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. Think Alabama football is going to teeter if Birmingham ever goes major league? Ohio State football still owns Columbus, even though the National Hockey League moved in a few years ago. But there are a few things to consider. 1. We know the NBA will go great guns. The Hornets, in a two-year respite from New Orleans, proved that. Give OKC NBA entertainment and absolute ownership in the team, and you're talking wildfire. 2. Despite the overwhelming dominance of OU football on the state's sports culture, there remains a sizable block of Oklahoma State fans who don't get misty-eyed at memories of Tommy McDonald and the Selmon brothers. The NBA figures to unite the state in ways college sports never could. 3. The longer the NBA stays, the more rooted it becomes. That explains all the frustration and anguish out of Seattle when Clay Bennett moved the team. Men whose fathers took them to Sonic games were taking their sons; tales were passed from generation to generation, about Lenny Wilkens and Jack Sikma and Gary Payton. OU football has the same generational dialogue. Dads have told sons about Eddie Crowder and Jerry Tubbs and Prentice Gautt and Granville Liggins and I better stop there or I'll be listing names all night. We won't soon have that generational bond with the Not-the-Sonics. Gramps and Junior alike will ship off from the same memory banks. But kids who visit the Ford Center this winter will, in the decades to come, tell their own kids and grandkids about Kevin Durant. "Nobody attended an NBA school,” Berney said. "Until we have had an NBA team for 20 years or so, nobody's going to have grown up an Oklahoma City NBA fan It takes awhile for it to be such a fabric of people's lives.” Berney recalled a poll he saw a few years ago that found 80 percent of Oklahomans identify themselves as Sooner football fans. "That doesn't change because an NBA team comes to town,” he said. "...Oklahoma football is always going to reign supreme.” Berney probably is right, though nothing lasts forever. There are sports fans alive today who can remember when Dallas was ruled by SMU football. Who knows what will happen? But we most definitely know what has happened. The sports marketplace, at the top, just got more crowded.