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NBA Finals: Fans go to extremes to catch the Thunder

Time zones and a few thousand miles haven't stopped Oklahoma City fans from enjoying their team's season.
by Juliana Keeping Published: June 16, 2012

At 3 a.m. anywhere, most of the world is asleep. But on Thunder game nights, Will Heckenkemper is more than likely wide awake in Olten, Switzerland, watching his team.

Fans of the Thunder from around the world aren't letting complications like thousands of miles and time zones get in the way of their Thunder fix.

Explains Heckenkemper, 22, of Edmond, via email: “I have yet to find a sports bar in Switzerland that will stay open until 6 a.m. to let one crazy guy watch a game, so I bought the NBA League Pass playoff package and have been watching games on my computer. Games usually start at 2:30 or 3:30 a.m. my time.”

His support of the team got loud enough that one morning, around 5 a.m., a dorm neighbor had to tell him to knock it off.

“I was only a little sorry for waking him up,” he said.

Heckenkemper is a University of Central Oklahoma student in Switzerland studying international business abroad. Fans around the world reported taking all kinds of measures to catch games.


Mike Harris, 60, has a commute that's not for the faint. The Oklahoma City man runs a consulting company in Beijing. He has been commuting between the Middle Kingdom and his hometown for nearly 11 years for work. Harris speaks Mandarin fluently, which is helpful when he catches NBA games on government-controlled sports channel CCTV 5, which dubs NBA games with the Chinese language. Due to the 13-hour time difference, games are on around 8:30 or 9 a.m., he said via email. Harris missed Game 1 of the NBA Finals due to a work schedule that just wouldn't give. But he caught Game 2 in his apartment. “Kind of fun!” Harris wrote in an email. “But I still wish I was home and watching the games in person.”


Layna Austin, 23, arrived in Russia in April to teach English, work at an orphanage and volunteer with the community. Austin grew up in Checotah and became a Thunder fan in college. She catches games via Slingbox, a TV streaming media device that's connected to DirecTV stateside. That means games are bright and early, at 7 a.m., she said. Her most recent favorite moment “was winning the West Finals and going to our first NBA Championship playoffs!” she said via email.

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by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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