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For Oklahomans, here's a reason why the Spurs' triumph isn't so bad

COMMENTARY -- While the Thunder's loss to the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals has been a heartache for most Oklahomans, it's been a godsend for Conner Davey of Washington as he battles cancer.
by Jenni Carlson Published: June 3, 2014

The nurses in the transplant ward at the Baylor Cancer Hospital in Dallas didn’t want the Thunder and Spurs going to overtime the other night.

It had nothing to do with who won and who lost.

They just wanted Conner Davey to stop yelling.

“Thank goodness I’m at the end of the hallway,” the 22-year-old Oklahoma native said, “but I am a very vocal fan. Very vocal.”

He became a diehard because his grandma was one first. He adopted his favorite player’s focus on fundamentals growing up in Goldsby. Nowadays, he wears that same player’s jersey when he takes chemo and looks forward to playoff games as the best part of an extended hospital stay.

Yes, Davey loves the Spurs.

On the eve of the NBA Finals opener, plenty of Thunder fans are lamenting what could’ve been. Why couldn’t the Thunder have won the West? Why couldn’t Oklahoma City be the one hosting Miami?There are lots of basketball answers to those questions, but if you’re looking for reason to feel a little better about the Spurs moving on instead of the Thunder, Conner Davey is a good place to start.

He grew up a big basketball fan. Even though the NBA had stars like Michael Jordan and John Stockton, Davey didn’t take to the league right away. There just wasn’t a good team anywhere close to him in Oklahoma.

But his grandparents lived in San Antonio, and he visited often as a kid. His grandma was a dyed-in-the-black-and-silver-wool Spurs fan.

“She kind of engrained it into me to love David Robinson,” Davey said.

Then, as luck would have it, Davey started paying attention to college basketball about the same time that Tim Duncan landed at Wake Forest.

In 1997, San Antonio drafted Duncan, and Davey’s love of the Spurs was solidified.

It didn’t hurt that the Spurs won their first title two years later.

Davey was so enamored with Duncan that he tried to pattern himself after Mr. Fundamentals. Playing basketball throughout middle school and high school in the Washington School District, Davey was never the biggest or fastest or most gifted player, but he worked hard at the basics because of Duncan.

“Every day,” he said, “I shot a hundred shots ... off the left-hand side where he always shot.”

Davey continued to pull for the Spurs even after the Thunder arrived. Truth is, his passion for the Spurs actually grew.

“It drove me crazy when people would try to tell me how the Thunder was better than the Spurs,” he said, adding that he’d get a hundred text messages any time Oklahoma City beat San Antonio. “It just intensified my passion for liking the Spurs and disliking the Thunder.”

The Spurs and the Thunder were a couple weeks away from their third game of the 2012-13 regular season when Davey was diagnosed with cancer.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Davey was in his junior year at Oklahoma. A pre-med major working on a zoology degree. Because of several months of chemo needed to kill the cancer in his lymphatic system, he had to drop out for the remainder of the semester.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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