When it Thunders, it reigns
By Brian Washburn
The sold out crowd hardly ever took a seat throughout the three-and-a-half hour event. With every score, turnover and spectacular play, the noise would reach a peak identified as one decibel level below what can potentially harm human health.
This was not the NFL Playoffs, an SEC conference football game and it wasn’t even the first couple rounds of March Madness with an emerging Cinderella. It wasn’t Bud Walton Arena more than a decade ago when the entire state of Arkansas could hear the fans cheering.
No, this was Oklahoma City and the NBA playoffs.
For a city and state that has only been associated with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State football for what seems like the past century, OKC loves the Thunder…and that is even an understatement. Billboards are posted surrounding the downtown Oklahoma City area with portraits of the NBA team who has graced the city for only two years. With mottos like “Rise Together” and “Thunder Up,” the entire OKC area — whether they are an OU, OSU or Tulsa supporter — have all decided to rise up with the Thunder and take on the National Basketball Association.
A day before Game 4 of the Thunder’s first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers, downtown OKC was already congested with traffic and Thunder blue and white by 4 in the afternoon, even though the night’s game was an 8:30 tip-off. Restaurants, bars, buildings and about every stationary object throughout OKC’s downtown Bricktown area featured a message or colors to support their beloved, brand new NBA franchise.
Throughout the entire game, the Thunder dominated the defending NBA champions and limited Kobe Bryant to 13 points and a limited number of shots, which resulted in Kobe retiring to the Laker locker room just a couple minutes into the fourth quarter like the “great leader” he is.
Though much of the game’s outcome – a domination by the Thunder, who eventually won by 21 – can be attributed to the young teams core players, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka and MVP runner-up Kevin Durant.
However, it is the fans and the thunderous atmosphere seeping from every corner of the Ford Center that really has opponents rattled after the Thunder scores, forces a turnover or Durant or Westbrook go up for one of their monster dunks. With towels waving in the air, screams echoing off of the entire Ford Center and the energy rising to an almost unbearable caliber for the opponent, its hard for any NBA team to rebound from a Thunder run in Oklahoma City.
Most NBA cities don’t have half of the team spirit Oklahoma City does, but this should not as any surprise for fans of the Thunder or NBA fans in OKC.
After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Hornets moved to Oklahoma City for a few seasons and the response was incredible. This led to the NBA allowing the Seattle Supersonics to relocate to Oklahoma City when ownership changed hands. With this decision, history is about to be made in Oklahoma City. Durant is on his way to being in the top tier of NBA players.
This top tier is nothing to joke about either. This level includes the likes of Kobe, Dwight Howard and LeBron James – who, by the way, has the potential to average a triple-double in the next decade, as well as secure his place as the best basketball player in history. Durant has the potential to earn at least a couple scoring titles throughout his career, and maybe even an MVP or two, barring injury.
With the supporting cast genius GM Sam Presti has put around Durant and current NBA Coach of the Year Scott Brooks, the Thunder have an extremely bright future, especially with the intense, spirit-filled fan base found throughout the state.
For the record: before anyone else can doubt, predict or override this statement, here is my prediction for the next four years in NBA playoff basketball. This year LeBron will capture his first title on his way to becoming king of the world, and he will do it against Kobe and his fellow aging Lakers.
Next year, with the same intensity and a slightly different supporting cast – possibly Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson or even Dwayne Wade – LeBron will repeat as champion against Carmelo Anthony and the surging Denver Nuggets.
The following season, LeBron will face his toughest competiton yet when the top-tier Thunder have finally emerged as the No. 1 contender for the NBA Title out of the Western Conference. However, the OKC Thunder will fall in seven games to LeBron, although I am still not sure what team he will be leading to these three championships.
The following year, Thunder will reign all over the nation. In 2013, MVP Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder will defeat LeBron James and his team to win their first NBA championship.
When this goes down just remember, you heard it here first.