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Thunder bandwagon: The newcomer's guide to OKC's team

So you've just caught Thunder fever and want to sound like a pro? Here's some things you need to know.
by Jenni Carlson Published: June 8, 2012

Before we go any further, Thunder fans, let's get one thing straight.

This is not a national championship.

Listen, we understand that some of you have recently boarded the Thunder Bandwagon. You might not be a big sports fan. You might not know the difference between a blockout and a blocked shot. But with the boys in blue getting ready to play in the NBA Finals, you are fired up.

That's great.

The Bandwagon is open to anyone because, hey, all of us know that it's difficult not to get swept up by what's happening around these parts. The excitement. The fun. The energy. It sucks you in like a defender on a James Harden drive to the basket.

All of a sudden, you've found yourself plotting how to get tickets and talking about games with your co-workers.

We encourage that behavior.

But to help you along the way, we've put together some tidbits about this team. You can take them to the water cooler. You can impress your friends. We just want to make sure you know what you're talking about.

And the first thing to know is that the Thunder isn't playing for a national championship. We've noticed over the past few days that plenty of folks have said as much, even our fair-haired governor. Yep, the honorable Mary Fallin is quoted in a USA Today story saying, “We're going to take it all the way to the end and be the national champions.”

The confusion is understandable. I mean, this has been a college-sports state for decades and decades, and when a college team is playing for a title, it's a national championship.

But this is different.

For starters, the NBA has a team in Canada, the Toronto Raptors, so there's no way this can be a national championship.

Some folks like to call the winner of the NBA title “the world champion”, but that isn't really right either. There are plenty of other basketball leagues around the world, so even though the NBA is the best of the best, how can you really say that the NBA champ is the world champ?

So, if you want to sound smart and be correct, just say that the Thunder is playing for an NBA championship.

That sounds plenty cool, doesn't it?


Position: Forward

Role: Superstar

1. Wears No. 35 in honor of his basketball mentor, Chucky Craig, who was shot and killed in 2005 at the age of 35.

2. Gives his mom, Wanda Pratt, a kiss and a hug after every home game. She sits front row across from the Thunder bench.

3. Has the word “Maryland” tattooed across the top of his back in homage to his home state. During games, you can see the edges of the tattoo peeking out just beyond his jersey.


Position: Point guard

Role: Energizer

1. Has become known for the unexpected and, at times, outrageous attire that he wears to postgame press conferences. That includes red-framed glasses with no lenses and shirts with fishing lures and teddy bears printed on them.

2. A regular lightning rod for criticism. Some pundits and fans say he shoots too much and makes poor decisions while others have said he's not a point guard.

3. Is a two-time All-Star despite never playing point guard full-time until he was in the NBA. (That's a little like a guy not playing quarterback until he was drafted into the NFL.)


Position: Power forward

Role: Shot blocker

1. The youngest of 18 siblings. He grew up with only 10 of them in the Republic of the Congo.

2. Given name is Sergeballu LaMu Sayonga Loom Walahas Jonas Hugo Ibaka. (That's eight names, if you're counting at home.)

3. Speaks five languages: Lingala (his native tongue), French, Spanish, English and Catalan.


Position: Center

Role: Enforcer

1. Known for his scowl. He plays a rough-and-tough style, and his never-changing facial expression on the court reflects it.

2. Served as the head altar boy at Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church back home in Beaumont, Texas, from the seventh grade until he graduated high school. Perk was so big that he needed a custom-made robe.

3. Spent the first seven and a half years of his career playing for the Boston Celtics. He won one championship with them and considers point guard Rajon Rondo a best friend, center Kevin Garnett a mentor and coach Doc Rivers a father figure.

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by Jenni Carlson
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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