Five years ago this week we huddled around computer screens to watch grainy images of a team in all-black uniforms playing in a thing called the summer league.
It was our first look at Oklahoma City's new NBA franchise.
Believe it or not, it has been five years since the Thunder came to town, though we didn't know the team as the Thunder then. The franchise was nameless.
But it wasn't faceless.
That summer league introduced us to the bunch that had come to our fair city, a move that had been anticipated for years but that had been announced only five days earlier.
It was a whirlwind of a week.
On July 2, a U.S. District judge was set to rule in the case between Seattle and the Sonics. The city wanted to keep the team in town by keeping it from breaking its lease. The team, led by Clay Bennett, wanted out after the city failed to agree to arena upgrades.
The ruling was going to be announced via the district court's website at 6 p.m. Oklahoma time.
The unofficial over-under on how quickly the site would crash when all of Oklahoma and Washington logged in was 2.5 seconds.
But before the judge could issue her ruling, the sides agreed to a deal. One of the conditions was the team paying the city $45 million to break its lease.
Hello, Oklahoma City.
That night, Bennett stood in front of a blue backdrop that in retrospect looked a lot like the Thunder blue that this state has come to know and love. The frontman for the NBA in OKC started a press conference at the Skirvin with an exhale.
“We made it,” he said.
Here at Oklahoman headquarters, we splashed that quote across the top of our newspaper the next morning. On the cover of the sports section, we ran a photo of champagne being poured.
Yes, everyone was excited.
And I'm not just talking about the newsroom.
Within the first 90 minutes of Bennett's announcement, thousands of people registered for the chance to purchase season tickets.
Remember, they were buying into a team that had no name, no mascot, no colors. A team that won only 20 games the season before. A team that would feature a starting lineup of Kevin Durant, Nick Collison, Jeff Green, Earl Watson and Johan Petro on opening night.
None of it mattered that first week of July 2008.
The passion only intensified when the summer league tipped off in Orlando.
Back in those days, NBA TV had not yet realized that summer league games were a great way to fill the long, dry summer months, so you could only watch the games via Internet broadcast done by the Magic. There was only one center-court camera. There were no instant replays. There were no on-screen graphics; the camera would actually pan over to the scoreboard to show the score.
Who was operating that thing, a Little League dad?
But the best part was the announcing crew that the Magic had on the webcast.
The team put radio sideline reporter Dante Marchitelli and director of communications George Galante on the call, and the two guys had an interesting approach. Because the games were often so badly played, they focused on pretty much everything but the game.
So, the fact that the franchise from Oklahoma City didn't have a name became a huge topic.
The announcers had a list of possible names for the team, and they intended to use a different one each game. But when they used the name Thundercats during one of the early games, it stuck.
Some folks even thought that was the new name of the team.
Dante and Galante were only half right.
Over the next several weeks, we did a name-the-team contest, and darned if it didn't produce the name “Thunder”, though most of us figured they'd never actually name the team that.
Almost two months would pass after the team announced its move before it would announce “Thunder” as its nickname, but in those early days, no one cared that the team had no name. There was a squad playing in an NBA summer league with the worlds “OKLAHOMA CITY” across the front of their black-and-white jerseys.
Of course, you couldn't make out the words on the webcast, but we inched a little closer to our computer screens to watch all the same. The images coming from Orlando five years ago this week were not perfect. They were fuzzy. They were blurry. But it sure didn't seem that way.
Oklahoma City was getting its first look at its new team, and nothing spoiled that view.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.
Then and now
Much has changed since Oklahoma City's NBA franchise made its on-court debut during the Orlando summer league five years ago this week.
Here's a look at the state of affairs then and now:
Category, Then, Now
Name of OKC's NBA team, TBD, Thunder
Colors worn, Black and white, Blue and white
Thunder summer league coach, Scott Brooks, Rex Kalamian
Thunder rookie draftees in the summer league, Russell Westbrook, D.J. White and DeVon Hardin; Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Grant Jerrett
Thunder summer league leader, Jeff Green, Reggie Jackson
Thunder summer league curiosity, Russell Westbrook, Jeremy Lamb
Kevin Durant's status, Newly minted NBA Rookie of the Year, Newly engaged to Monica Wright
Domestic news of the day, California wildfires, Arizona wildfires
International news of the day, Uncertainty in Iraq, Unrest in Egypt