It’s easy being an Oklahoma City Thunder fan because it sort of comes naturally. Oklahoma is a state with a strong connection to sports, and Oklahomans have a certain sense of loyalty about them that they take seriously.
Thunder Nation has come a long way, but the trip wasn’t all fun and games. It was also educational.
As the team grew, so did members of the nation. And along the way, you have all learned a few things. Things like…
5. You find a common ground in a divided sports state
Sports fans in Oklahoma can usually be described one of two ways: either as a Sooner, or as a Cowboy. It’s no secret that the dominant sport in the state is college football, and with good reason. Its history is long, the feuds epic and the fans committed.
But when the college football games are over and everything is left on the field, Oklahomans tend to put aside their differences, don some blue and white, and get Thunderstruck.
The Thunder has been in Oklahoma for nearly five years now, and the organization’s fandom hasn’t died down one ounce. And it’s not just because basketball season is “what people turn to when football season is over and out” — it’s because everyone can rally behind one team. Hence the terms One Thunder, Thunder Pride, Team is Oklahoma, Team is Community, Blue Alliance and We Are One. Every single fan fits into those descriptors, and every single fan embraces it wholeheartedly.
And the honest truth is the Thunder organization has done a fantastic job of realizing what they have in their fans and, in turn, gives their fans plenty of ways to express their sense of pride in the Thunder Nation.
Which, I think, gets noticed around the globe. And, because of that…
4. No one hates you because everyone loves the Thunder
I got married in June 2012, during the NBA Finals between the Thunder and the Miami Heat. Moreover, I got married and honeymooned at Walt Disney World, which is near Orlando, Fla. Yeah, it isn’t Miami, but it’s close enough, so you might think you know where this is headed.
Of course, the wife and I took some Thunderwear along: lanyards, a couple hats and some T-shirts. I was wearing Thunder gear almost daily, because I wanted to represent my home team while I was away from the state.
And one thing that surprised me was how many people expressed how much they love the Thunder.
People would come up and tell us how they wanted to see the Thunder win the NBA Championship. They came up to us to exclaim their adoration for, literally, every team member, including coach Scott Brooks.
People would yell “Thunder Up!” if they weren’t close enough to say anything else. And, you wouldn’t believe how many people we saw at Disney World wearing Thunder shirts. Naturally, we went up to ask what part of Oklahoma they were from — to our surprise, most of them weren’t from Oklahoma.
Then we ran into a man who was decked out in full Heat gear: Sunglasses, polo, lanyard… He even had a championship ring from their 2006 victory.
Turned out, he was Miami Heat statistician…
AND EVEN HE PRAISED THE THUNDER. </excitement>
That’s right, no lies. The guy talked about how much he enjoyed watching the “young guns” on the Thunder’s roster, and that he knew they’d be a championship-winning team soon (just not right then).
So, you see: Even people who work for the Heat organization can’t help but love the Thunder.
In a way, it’s spoiled the fans. And sometimes it takes a jolt to bring fans back down to reality, like when…
3. It hits home that the NBA is a business
The James Harden trade could be considered the first big gut-check Thunder fans received in the organization’s young but eventful history. Yeah, so the Thunder didn’t beat the Heat in 2012 — there was always next year. What fans didn’t know was the team would be heading into the upcoming season sans a fan favorite. When the story broke on NewsOK, social media exploded and the news spread like crazy.
Some fans were distraught. Some felt betrayed. Some were looking forward to the team’s future with Kevin Martin. Kevin Durant, though, spoke for the entire Thunder Nation:
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) October 28, 2012
What everyone learned from the trade was that the NBA is still a business, and the Thunder has to make moves that make sense to the organization.
Of course we all know things like that happen. But fans had gotten so used to the Big 3 in Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden, that they thought they were inseparable. Heck, maybe they’d even stick with the team until they retired.
When it comes to professional sports, wishful thinking needs to be done with caution, and the Harden trade hit that point home with authority.
But even Harden’s departure couldn’t completely dampen the spirits of a certain Thunder demographic because, as you know…
2. All your female friends are/will fall in love with Serge Ibaka
Women of the Thunder Nation love Serge Ibaka, and those who claim they don’t just haven’t realized it yet.
No one is sure why this is, or what Ibaka’s powers are. Maybe it’s because of this:
Maybe it’s because he just makes people smile.
Whatever the reason, I’m sure Ibaka is appreciative of all the love. The entire team is appreciative. The entire organization! After all, the most important thing you learn being an OKC Thunder fan is…
1. You realize the Thunder and its fans form a great community
The Thunder has its hand in numerous community service and outreach programs ranging from promoting literacy to addressing social issues like education, family and health. These sorts of things encourages fans to further connect with the team and organization, and it’s a way the NBA and organization can give thanks for all the support they receive.
Also, cynicism shouldn’t be attached to any of this: The Thunder has every bit of an interest and pursuance as fans do when it comes to the growth and well-being of the entire state of Oklahoma. They initiate a call to action and the Thunder Nation responds.
But I’ve written enough. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so the following images can speak for themselves.
Thunder Up, Oklahoma.