a rocker and I'll die a rocker. In fact, I spent almost a decade playing in LA rock bands. My last band Prohibition Rose (representin'!) was even managed and produced by the legendary Matt Sorum from GNR. But still, can we change it up just a little bit...? Get just a little creative...?
For example: The Flaming Lips are Oklahoma's most respected band. By far. Use them! An idea: there's a distorted bass riff around the 1:23 mark from their song "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton" from the Soft Bulletin album (still their best). It'd sound awesome to blast it when coming back from a TV timeout or even at certain moments during the game.
And just for the record, aren't we all a little sick of the Heat's "Seven Nation Army" chant? Yeah, that's what I thought.
Another idea... Get Shawnee-born Chad Petree and Jeremy Dawson from Shiny Toy Guns to come up with some musical interludes as well. Or maybe even the All American Rejects. And how about Hinder? Get them to write a power ballad for... I can't even finish the rest of that sentence. But what about honorary Oklahomans Kings of Leon?
Hold on. What about the mogul himself?! Beyoncé's husband! He's Kevin Durant's freaking agent! Okay, look, we all know that Jay Z isn't writing in-game music for Oklahoma's NBA team. But what about one of his protégés?! If I worked for the Thunder, I'd be chatting up KD about having one of Jay Z's boys create some new sounds for the team. What if one of them even sampled AC/DC's "Thunderstuck"? Angus Young's unmistakable guitar intro might be really cool juxtaposed with a hip-hop beat.
And I know I just said the Thunder should minimize the classic rock, but it does feel like they should take over the "Thunderstruck" song somehow. Too many other teams still use it. If AC/DC had songs about grizzly bears or Louisiana's state bird, it's hard to imagine other teams playing them.
Sidebar: Why doesn't AC/DC have a song about grizzly bears?
Regardless, Thunder fans should still shout Brian Johnson's "Thunder" chants and "Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah" growl similar to how Florida State uses their "Seminole War Chant."
Let's see... What else?
Bill Hader - Born and raised in Tulsa. He's objectively hilarious. Can we please get this SNL alum to film some weird skits to show on the jumbotron? I gotta feeling he'd do it.
Image via Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Rumble the Bison - I actually think Rumble is a pretty good mascot. No complaints here.
What about some... thunder? Huh? Let me explain: the Minnesota Vikings blast a Viking horn during games. Can OKC do something similar and blast a thunder sound through the PA system? Imagine a loud crack of thunder reverberating through the arena after a Westbrook to Durant alley-oop?!
Well, that's all I got. For now. I feel like there was a few good ideas as well as some dumb ones. But hey, at least they are new ideas. And the Thunder seem fresh out of those these days.
Or maybe I'm wrong about all this. Maybe I am just an elitist jerk from Los Angeles.