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.
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?
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
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.
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.
Position: Shooting guard
Role: Defensive specialist
1. The first and only Swiss-born player in the NBA.
2. His mother, Christine, is a nationally known artist in Switzerland. An abstract painter, she has staged art shows in New York, Chicago, Paris and Oklahoma City.
3. His international connections go beyond his mom. His father, Patrick, is from South African, where he a musician and author. His wife, Bertille, was born in Cameroon and raised in France.
Position: Reserve guard
Role: Sixth starter
1. Known for his beard. He only had a goatee when he started college, but two years later when he left Arizona State for the NBA, he was in all-out lumberjack mode. The Beard has become a phenomenon, sparking T-shirts and fake-bearded look-a-likes.
2. Sported a bow tie on draft night and on the day he was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year earlier this season.
3. For all the big shots he's made, many people know him best for the shot he endured earlier this season. Harden took an elbow to the side of the head from Laker enforcer Ron Artest late in the regular season. It led to a concussion for Harden and a seven-game suspension for Artest.
1. Wears three woven bracelets on his right wrist. There is one each for wife, Sherry, son, Chance and daughter, Lexi.
2. Raised in Lathrop, Calif., a small town about an hour from the Bay Area, he was the youngest of seven children and the son of a single mother, Lee. She worked 12 hours a day, six days a week building automotive parts, then worked the harvest to make extra money. She would take all the kids into the fields where they picked walnuts or topped onions.
3. Played 11 seasons in the NBA despite being only 5-foot-11. Known as a smart, hard-nosed player, he won an NBA title with the 1994 Houston Rockets.
Position: Reserve big man
Role: Glue guy
1. Known for taking charges. Collison ranks second in the NBA this season for charges taken, a distinction that requires him to stand his ground against driving opponents and take the brunt of the collision.
2. One of only two current Thunder players to have played for the Sonics when the franchise was still in Seattle. He still has a home there.
3. Wrote a guest blog this season for GQ. Among the dry-witted revelations: Collison and teammate/buddy Royal Ivey want to make an RV road trip from Collison's hometown of Iowa Falls, Iowa, to Ivey's hometown of Queens, N.Y., and Collison believes rookie Reggie Jackson would be his first teammate to die in a zombie apocalypse because Jackson falls asleep at the drop of a hat.
Position: Reserve point guard
Role: Resident champion
1. Won five NBA titles while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.
2. Brought a load of postseason experience to Oklahoma City after being traded by Los Angeles. The Lakers sent him to the Houston Rockets earlier this season, despite protests from friend and team leader Kobe Bryant, and Fisher and the Rockets negotiated a buyout so he could sign with a team of his choosing. It came down to the Thunder and the Heat, and Fisher picked Oklahoma City.
3. President of the NBA Players Association. He was front and center during the lockout negotiations before this season, then late in the regular season, he became locked in a power struggle with the union's longtime executive director Billy Hunter.
CHESAPEAKE ENERGY ARENA
Position: Thunder's home arena
Role: Rowdiest arena in the NBA
1. Known by the cool kids as The Peake.
2. Site of 64 consecutive sellouts for the Thunder. That streak dates back to Feb. 22, 2011.
3. Home of Rumble, the Thunder's mascot. The furry fellow has become a fan favorite with his skits and dunks and antics. He has been known to hit behind-the-back halfcourt shots and rappel onto the court from the rafters.