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Oklahoma City's love affair with the Thunder

To this day, members of last year's Thunder roster struggle to explain how they felt after Game 6, when their magical season ended abruptly with a 95-94 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs.
By John Rohde, Staff Writer, Modified: October 20, 2010 at 9:56 pm •  Published: October 20, 2010

"Fans stuck around after a loss," Maynor said. "I've never seen anything like it."

Not in high school? Not in college?

"You kiddin'? No way. Everybody'd be leaving," Maynor said with a chuckle. "For our fans to do what they did just shows us they really care. We care about them also."

Kansas rookie Cole Aldrich previously was stationed at Allen Fieldhouse, arguably the loudest basketball setting at any level anywhere in the world. Aldrich has yet to play a regular-season game here and already is boasting, "No doubt the NBA's loudest fans are in Oklahoma City."

The ESPN crew that worked Game 6 also took notice.

"It was as good a scene as I've seen in all my years of playing and covering the NBA," said analyst Mark Jackson, a former St. John's All-American and New York Knicks point guard who has taken center stage at Madison Square Garden more times than you can count. "The best fans in basketball, energetic, enthusiastic, and they acknowledged how hard their team fought and competed. It was really great to watch and to be in the building. I don't think watching it on TV would do the justice that we were able to witness seeing it firsthand."

Play-by-play man Mike Breen said Thunder fans fed off the players last season.

"Obviously they're great fans," Breen said. "They're excited to have an NBA team. But that particular team, I think, is what made them feel that way."

If any NBA team can relate to the heart-pumping affection of the Ford Center, it is tonight's opponent. The New Orleans Hornets re-visit their former temporary sanctuary when they play the Thunder at 7 in the last preseason game for both teams.

Displaced by Hurricane Katrina five years ago last August, the Hornets called the Ford Center home for two seasons.

The screams reserved for Durant and Co. previously were directed at Chris Paul and the Hornets. ESPN analyst and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy recalled how the Hornets were treated when they resided here.

"To me, it's an incredible basketball city," Van Gundy said. "They're into it. It's a college-like environment."

Paul will still be warmly received tonight during pre-game introductions, but this town's heart now belongs to the Thunder.

Especially after Game 6.