To say Sunday’s game between the Thunder and Chicago created a buzz at the Final Four in New Orleans would be vastly overstating it, but there was at least a murmur.
Fans who attend the Final Four have such tunnel vision toward college hoops that the rest of the sports world pretty much ceases to exist until their champion is crowned. Nothing is more important than the event they’re at. Major league baseball’s opening day doesn’t register. The Masters will have to wait until later in the week. As for the NBA, that championship won’t be determined until June.
But several fans opened their minds on Sunday. Around 5 p.m., a bar called “The Beach” on Bourbon Street was packed with college hoop fans. The music was loud. The drinks were flowing. Didn’t matter it was an off day before Monday night’s title game between Kentucky and Kansas. In addition to Final Four supporters from UK, KU, Ohio State and Louisville, there were fans from various participants in this year’s bracket — North Carolina, Duke, Indiana, Florida, Florida State, even Ohio.
Everything in sight and everything within ear shot was about college hoops. Then flat-screen televisions above the bar area started showing a recap of the Thunder’s 92-78 victory over the Bulls at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Five Louisville students decked out in Final Four gear suddenly stopped sipping their drinks and bouncing to the beat as they watched a package of Thunder highlights. First came Kevin Durant raining in jumpers. Then came Russell Westbrook scoring inside and out. That was followed by Westbrook’s perfectly thrown two-hand flick pass from halfcourt on an ally-oop to Durant.
The Louisville Five shook their heads on the ally-oop, but when Westbrook threw down a dunk over 7-foot, 280-pound Chicago center Omer Asik, those fans simultaneously turned and looked at each other while screaming their delight. Two guys got so excited, their lost their hats. High-fives quickly ensued. Others watching the highlights pretty much had the same reaction, as did the bartender when he stopped serving, looked over shoulder and saw several slow-motion replays of Westbrook’s dunk.
New Orleans is a town filled with, shall we say, distractions. Sunday afternoon on Bourbon Street, one of the bigger distrations were Thunder highlights.