I’ve been a huge college football fan for most of my life. Ok, I’ve been a huge OU Sooners fan most of my life. There are pictures of me wearing OU sweatshirts and watching games with my dad as a little girl, and most of my notebooks in sixth grade had OU doodles all over them. I always thought basketball was something to be played in the off-season. Before 2008, I only watched a handful of NBA games…I went to one game when the Hornets were in town, and I watched some of the Mavs-Suns playoffs because I briefly dated a guy who was a huge Mavs fan.
I never thought I would actually become a fan of any NBA team. And if I did, it should have been the Mavericks. They were the only team I really knew about, and they even won the championship when I was in Dallas.
When the Thunder game to OKC, I thought it was kind of cool. But I had no intention of becoming a fan. I was a football fan, period. And then they started that season 3-29, and I couldn’t help but wonder how they were going to build a fanbase like that. When OU loses one game everyone freaks out. Lose 29 the first half of the season? Oklahoma expects more than that.
But there was something about the Thunder, even in that first season. They turned it around, and even though they still had a losing record, they had potential. They had fire. They had heart.
And I think that’s why they won me, and this whole city over. These aren’t a bunch of egotistical guys, playing for the money and the glory. These guys are playing basketball because they love it. Oh, they still want to win a championship. You could see that in their tears last night. But they are playing for different reasons than a lot of the other players in the NBA.
I started watching Thunder games on and off during the second season. I remember watching the final minutes of the last Thunder-Lakers playoff game in Dave and Busters. I think that was the first time I really felt like a Thunder fan. And then Kevin Durant announced his five-year extension on Twitter while LeBron James announced he was taking his talents to South Beach in that awful TV debacle. And my love of the Thunder and its players grew immensely.
Despite living in Dallas last year, I rooted for the Thunder against the Mavs during the Western Conference Finals. And then I moved back to Oklahoma, and my label as a Thunder fan was cemented. I drank the blue kool-aid, and started watching every game I could. (The lockout actually was not too bad in my opinion – it kept basketball from interfering with most of football season!)
I still don’t know the game like I do football. Pick-and-rolls, charges, goal tending, so many different things I’m still trying to figure out. And I get frustrated when trying to understand fouls (but I am clearly not alone in that!)
And the more I learn about these players, from Durant to Ibaka to Sefolosha, the more I love them! These guys remind me more of college players, which is part of why I love them. College players, no matter the sport, seem to play with more heart. They are playing for their university, for their fans, just as much if not more than they are playing for themselves. And the Thunder players seem to be playing for this city, for this state.
After the game last night, Kevin Durant said: ”It hurts to go out like this…I wouldn’t want to play with anybody else or for any other city. We hold our heads high.”
Durant, I think it is safe to say that OKC wouldn’t want you to play for any other city either. Everywhere I looked last night I saw nothing but positive comments about the Thunder. Dozens of different graphics were put together to express how proud this city is of the team. This one from ShopGood will be made into a shirt soon (that I will be buying!)
I tweeted: “I love how positive all the
#THUNDER fans are. No hate, all love! Played your heart out, and couldn’t be prouder to be @okcthunder fan.” And it was retweeted five times in about five minutes. I didn’t see a single negative comment by a Thunder fan.
And, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but that is definitely one area where Thunder fans are better than Sooners. There are always negative comments about the Sooners, about the coaches, the players, the calls, everything. The only really negative comments I saw by Thunder fans were about the refs!
No, I am not giving up my love of Sooner football. But I have become a two-sport girl this year. Two teams have my heart now. I was born a football fan but I chose to be a basketball fan. I’m Sooner born and Sooner bred, but I think I might bleed Thunder blue…