All three own James Harden “Fear the Beard” T-shirts.
All three are widows.
All three consider the Oklahoma City Thunder to be “our boys.”
“You don't want to talk bad around us about our Thunder,” said Sheila Copeland, 68, of Oklahoma City. “I feel like I'm a mother bird with 15 kids and I love them all.”
Annette Anthony, 66, of Del City also considers this team to be like her sons.
“They're as loyal as they can be and I am too,” she said. “I don't like them picked on. Tell the truth, but don't slam them, not when they're out there playing their hearts out for us.”
Guila Shell, 88, of Oklahoma City, counts them as family, but not sons. Take it one more generation.
“They are a bunch of boys, young enough to be my grandchildren,” Shell said. “I have to tell you, my birthday is May 2, the same as Thabo Sefolosha.
“Of course it's not the same year; same day but not the same year.”
Shell was born in 1924, and Sefolosha in 1984.
If you go by enthusiasm Shell's not that much older than a team in which six of the 15 are 22 or 23 years old.
“I'm having fun,” she said, while wearing her foam James Harden beard and sipping water from a blue Thunder cup. “I watch the games on my TV at home. I sit in my recliner with my blanket over my knees.
“I'm trying to think if I ever fell asleep. It seems to me I did one time, toward the end of a game, but it wasn't because I was bored with the way they were playing. It was because they were so far ahead. That's the best problem.”
Respect for growth
All three women are well aware that these players have their own parents. In fact, these fans admire the way they have seen players treat their families. But these fans have adopted the young men — if not on paper, at least in heart.
Anthony taught elementary school for 27 years and still tutors in reading two days a week.
“I am a retired teacher and when I see growth in what I consider children, it's the most heartwarming thing you can ever experience,” said Anthony, who has two daughters and two granddaughters of her own. “I've watched these boys play. They came here as children, you might say, and they have matured into fine, upstanding young men who are concerned with community service. They are concerned about the youth. They are concerned about their fans.
“They are just wonderful human beings.”
Shell who has two children, eight grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren, graduated from high school in 1941. Back then, she was a cheerleader, and she's always loved basketball. So the Thunder was a natural connection for her.
“I'm not a football person. I don't know one end of a football from the other,” Shell said. “I was very, very glad to get an NBA basketball team here.”
Copeland, who has one child and two grandchildren, said one of her friends was in a bagel shop in Edmond recently when the Thunder's Cole Aldrich walked in.
People wanted to talk to him and get his autograph and the friend told Copeland that Aldrich “was the nicest young man.”
“They have time for people, for their community,” Copeland said, “and they just love their fans. This is why they're so loved. Word gets around when you're like that. I've sent eight Thunder T-shirts to four different states this past week to friends and family.”
Copeland has some health concerns. But that doesn't stop her from staying informed about “our boys.” She has a stack of newspapers and magazines next to her chair and watches every game on TV. She said she's watched the Thunder grow up in a hurry, reaching the NBA Finals in four seasons.
“They represent us so well, and these guys are ahead of their time,” she said. “To me, they will look like 15 bright shining stars, no matter what.”