My nephew was working in the Scranton, Pa., area a couple of years ago. Worked long hours, long way from home. Just a temporary assignment, but elongated. So he had time to spare on occasion.
One night, bored, he walked down to a city park with a lit basketball court and just shot some hoops on his own. A couple of guys showed up. Started shooting with him a little. My nephew was a little uneasy. He felt some tension. Wondered if he had stumbled into something he couldn’t handle. He was planning an exit strategy.
Then one of the guys asked him where he was from. “Oklahoma,” my nephew said.
Hey, the Thunder! The guys’ tone and tenor changed. Suddenly, my nephew was cool. He came from the same patch of ground where Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played. My nephew ended up staying and playing basketball with the guys and having a great time.
I thought of my nephew today when I got an email from Steve Van Horn of Edmond. Van Horn is a big Thunder fan who emails me from time to time. He sent me an email today that shared a perspective on the Thunder’s global reach. I thought it was fascinating enough to share:
“We have had season tickets since the Thunder arrived in OKC and I have been amazed at the affect of not only having a team in OKC but to have superstars like Durant and Westbrook.
“My family and another family went on a 12 day Mediterranean cruise last summer. There was 12 people total, so every day somebody in our group was wearing some type of a thunder t-shirt. We were so amazed that no matter which country we were in or where we were, people would stop us and talk about the Thunder.
“The ship only had less than 10 employees that were from the U.S., so most of the crew was from developing nations around the world. The first morning on the ship, I wore one of my Thunder playoff T-shirts and lined up to get an omelet made. The guy making my food was from an obscure Asian island and started to talk in broken English about the Thunder. He knew all about the roster and all of the developing players. I thought ‘wow, I found a Thunder fan.’ Little did I know they were all over the ship.
“We would walk down the hall and we would hear a new word OK-Chee, OK-Chee, which we soon learned was OKC. Some of them only knew who Kevin Durant was but they recognized the Thunder logo.
“We were in this beautiful city in Croatia called Dubrovnik. The city has a wall around the entire city and you can walk on this wall. About half way around, I stopped to buy a bottle of water and the guy selling the water saw my shirt and started discussing the Thunder. He wanted to know what I thought the Thunder should do with Perkins, how Westbrook’s knee would hold up the following season etc etc.
“These type of things happened in Rome, Spain and anywhere else we went. I am not sure what the value to OKC is, but I can tell you that it was pretty cool to have people recognize our team.”
Great stories. I don’t know what the value is to Oklahoma City, but I know there IS value. It’s always positive to go from unknown to known on the world wide stage. I don’t know if it leads to more tourism or industry, but I know you don’t grow tourism OR industry without a profile. And Oklahoma City’s profile is soaring, because of the Thunder.