The NBA Finals begin Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
No matter how many times those of us who live here have seen or heard that line in recent days, it's been difficult to fathom. Not a decade ago, the highest level of basketball one could expect in Oklahoma City was an occasional visit by the NCAA Tournament. We were a city of sports fans who obsessed over our state's college teams, particularly Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and particularly football, not hoops. For pro sports, we turned to our minor league baseball and hockey teams.
No longer. When the New Orleans Hornets encamped here in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, Oklahoma City caught the NBA bug. We went bonkers for two years over CP-3 and The Birdman. The Hornets returned home in 2007 but our city didn't have separation anxiety from the NBA for long, because the Seattle SuperSonics were relocated here in 2008.
Now just four years later, the Thunder is in the NBA Finals and all the talk around town is about whether our young stars — K.D. and Serge and Russell and James — have what it takes to slay the Miami Heat's seasoned big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who are angling for NBA gold after coming up short in the finals a year ago.
Tickets to Tuesday night's game were snapped up in minutes Saturday morning. Nosebleed seats are being offered for more than $350 apiece. No doubt they'll get sold — Thunder Fever does that to a person.
Visitors to our city will find that, yes, there's nothing like the noise inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. And that Oklahomans are truly a friendly and gracious lot. And that Oklahoma City has much more going for it than they might have expected.
In short, they'll find that the Thunder — and the city — are worthy of this grand stage. Welcome.