The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK


April 11, 2011

Thunder’s roar sparks interest

I was perfectly content paying little or no attention to the NBA.

Oh, back in the days of Wilt Cham-berlain and Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and Jerry West, clear up through the days of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, I at least had a passing interest in professional basketball.

But then all the stars retired (and, in Jordan’s case, unretired and retired again) and the NBA faded from importance in my view. Then the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” came along and I lost interest altogether.

The pros didn’t play hard until the playoffs, I told myself, and they certainly don’t play defense. And the season was too long.

But then Hurricane Katrina happened and Oklahoma City’s leaders, with a new downtown arena funded by the forward-thinking MAPS project, made a bid to host the New Orleans Hornets while that troubled city rebuilt.

So for two years they were suddenly “our” Hornets. Guard Chris Paul became our favorite player, a kid with a clean image who enthusiastically embraced his temporary home.

Then, just as suddenly, the Hornets were gone, back to the Big Easy. But then came Clay Bennett, who married into the Gaylord family and wanted to spend some of it to buy the Seattle SuperSonics and move them to OKC.

Then it happened, and suddenly “our” team was called the Thunder.

Suddenly I found myself caring about the NBA again.

They won only 23 games their first year, and we told ourselves to be patient, it would take time to build a winning franchise.

We were right, but it didn’t take nearly as long as we expected. In their second season the Thunder won 50 games and qualified for the playoffs.

Today, with this year’s playoffs slated to begin this weekend, the Thunder have their first division crown since moving to Oklahoma City, just beat the Lakers on their home floor and have a real chance to go deep into the playoffs.

They are young, they are long and they play like they not only love the game, but also like each other pretty well.

They also appear to love playing in one of the NBA’s smallest, quietest cities. Oklahoma City is about as far from Times Square, South Beach and Sunset Boulevard as you can get.

Fans are tempted to pinch themselves, since these guys are almost too good to be true. Kevin Durant, a lock to be the NBA’s leading scorer for the second straight year, can play inside and out, rains down threes from anywhere on the floor and runs the floor like a gazelle. Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha, Nazr Mohammed and Serge Ibaka all play key roles nearly every game.

And what the Thunder lacked inside, the trade for Kendrick Perkins has more than made up for. Perkins is going to provide the kind of tough rebounding and inside defense the team will need as the playoffs commence.

And you are just as likely to see the Thunder players interacting with underprivileged kids or wielding a paintbrush to fix up some elderly person’s home.

The Thunder have a great young coach, Scott Brooks, and one of the sharpest general managers in the game in Sam Presti. And the ownership group thus far has enough sense to stay the heck out of the way and let the basketball folks do their jobs.

The franchise’s only negative seems to be its mascot, Rumble, which looks like the very embodiment of the term “mad cow.”

I was perfectly happy ignoring the NBA for all those years. But the Thunder changed all that. Excuse me, that should be, our Thunder.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. E-mail him at

Text Only
  • Tim Tebow NCAA proposed settlement raises medical questions

    A key feature of a proposed settlement of a head-injury lawsuit against the NCAA is the creation of a $70 million fund to pay for medical evaluations of current and former college players in several sports.

    July 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Attorney: OU's Mixon acted in self defense

    The attorney for Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon said the incident that left a 20-year-old female OU student with multiple facial fractures was a case of self-defense.

    July 29, 2014

  • OSU no longer faces APR restrictions

    NCAA officials say Oklahoma State’s football program no longer faces restrictions for the upcoming school year because its Academic Progress Rate has been amended.

    July 29, 2014

  • Radio-TV for 7-30-14

    July 29, 2014

  • Jeff Mullin mug 2012.jpg Rice's punishment hardly fit the crime

    Two games, just over 12 percent of the 16-game regular season. Two games for hitting a woman hard enough to knock her out cold.
    Rice said Monday he will not appeal his suspension, which could wind up costing him $529,411 in fines and salary. And why wouldn’t he? He must feel like he got off scot-free.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • SamBradfordpicturejpeg Bradford used to being at 'career crossroads'

    It’s become a rite of training camp for Sam Bradford.
    Every summer, he deals with the oversized burden of living up to getting picked first overall in 2010. The St. Louis Rams quarterback is not surprised that once again, he’s supposedly at a career crossroads.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • TU wins C-USA academic honor

    The University of Tulsa earned the 2013-14 Conference USA Institutional Excellence award by posting the highest grade point average during the 2013-14 academic year for all student athletes in conference-sponsored athletes, the school announced on Monday.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hixon added to West All-State football team

    July 28, 2014

  • All-State Herndon's last act as EHS tennis coach

    July 28, 2014

  • Area swimmers help West sweep All-State dual

    Enid’s Sara Nazari, Hunter McEachern and Gabe Sanchez and Kingfisher’s Savanah Storey helped the West sweep the East at the All-State swim meet at Jenks High School Monday.

    July 28, 2014

Click here for NASCAR headlines
Sports Photos

Enid News & Eagle sports photos from the month of February 2014. Enjoy all the ENE photos with full access at