View Full Version : Nice FW Star-Telegram article about city and fans

10/31/2008, 01:52 PM
Linky (http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/story/1006893.html)

Oklahoma City Thunder opens in big league town with college atmosphere

OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant is an NBA superstar-in-training, and so is the Oklahoma City Thunder for which he plays.

This NBA neophyte is still trying to get to a place where it can go through some growing pains.

If you want to buy a No. 35 Durant authentic jersey, you’ll have to wait until January. None available now.

The transplanted Seattle SuperSonics — now Oklahoma City Thunder — had only team logo-manufactured T-shirts and ball caps available for sale at the Ford Center on Wednesday night.

And if you want to take the kids to see a cute-and-cuddly mascot ... well, uh, please hold that thought. One is still in the works.

No NBA team has ever packed ’em up and relocated so quickly. Not the Vancouver Grizzlies to Memphis, not the Charlotte Hornets to New Orleans, probably not even the Minneapolis Lakers to LA.

NBA commissioner David Stern showed up here for Wednesday night’s inaugural game, and used the words "quite extraordinary" to describe what Oklahoma City government officials, the private sector, business execs and "Joe the Plumbers" have done in less than four months time.

Basically, the 19,000-seat Ford Center has been sold out for a bunch of home dates and roughly 82 percent sold out for the rest of the schedule.

To express fan appreciation, team greeters handed out 19,000 free, blue T-shirts at the door, creating a "sea of blue" in the stands for that opening-night Kodak moment.

It mattered little that the home team lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 98-87. The Bricktown bars and eateries filled up rapidly with postgame partiers.

NBA hoopla aside (and there was plenty of that here Wednesday night), Oklahomans are gaga over the Thunder for one big reason: They’re finally "major league" now in the eyes of the outside world.

"There’s a different dynamic here," Stern said. "There’s a unification element ... [demonstrating] how a community can rally around a team when, at first glance, it might not seem probable or even possible for a major-league sport to be supported by a smaller market."

Dallas has the grassy knoll. OKC has the 1995 Federal Building bombing that killed 168. Images are hard to shake.

But this grown-up town in the prairie deserves much better, and it finally has big-time sports coming to its community. Call it Shock & Awe in a bonding sort of way.

Three years ago, OKC became an NBA adoption city for the displaced New Orleans Hornets following Hurricane Katrina.

The Hornets called the Ford Center "home" for the next two seasons, finishing sixth and eighth, respectively, among NBA teams in 2005-06 and 2006-07 attendance.

In fact, it’s a tough ticket to buy — averaging $48 — with an estimated 100 percent price increase over similar Hornets tickets among most of the lower-bowl seats.

The team held an eight-day lottery before the season. But the 13,000 season-ticket allotment was gobbled up in the first five days. Corporate America is alive and well here.

"It’s always the corporations ... [which made it] harder to get tickets than it was with the Hornets," said Mike McGraw, an Oklahoma City home builder, who was a typical voice in the crowd Wednesday night.

Mike and his wife, Paula, however, improved their end-court season tickets by 8-10 rows from 2006-07 Hornets to 2008-09 Thunder.

Magic Johnson recently said, "Kevin Durant is ready to take off this year. He’s ready [in his second NBA season]. He just needs to be consistent, and I think he can do that now."

OKC fans were smitten by Chris Paul and the Hornets, then watched as that team returned to New Orleans, then took the San Antonio Spurs to Game 7 of the 2008 Western Conference semifinals.

"We really liked the Hornets," McGraw said. "We’ll see about the Thunder."
Justin Wright and Haley Turner of Norman — both wearing Texas burnt orange — tried to get a few autographs on a basketball before the game.

They bought upper-level tickets on eBay for $70 apiece last week.

"It was a lot easier to get Hornets tickets," Wright said.

The noise level is something to behold at the Ford Center. This can be one of the loudest buildings in the league.

OKC is now a major-league town with a college atmosphere.

Norman (OU) is 22 miles to the south and Stillwater (Oklahoma State) less than 65 miles the other way.
And there is the NBA right smack dab in the middle.

starclassic tama
11/1/2008, 02:10 PM
i like it