Ask Andrew Rains who his favorite Thunder player is and he'll tell you Kendrick Perkins. “I guess because he looks intimidating,” Rains explained. Ask him his favorite play on television and Rains will tell you, “Watching Kevin Durant dunk the ball.”
Keep in mind, Rains shared all this while proudly wearing a Russell Westbrook jersey.
Suffice to say, every Thunder player appears to be Rains' favorite. Not just from this season, but from every year since 2008 A.S. — After Seattle.
In the team's five-plus seasons in OKC, not once had Rains missed a Thunder game on television, at least not until he attended his first-ever game Sunday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena and watched the Thunder post a 119-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Every season, there are stories about Thunder fans who tug at your emotions. On this night, Rains tugged at mine.
Rains suffers from cerebral palsy, a disorder that can range from slight to severe. “Yeah, but I got the slight one,” Rains said, punctuating his self-diagnoses with a smile and a laugh from his wheelchair.
You might have previously seen Rains pictured in The Oklahoman at age 12, winning yet another medal in the Special Olympics.
His career medal count? “Over 40,” Rains said with another laugh.
Rains will turn 24 years old next week and proudly boasts he and Westbrook were both born in November 1988.
Rains attended as the guest of a Thunder employee who was kind enough to surrender his season tickets for the night. Rains was joined by his grandmother, Roberta, his tutor, Suzanne Parker, and Parker's daughter, Angela.
Suzanne Parker is a retired teacher who became Rains' tutor last June as part of the adult literacy program at Southern Oak Library.
The Thunder so engulfs Rains' life, the team indirectly improves his reading and speaking skills.
Parker clips out Oklahoman stories on the Thunder and has Rains read them to her. “Lots of times, he'll dictate Thunder stories to me,” Parker said.
In Monday's edition, Rains will read and speak of himself, and you can bet good money he'll do so with a grin.
“Oh, he's got a great smile,” Parker said. “One thing about him, you can tell when he's happy and you can also tell when he's not happy. We've become comfortable enough that he lets me know exactly how he feels.
“We keep practicing his reading and he keeps getting better and better each day,” Parker said, sounding eerily similar to coach Scott Brooks talking about his OKC team.
Although Angela Parker did not meet Rains until Sunday, he already occupied her heart. Suzanne Parker spoke so glowingly of Rains, he quickly became her daughter's inspiration — even as a complete stranger.
Angela Parker wanted to do something special for Rains on his birthday, so she put attending a Thunder game on his bucket list. Consider it a bucket-sized version of paying it forward.
Rains' fanaticism extends to the Thunder's broadcast team. Television play-by-play man Brian Davis stopped by to chat with Rains about 90 minutes before tipoff.
Davis: “First game?”
Davis: “Nice. You'll bring us some luck.”
Two minutes later, Durant — coaxed by no one — visited during his pregame warm-up session. “We appreciate that,” Durant said when informed Rains hadn't missed a game in Thunder history.
Durant signed a shirt and also signed the jersey Rains was wearing. A Westbrook jersey autographed by Durant. Rare indeed.
TV color analyst Grant Long later presented Rains with a No. 1 Thunder home jersey and also autographed the Westbrook jersey, as did Nick Collison.
It doesn't matter if the Thunder has a 9:40 p.m. start on a West Coast swing, Rains' eyes are riveted to the TV from beginning to end.
“Let's just say I watch the pregame through the after-game,” Rains said. “I don't turn the TV off until it's all over.”
On Sunday night, Rains experienced the Thunder as he never had before. And when Rains dictates to Suzanne Parker on Monday morning, his own words will far exceed those written here.