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NBA Finals: Win or lose, Thunder will be greeted with a crowd at the Oklahoma City airport

A tradition that started after the Thunder clinched its first playoff berth has grown into a playoff tradition, with an expanding number of fans welcoming players back from postseason road trips.
BY ANTHONY SLATER AND RJ YOUNG, Staff Writers Modified: June 20, 2012 at 9:05 pm •  Published: June 20, 2012

“When they got eliminated by the Mavericks in Game 5, the crowd was enormous,” Young said. “There were people flying flags and playing music. It almost seemed like an impromptu celebration of the season, kind of like a way to thank the team for their playoff run.”

This season, after Oklahoma City finally conquered the Mavericks in a first-round sweep, South Meridian was stuffed once again.

Hannah Keel, a stay-at-home mother from Oklahoma City, was there, actively contributing to the “Beat L.A.” chants.

“It was surreal because they're, you know, my heroes,” Keel said. “It was really surreal getting to see them up close like that. It was just wonderful.”

For the players, it's another reminder of the affection and admiration routinely displayed by their adoring fan base.

The Thunder's Nazr Mohammed, a former Kentucky star who remembers the streets of Lexington flooded with people after the Wildcats' 1998 NCAA Championship, is reminded of those rabid UK fans.

“Very impressive, because it doesn't happen at the pro level,” Mohammed said. “Happened a little bit in San Antonio when I was there, coming to the airport. But as far as the magnitude of these Oklahoma City fans, it's amazing. Reminds me of a college atmosphere, how they treat you and their enthusiasm.”

For the fans, it's a fun and easily accessible way to interact with their favorite players, showing support, regardless of result.

“If it does end Thursday, I'm sure there will be a great response,” Young said. “But there will be one either way, welcoming them back to play Game 6 or thanking them for an incredible season.”