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Happy fifth to Oklahoma City's 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.
by Jenni Carlson Modified: July 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm •  Published: July 9, 2013
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photo - OKC NBA, FORMER SEATTLE SUPERSONICS, SONICS BASKETBALL TEAM: Oklahoma City's guard Russell Westbrook, left  (0), gets off a shot against Indiana Pacers center Vladimir Gulobovic, of Serbia, during an NBA summer league basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Monday, July 7, 2008.(AP Photo/John Raoux) ORG XMIT: FLJR107
OKC NBA, FORMER SEATTLE SUPERSONICS, SONICS BASKETBALL TEAM: Oklahoma City's guard Russell Westbrook, left (0), gets off a shot against Indiana Pacers center Vladimir Gulobovic, of Serbia, during an NBA summer league basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Monday, July 7, 2008.(AP Photo/John Raoux) ORG XMIT: FLJR107

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.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
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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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

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