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NBA Finals: Thunder's pregame rituals big part of team unity

Jenni Carlson: All that hand-slapping and hugging might look random, but there's a method to it as well.
by Jenni Carlson Published: June 16, 2012

Their finding?

The teams that touch the most win the most.

The study didn't determine an outright link. It didn't go so far as to say that touch caused a team to win, but there seemed to be some correlation.

“Touch instills trust,” one of the researchers, Dacher Keltner, told ABC News at the time. “It contagiously spreads good will. It makes players play better on behalf of each other.”

If that's the case, the Thunder gets a jump on just about every team in the NBA. Most don't do anything more than slap hands or maybe exchange hugs before tipoff.

There were many times during the Western Conference Finals, for example, when the Spurs' starters were just standing around on the court waiting for tipoff while the Thunder finished its pregame antics.

The whole thing takes a couple minutes.

After the introductions are over, the reserves line the sideline from bench to midcourt line. Then, the starters make their way down the line. Once the starters are through the line, they do their routines with one another while the reserves head back toward the bench to finish theirs.

“It's second nature,” Ivey said. “You don't forget 'em. You don't even think about it. And the sequence, too. You go in the same order.”

You heard right — the Thunder does the whole thing the same way every game.

“You'll see guys wait,” Aldrich said. “Guys will say they're not really superstitious, but in a way, we are.”

Durant and Ivey changed up their routine earlier this season. They'd always done three hand slaps, then “Get 'em outta here” with their thumbs pointing over their shoulders, but for reasons they don't recall, they decided to go with something different.

“Then he said he didn't play good for two games, so we stopped doing it,” Ivey said. “Back to the original.”

Hey, whatever works.

And for the Thunder, doing some handshakes and having some fun seem to be working just fine.

“(Being in the playoffs is) serious,” Ivey said. “You've gotta stay loose.”

Durant said, “I look forward to 'em every game.”

Whatever you want to call them.

by Jenni Carlson
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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