Lee Allan Smith and Ray Ackerman can chalk up another victory. The pair is among Oklahoma City's greatest civic boosters, having played a big role in launching the original Metropolitan Area Projects. Their work can be found throughout the city, including the renaming of the North Canadian River as the Oklahoma River. And for the past three years they've been pushing for Oklahoma City to become known as "the Big Friendly."
The name didn't take off immediately. But those who visit the NBA's online store will find an Oklahoma City Thunder shirt with the following message: “Where the Durantula Hunts for his prey. Welcome to the Big Friendly, home to Kevin Durant.” Lee Allan and Ray, take a bow. If the marketing geniuses at the NBA take a liking to your work, you of all people know you've hit a proverbial three-pointer. It's not difficult to back up such a nickname — it's the city's friendliness, found in ample concentration downtown, that wins over visitors. Andrew Black, the executive chef at the Skirvin Hilton, joined a long list of testimonials when he recently shared the story of how he made the jump from the legendary Peabody Hotel in Memphis to Oklahoma City. Three times he refused an invitation from Marcus Hotels and Resorts to join the team reopening the Skirvin in 2007. His refusal had nothing to do with the hotel and everything to do with Oklahoma City. He had no opinion about Oklahoma City; he really knew nothing about it.