YOU watch the Thunder make a little Christmas Day history, or read that Kevin Durant is neck-and-neck with LeBron James for most all-star votes, and it's easy to forget just how remarkable it is that this is occurring in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder has established itself as one of the National Basketball Association's top teams and model franchises. Now in its sixth season in Oklahoma City, the team has won three of the past four Northwest Division titles, played for the NBA championship (in 2012) and appears capable of making a strong run at another berth in the finals this season.
Last week the Thunder rolled into Madison Square Garden and beat the New York Knicks by 29 points, the most lopsided Christmas Day loss in NBA history. Sometimes those sorts of stats can seem silly, essentially made up, but the NBA has been playing Christmas Day games since 1947.
The next day, the Thunder was the focus of a sports cover story in USA Today. “Thunder Rolling Again,” was the headline, with writer Sam Amick noting that with Sam Presti orchestrating as general manager, and Durant and Russell Westbrook comprising “the game's best one-two punch,” the team looks poised to get the last laugh on those who felt the Thunder would slip this year. (Westbrook's knee surgery on Friday was a blow, certainly, but he's expected back sometime in February — the playoffs don't begin until April.)
Durant leads all Western Conference players in all-star voting, and he's only a few thousand votes behind James in the overall tally. This isn't a surprise, or shouldn't be, because Durant is a superstar on the court and highly marketable off it.