Share “Berry Tramel: The Flame Game”

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 6, 2010 at 9:43 am •  Published: January 6, 2010

"Summer lovin’ had me a blast

"Summer lovin’ happened so fast”

Chris Paul returns to Rydell High tonight. Returns to the Ford Center, where that crush-at-first-sight occurred, where that great American sports story, Oklahoma City and the Hornets, met in the basketball version of Grease. Where a city fell hard for a young ballplayer and believed the halcyon dream that you could find a pro athlete worth cheering for.

CP3 was back twice last year, once for a November game that was so dismal the Thunder fired its coach and once for a February game on the day Tyson Chandler swapped teams, a trade that was rescinded after the Hornets skipped town.

Tonight should be straight basketball. No firings. No trades. Straight basketball, except for that funny feeling you get when an old flame burns in your eyes.

OKC has a new heart throb. Kevin Durant is as wondrous in his own way as Paul, and BoomTown is not torn between two lovers. Make no mistake, it will suit the city just fine if KD scores 50 tonight and the Durantulas send Paul to bed without his supper.

But something nags at me. Durant’s now been here almost as long as was Paul (two years), and while the romance blooms, the spark doesn’t seem quite the same as when Oklahoma City went ga-ga over Paul, when sky rockets took flight in those "summer heat, boy and girl meet” days when the Hornets arrived off the boat from New Orleans.

When the Sonics hung out their shingle, I predicted that Durant would own this town by that first October. Didn’t happen. Hasn’t happened yet.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Durant is popular and will only get more so. Thunder brass says appearance requests for Durant are off the charts. A New York Times story in September that suggested Durant can drive the streets and walk the grocery aisles without being recognized is just silly. Oklahoma City is just a place a lot more likely to leave you alone; even Bob Stoops can sit down for a meal in Bricktown without being bothered.

So Durant indeed will own this town. His stardom will soar — at warp speed if the Thunder keeps up this playoff pace — but just yet, it hasn’t matched that electricity we felt with Paul. And here’s why.

→Personality: CP3 was more engaging. More of a spokesman. More of a team leader. More front and center. Seemed easier for fans to get to know. Durant’s more of a big ol’ lovable kid, except during the games, when he’s a big ol’ lovable NBA superstar.

→Arrival: The Hornets’ circumstances were more enchanting than the Sonics’.

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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