For the first time in franchise history, the Oklahoma City Thunder is traveling abroad participating in the NBA Global Games, an exhibition tour of international cities.
The team currently is in Manchester, England, where it will play its second preseason game Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers. But the weeklong trip kicked off in Istanbul, Turkey, where the Thunder defeated Fenerbahce Ulker 95-82 in its preseason debut Saturday.
Mary J. Calvey, an Oklahoma City resident, attended Saturday's game while in Istanbul representing the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City. Calvey chronicled her experiences over the weekend, providing an inside look at the atmosphere and excitement surrounding the Thunder's first-ever international contest.
As told to The Oklahoman:
After spending several days wandering the narrow streets of Old Town Istanbul in Sultanahmet, I hailed a sparse cab to take me to the Moçka region on the “European Side” to meet with my Kadiköy Rotary Club friends to drive to the Oklahoma City Thunder game at Ülker Arena on the Asian side. High school Latin taught me that “Gallia est divisa in partes tres” and the same is true of this Turkish City built on 7 (now maybe 17) hills spanning both sides of the Golden Horn and across the Bosporus into Asia.
The Fenerbahce basketball team was determined to live up to the reputation Turks cherish of being fierce warriors. Their modern arena sprang up in an area of new high-rises that was country 10 years ago. The upper tier filled up before the lower seats, perhaps because of the pricey tickets for the lower areas. There were a surprising number of Thunder T-shirts, hats and Kevin Durant jerseys decking out the kids in the crowd. The audience was basketball-savvy, erupting in loud OHH-OHHs when a fast break was going to lead to a dunk by either team.
The first half the Fener team took advantage of Thunder misses to shoot some rainbows, which drew admiring applause and cheers. On defense, it was hard to tell whether the Thunder was just cold or the defense was really scratching and clawing. But after Kendrick Perkins went out with what looked like a cut while rebounding, the referees called a few more fouls and the Thunder, on deliberate shooting, finally pulled ahead just before half.