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Berry Tramel: Go crazy Thunder fans, but keep your perspective

by Berry Tramel Published: April 14, 2011

Thundermania runs amok.

Fans who 15 minutes ago had never heard of the defensive three-second rule now grow James Harden beards and name their first born “Nazr.”

Both political parties are recruiting Rumble to run for lieutenant governor. Barry Switzer screams his head off at games. Pat Jones talks NBA on the radio.

National pundits make the Thunder the chic pick to win the West, and we are quick to endorse them as soothsayers.

But before we embark on the great adventure of the 2011 playoffs, remember what league this is.

Feudal Europe. The Land of Limited Opportunity.

The NBA is a class system. Franchises are stuck with the status to which they are born and leave it only via rampant revolution.

Especially in the Western Conference. Since 1998, only three franchises have won the West. And Dallas has done so just once, despite 11 straight years of at least 50 victories.

The Lakers and Spurs own the West. The Lakers have reached the NBA Finals seven times since 1998 (and won five of them); the Spurs have reached four times and won them all.

So while this Thunder team appears capable of standing up to any Western foe, with the impossible-to-guard tandem of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and fire-breathing dragons Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka guarding the basket, and role players who would make Red Auerbach proud, the NBA culture works against OKC.

Old-money teams win. Same ol' same ol' gets it done. Since 1995, only two teams seeded as low as fourth (where OKC sits) have reached the Western Conference finals, and only the 2006 Mavs have won the West as a fourth seed.

Guess who's seeded above the high-flying Durantulas? San Antonio, the Lakers, Dallas.

And before OKC could get to that same old crew, it has to get past Denver, the first-round foe which seems to be the right kind of matchup for the Thunder but still won 50 games despite a midseason makeover similar in scope to Oklahoma City's addition of Perkins and Nazr Mohammed.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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