The Oklahoma City Thunder pushed the ball up the court. Lisa Warren bounced her 3-month-old grandson, Easton Crain, on her right hip.
Kevin Durant fired to Hasheem Thabeet along the baseline. Warren bounced Easton faster.
Thabeet rattled the rim with a dunk. Even faster on the bounce and Easton was loving it.
In about a month, Warren will have knee replacement surgery on her knee — her right knee. But that never crossed her mind. Warren is the Oklahoma City Thunder's Blue Alliance captain for the Yukon chapter. And on this particular night, she was hosting a watch party at Louie's in Yukon. And at this particular moment, it was Warren who was watching replays of the Thunder's game against Portland, while waiting for the tipoff of Oklahoma City versus Phoenix. It was the Thunder, not the knee, that mattered most to this devout fan.
The Thunder Blue Alliance is a statewide community of Thunder fans who organize watch parties in their hometowns, support community events and connect with fellow Thunder fans through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The Blue Alliance is the Thunder organization's collection of ambassadors who spread passion for the Thunder through chapters in more than 100 communities in the state. Those chapters consist of roughly 10,000 members in more than 50 counties.
They are led by those such as Warren in Yukon and Shirley Graham, captain for the Tulsa chapter of the Blue Alliance.
When Warren started her Blue Alliance Facebook page, she had about 30 friends and family she automatically joined up.
“That was in the beginning,” she said as watch party attendees began to dig into the nachos, tacos and pizzas they each had ordered. “This is now our third season of being captains and I am at 191 members in my chapter. I do have one member in Germany.
“Before the playoffs last year, we were hovering between 125 and 130 members. As soon as the playoffs hit, I added about 30 members immediately. And then at the end of the season, I looked and we were at about 190.”
Warren, 53, is a secretary in the education department at Mardel corporate office by day, but a Thunder fan day and night. Roughly an hour before the game against the Phoenix Suns, she walked through a door wearing her blue Thunder jacket and carrying a big blue tote. Quickly she began to pull from it a Thunder banner, the chapter's banner and a box of 18 orange clappers. But that's just a sampling of her stash.
Also within are numerous prizes she hands out during the party. Most of these are purchased with her own money. She watches different stores for sales and picks up items here and there to give those who attend. Some nights she gives them away to winners of a trivia contest. On this night, she wrote what the prize was on a little ball and then tossed a few of those into the gathering of about 20 fans.
Someone else walked over to the tote, pulled out a small Thunder banner, and then in a room full of photos of coaches and athletes, proceeded to walk to photo of the Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki and taped it over the picture.
Warren looked that way and said, “He always gets covered up with something like the banner or a Thunder towel.”
Then she walked and sat down at her laptop. When she's at home watching the games, she chats live. On nights when she's hosting a watch party, she does occasional posts on her Yukon Blue Alliance page.
The chat is how the chapter came to have a member who lives in Germany.
“After he joined, I mailed him a Thunder T-shirt,” she said. “It was a free shirt, but it cost me a fortune to send it to him. That's OK.
“We're just spreading the Thunder spirit and promoting the team we love.”
True to her word
Although there are chapters, the Thunder is their common interest and that has brought members together statewide, even in rough times.
That was evident in December when Graham in Tulsa heard that the home where another captain lived in eastern Oklahoma had burned.
With Christmas approaching, Graham decided to have a fundraiser at one of her Blue Alliance watch parties held at Fat Daddy's Pub & Grille for the single mother. The Thunder donated items such as an autographed team ball for a silent auction. She put together a couple of gift baskets that included “Thunderstruck,” the children's film starring Durant. That watch party raised more than $900. Some other captains and chapters pledged money and overall they collected $1,433.
Jennifer Aldridge, 29, bought Christmas presents for her son Kolton Park, 10, then bought him some clothes to replace those lost in the fire. She held some money back for what it will take to furnish a place for them to live.
“The Blue Alliance, we are one big family,” said Aldridge, captain of the Council Hill Blue Alliance chapter. “We got to have Christmas because of them. I honestly can't put it into words, other than they'll be my family forever.”
Graham, who is obviously part of that fan-based family, leads a chapter, which had about 300 members at this time last year. It now has about 500 members.
“I talk about the Thunder every day of my life,” said Graham, 55, who has worked for Crown Products Inc., an industrial distributor in Tulsa, for more than 30 years. “I've been a Thunder fan since Day One.
“At Christmas, I think we blessed the Thunder during our meal. We had a Thunder Christmas tree and I had Thunder stockings up for everybody. We are ate up with it in my home and my family and I convert everyone I can. And part of it is, everyone I deal with at the Thunder is so nice.”
One way Graham spreads the word is through bus trips. She selects a Thunder home game, buys 50 tickets on her credit card, rents a bus and then sells the tickets for face value.
“Sometimes my husband gets a little freaked out,” she said. “He said, ‘You just better have all those sold before the credit card bill comes in,' and I have. And I would say, most of the time probably 40 of the 50 have never been to a Thunder game.
“I just want others to have the Thunder experience,” she said.