Share “Who's No. 1: OU football or NBA?”

by Berry Tramel Modified: July 9, 2008 at 9:58 am •  Published: July 9, 2008
Joe Castiglione still marvels at the memories. In the months after OU football's seventh national championship, Joe C. would experience similar reactions around the state.

Sooner fans would approach him with moist eyes and try to express how much that title victory over Florida State meant.

"It seemed to restore their confidence in everything,” Castiglione said. "Just made people feel so proud.

"Obviously, people were excited to see Oklahoma football back strong again. But it seemed to go much deeper than sports fanaticism.”

OK, NBA, you want to be the big dog in Oklahoma? Impact the psyche of the state. That's the standard. That's the level of passion you've got to scale.

The Not-the-Sonics are hanging out a shingle in downtown OKC and will debut at the Ford Center in less than four months. The city has gone bonkers over its own team and the anecdotal evidence suggests the fever has spread quite quickly outside the metro.

But where will the NBA settle on the food chain of Oklahoma sports? Will it eclipse all but Sooner football? Will it challenge the legacy of Wilkinson and Switzer for supremacy?

Yes to the former. Not likely, but possible, on the latter.

I did a most unscientific survey of people who think in terms of marketing and branding and profile. They don't necessarily agree on the pecking order, but they most definitely agree on the NBA's splash meter. Huge. Very huge.

"Obviously it's going to be the biggest story this year and maybe the next couple of years,” said Tim Berney, president of Visual Imaging Advertising.

Larry McAlister, a vice president for PR firm Crosby Volmer, said the NBA might even start out ahead of OU football, because of the big-bang effect.

"It's such a big deal, it's so new,” McAlister said. "Right now, the NBA is probably No. 1.”

Don't dismiss McAlister as some OU-hater. He was a Sooner football publicist in the Switzer heyday of the '80s and says he expects the natural order to return.

"I don't know if the NBA will have as broad of an appeal,” McAlister said.

"I certainly don't think there's a problem with them co-existing. Personally, I took to the NBA a lot more than I thought I would. I can't wait for 'em to get here, and I love OU football. I'm going to continue to love OU football. It's just great we have both.”

Colleges historically have lost ground when the pros move in. Of course, putting a franchise in Oklahoma City is different than putting a franchise in quaint college markets like Salt Lake City or Portland.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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