Welcome to the refreshed Welcome to Loud City! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts [link here] to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here [https://www.sbnation.com/why-we-are-fans] and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
The unforgettable moments, experiences and images that brought us to our landing spot as Oklahoma City Thunder observers.
As an exploring adolescent in my mid-American alcove, there were three ways to fully embrace each afternoon and ephemeral weekend: probing bicycle adventures through uncharted woodland, sauntering along rusty railroad tracks to other awaiting neighborhoods, and, alas, entering the Holy-of-Holies, the Garden Lakes basketball court.
At age eleven, just as Michael Jordan had abdicated his throne to belt a handful of round trippers with the White Sox AA affiliate, though bookish, I was blindsided by acceptance from my more outgoing peers. Peers who lifted me along a transformational journey.
Timorous and wide-eyed, my first love exploded as a supernova during summer 93’.
While I placed the encyclopedias aside in favor of fledgling roundball aspirations, I was transfixed by both the improvisational game’s rhythmic beauty, and graceful elegance.
Eager to expand, through creaky gate I crossed my ensconced world’s epicenter onto baked asphalt where boys became men, and honor was earned 15 points at a time. These dusk-til-dawn sessions repeated all summer. And though they passed with an unmistakable velocity, 25-years-later each second remains fully inscribed to memory.
During those formative months, I forged the mettle and skill that would later allow my spindly teenage frame to don a coveted high school jersey while basking in the student body’s approbatory roar amid whafts of freshly salted popcorn.
Though, more importantly, I also laid seeds which brought me to work NBA locker rooms, interview players and coaches, and live a little of my unyielding childhood dream as an adult on a daily basis.
That summer, those games, and the accompanying feelings can only be fully experienced once, but they cannot be resigned. The hazy months of 1993 lit a blistering inferno within the framework of who I am.
And after years of observing Thunder basketball, while covering the league, I happened upon this guy below:
To hear a man tell it, my encounter with the NBA runs nearly 30 years in the past. I grew up in central New York in a small town called Cazenovia (hi, Irishsecra!) and throughout my childhood years there was the Syracuse Orangemen and then everything else. I grew up rooting for a team whose mascot was an orange ball. But the memories still resonate - Pearl Washington, Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens, Derrick Coleman, Rony Seikaly, etc. Watched or listened to all the games. Collected all the buttons. Hated the Hoyas with a passion.
On one occasion in some random week during the Winter of 1986, my father invited a friend of his over for the evening to watch some basketball. His name was Bruce. I will never forget his name. As I was too young at the time to stay up late, but still curious as to what game they were watching, Bruce told me that this wasn’t the college game, oh no. This was an NBA game. PROFESSIONALS. And they were settling in to watch the two best teams play - the Lakers and the Celtics.
Before I was ushered to bed, Bruce turned to me. “Who is your favorite NBA player?”
Keep in mind, I’m about 10 at the time. There’s only one NBA player’s name that I know, in part because of my college hoops fandom, and I happened to see him on the cover of “Sports Illustrated for Kids” in a doctor’s office a few days prior. So I just blurt it out:
And this man, this 30-something year old man, looks at me, a 10 year old clueless kid, and laughs. And laughs. And mocks me, and then laughs some more.
PATRICK EWING? PATRICK EWING?!?
“No,” he says, suddenly serious. Now it’s a moment. “You can’t say Ewing. There are only two options. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.”
And now, having heard two of the most silly-sounding names I had ever heard of at the time, it was my turn to laugh. Except I didn’t, because I was terrified.
“Ahhhummmm...” I mumbled...I had no idea what to say. So I said the one thing that would both alleviate this crushing pressure as well as stroke this man’s ego.
“Well, who is YOUR favorite player?”
And there it was. Larry Bird. A man with a name that sounded like a cartoon. I had no idea who he was, what he looked like, or whether or not he was better than Pearl Washington, let alone Patrick Ewing. It didn’t matter. The decision had been made.
“Bird is my favorite player too.”
And from that moment on, I kid you not, I have rooted for the Celtics and hated-HATED the Lakers.
Fast forward to 2010. Those same dastardly Lakers were vying for a repeat championship and were playing a very young upstart team in the first round of the playoffs. I knew two things about that young team. They had previously been known as the Supersonics, and their best player was the guy that the Trail Blazers should have drafted. This team of brash and athletic youngsters hammered on the veteran Lakers over and over again. In a series that was more competitive than the final outcome revealed, I knew that the landscape was about to shift.
A year later, I decided at the behest of my close friend Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog to start writing about the NBA. But which team? I didn’t want to be a small voice in the sea of saturated sportswriters (and this was in 2010, mind you), so my thoughts gravitated toward that young small-market team that was covered by the local paper and Royce Young at Daily Thunder. I would write about them on my own personal Wordpress blog that was horrendously named “A Sound of Thunder” after the Ray Bradbury short story.
Three months later, Welcome to Loud City came calling.
And here we are.
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