Committed? Check. Community? Check. Humility? Check. Resiliency? Check!
I’ve been very blessed to be able to attend several Thunder games this season (23 to be exact – not including pre-season and post-season games), and was among the fortunate few who witnessed the Thunder’s first ever home playoff game from the Ford Center. I’d try to describe the feeling of being there to you, but honestly, there just aren’t words. It’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.
I could tell you about the game, but I’m sure that if you cared, you watched it. If not, I doubt you’ll be able to avoid the highlights on Sports Center. In a nutshell, after a slow start (a 0 – 10 run in the opening minutes) we never lost focus. With scoring help from Green, Harden and Westbrook, we kept the game to a 2 point lead at the half. I sat speechless for most of the 3rd quarter knowing that we could win, but we needed a momentum shift and we needed it fast. Then, this happened:
Westbrook with a dunk. Harden with a 3 point shot. Kevin with a 3 point shot. Bing-bang-boom! We tied it up. From then on, the crowd kept a steady roar.. a steady, ear-numbing roar. Neither I, nor basically anyone else sat during the entire 4th quarter. I have never cheered so loudly or been so intensely involved in any single event in my life. The whole thing was simply indescribable.
The final score: Lakers 96 – Thunder 101
Now, I know this entire concept is lost on some of you. Why would I care so deeply about a basketball game? Well, to understand why the game was so important to me, I’ll explain to you why the team means so much to me.
- Humility. We could’ve had any combination of guys on this team. I feel like the Thunder staff hand-picked these guys, not only because they are immensely talented, but because they’re also incredibly humble. A dude like Kobe just wouldn’t work in this community. Yeah, he’s one of the greats as far as basketball, but his ego and behavior off the court is downright appalling. That doesn’t jive with us Oklahomans. We’re in the middle of the Bible belt here.. We want guys with good character and good heads on their shoulders – and we’ve got them. Keep your Kobes and LeBrons, we’ll keep Kevin and Russ.
- Community. Maybe this comes along with the humility, but I’ve never seen a team more involved with their community. Yes, I understand that as members of the NBA, each team is contractually required to be involved it their community to a certain extent. Maybe it’s my ignorance of the way other organizations run, but I feel like the Thunder go above and beyond. Our boys are constantly out in the community building houses, visiting schools, helping coach basketball camps for kids.. anything they can do to be good role models. Then, there’s Kevin Durant. I may be wrong, but I’m fairly certain that the KD’s Giving Tree event from last Christmas was Kevin’s idea that the Thunder jumped behind to promote. Also, I know that he took a less fortunate family shopping and told them to get whatever they wanted for the holidays.. and all of that came out of his own pocket. Not mention the Rumble Acts of Kindness promotion when, for an entire week, Rumble ran around picking random people in the community to bless in various ways. After meeting the person behind Rumble, I have a feeling that the idea was his and he convinced the Thunder to back him up. All that to say, we’ve been there for them and they’ve stepped up to be there for our community.
- Underdog. Who doesn’t love the underdog? We went 23 – 59 last season.. this season, 50 – 32. Nine of our players are under the age of 23. We obviously don’t have the size or experience of other teams in the league. No one expected to see us in the playoffs for at least another couple years – And yet, here we are, the number 8 seed in the Western conference, making the defending champs work to make it to the second round. If that ain’t the beginning of a Cinderella story, I don’t know what is. Give us a few years, we’ll be champs. I guarantee it.
- Resiliency. You can criticize whatever aspect of our game that you feel the need to, but you can’t say we’re not resilient. In any sport, it’s hard to take a beating and keep your energy and esteem up, but the Thunder never say die. I’ve never seen any team bounce back like we do. Game 3 was the perfect example of that. While KD was doing a fantastic job defensively, his offense was off, scoring only 8 points in the first half. However, he didn’t let that stop him from taking shots. Kevin ended the game with 29 points – 5 more than Kobe. How does the Thunder manage to not lose their heads? The players credit their teammates and coaching staff for never giving up on them and the energy of the crowd to re-affirm them. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
- Family. Imagine it was your son out on that court playing in his first playoff series against possibly the best team in the NBA.. and he won. That’s how I felt. I’ve become very attached to all these guys. I consider them my family and I will do anything I can to support my family, through good times and bad. I sat in Loud City and cheered my team on during their less-than-stellar first season, I shelled out cash that I didn’t have to be there with them for their first playoff series and I’ll continue to cheer them on the rest of my life. Those are my boys.
Tonight is game 4. Can we win it? Absolutely. Will we win it? Well, I hope so.
What I can guarantee you is that I’ll be there screaming my lungs out for my boys and, win or lose, they’ll play their hardest – not only for themselves, but for us. Regardless of how the series turns out, I couldn’t be prouder of the way this team has improved and how much they have accomplished. Get behind the Thunder, people! Let’s rise together!