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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
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/articleid/3685211/1/pictures/1750872">Photo - University of Central Oklahoma student Will Heckenkemper is studying abroad in Olten, Switzerland. He likes watching the games live, which means tipoff is usually between 2 and 3 a.m. Here, he shows off his Thunder gear in the Swiss town. Photo provided
University of Central Oklahoma student Will Heckenkemper is studying abroad in Olten, Switzerland. He likes watching the games live, which means tipoff is usually between 2 and 3 a.m. Here, he shows off his Thunder gear in the Swiss town. Photo provided

Japan

John Benningfield, 28, doesn't typically let a 14-hour time difference interrupt his Thunder habit. The Oklahoman from Medford has been living in Japan since 2008, when he took a civilian job with the U.S. Navy managing athletic activities in Yokosuka, Japan. A perk of the job is that he can watch games while managing fitness centers, which is how he watched the Thunder beat the Heat during Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The American Forces Network broadcasts sports and other programs to military bases all over the world, he said via email. Back when the franchise moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, AFN didn't air many games. That's not the case now, he said. Benningfield downloaded an iPhone app to catch playoff games during a recent trip to Cambodia, he said. “I listened to Game 4 of the Lakers series in Narita International Airport in Tokyo. I listened to Game 5 in my hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia,” he said. He caught the first quarter of Game 1 of the Spurs series in Guangzhou Baiyun Airport in China before hopping on a plane. “I think I was one of the last people to board the plane,” he said.

Switzerland

It was hard for Heckenkemper to locate Swiss basketball lovers — at first. “But I found the very few that do!” he said in an email. While at a pub, a group of Swiss men saw his Thunder shirt and started talking to him about the team. Like Heckenkemper, they were big fans of Thabo Sefolosha, who is Swiss.

“I have since become close friends with them these past few months,” Heckenkemper wrote. Together, they watched Game 1 of the Finals. “It really is crazy that a basketball team can bring people from around the world together,” he said.

by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com. 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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