Oklahomans obsessed with picking NBA team name

by Jenni Carlson Modified: July 16, 2008 at 4:13 pm •  Published: July 16, 2008
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Deane Wymer is a busy man.

An accountant who has owned his own firm for more than four decades, he oversees branches in Enid and Fairview. He meets with clients. He manages employees.

But these past few weeks, he has poured himself into a side project.

Coming up with a name for OKC's NBA team.

"It has to be something positive,” Wymer said.

Count him among the legions of Oklahomans who are moonlighting as marketers.

Nickname fever is sweeping the state, and no one is immune. With the impending arrival of Oklahoma's first major-league sports franchise — one that's leaving its name, colors and history behind — folks from Guymon to Gotebo are talking about what the team should be called.

Who among us hasn't thought about it, talked about it, debated about it?

This has become fodder for the casual observer every bit as much as the hard-core fan. The debate is just as likely to rage in a Sunday school class as at the local watering hole.

Heck, the obsession extends to The Oklahoman. Our fair newspaper conducted a 64-name bracket competition within hours of the relocation vote, and even though we've told all of you that we have no sway in the naming, you still keep calling and writing with your suggestions.

Oklahomans are obsessed.

Why?

Why are we so fascinated by the name? Why are we so invested in the outcome?

"People are very proud that this team is coming to Oklahoma,” Bob Blackburn said. "The name is very important.”

Blackburn isn't a sports guy, but he has studied the state's history for decades. The executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society believes that Oklahomans are proud people but that their pride hasn't always extended to the state as a whole.

We've been proud of individuals such as Will Rogers, Mickey Mantle and Garth Brooks. We've been proud of our hometown or our heritage.

"There's a bit of a lack of pride in the general history,” Blackburn said.

That inferiority dates back to the Dust Bowl, the poverty that it wrought and the shame that it left. Those same issues surfaced again during the oil bust.

But in this NBA team, people see a symbol of progress, a sign of the good times.

"This basketball team is one of the crown jewels that we're all wearing around,” Blackburn said.

Oklahomans want a name befitting such a gem.

On that, there is consensus.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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