Scan the recently released NBA schedule and, particularly early in the season, you'll notice an unmistakable trend.
Like the NFL in plenty of cities across the country, Thunder basketball is becoming an Oklahoma City tradition on Sundays in the fall.
The Thunder will play home games on nine of the first 10 Sundays this upcoming season, including all five in December, giving them more Sunday home dates in the first two months than 28 of the league's other 29 teams have the entire year.
That's mainly because, when given a chance to request Saturday or Sunday to the schedule makers, OKC remains one of the only NBA markets more concerned about avoiding overlaps with college football than the NFL.
“There's a possibility that some of our Thursday night games, as far as TNT, that creates the opportunity for Sunday games,” said Dan Mahoney, OKC's Vice President of Communications. “(But) we recognize in the fall that there's some conflicts that we'd rather stay away from if we could, in regards to college football.”
That's certainly conducive to the wishes of many of their fans, including OKC native Tara Henson, a season-ticket holder for both the Thunder and OU football.
But the Sunday game has become more than just a way to avoid sharing the attention with their in-state sports competition. The earlier tip time (usually at 6 p.m. or earlier) has proved enticing to many fans.
“It's easy to get in and out of downtown and you get home in a reasonable time to start your workweek. I love that,” Henson said. “And Saturday night, there's usually so much competition for things that are going on, whether it's socially or work-related activities.”
That seems to be a growing preference that the Thunder organization has identified. Because even when football ends, the Sunday games don't stop.
This season, OKC is scheduled for 18 Sunday games, including 16 at home, both of which are tops in the league, with only the Lakers (17 and 14) coming close.
“It's a perfect way to cap off my weekend,” said Jane Jenkins, another OKC native and Thunder season-ticket holder. “And if I'm doing something else over the weekend, maybe if I go visit friends or family in another part of the state, I'm usually home by Sunday night, so I don't miss the game. It doesn't come in the middle of the weekend, where you have to either miss the game or cancel plans.”
Since moving to town, the NBA has always loaded the Thunder's slate with Sunday games, but this is the most in franchise history, topping the 11 that OKC had back in 2010-11.
The Thunder will only play six Saturday games this season, with one at home, second fewest in both categories (Lakers: two games, zero at home).
And that's actually an improvement from last season, when OKC didn't play one Saturday home game.
“We've always felt that that Sunday early tip is helpful to families,” Mahoney said. “We've always driven the game toward a family environment and think all 41 of our home games have a great family environment. But it helps a family to have an hour head start before the school and workweek.”