James Naismith hung a peach basket in 1891 and invented a game in Springfield, Mass. Twenty-five years later, across the Atlantic, James Joyce published a novel and called it “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
Both works panned out rather well. Naismith's sport is the world's most popular. Joyce's book was ranked the third-greatest English-language novel of the 20th century.
Neither lived long enough to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder -- Naismith died in 1939, Joyce two years later – which is a shame. Both would have appreciated what we have here in OKC.
One heck of a basketball team, great before its time, because these young men are serious about their art.
And so The Oklahoman celebrates the tipoff of the Thunder's fifth season in OKC with this special section. We focus on the artists in our midst.
For basketball truly is an art. Football is science. Oh, it's a lot of other things, too, including speed, power and violence. But at the highest level, it's mostly science. This alignment means this adjustment. This look requires this read. This defense demands this offense.
Football players study their sport.
Basketball players play their sport. Basketball is a mosaic. Basketball is fluid. Basketball is not scripted. Basketball is improv.
Basketball is art. Kevin Durant's clutch shooting. Russell Westbrook's relentlessness. Serge Ibaka's shot-blocking. Kendrick Perkins' command of the post. Nick Collison's collisions.
This is a team that was ridiculously young when it announced its arrival as an NBA threat and hasn't gotten much older since. Last season, the Thunder made the NBA Finals even though its four best players were less than 24 years old.
The Thunder keeps improving rapidly. Still young men, the portrait of these artists continues to change, for the better.