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Thunder cannot go wrong by mimicking what Spurs have done to succeed

The Spurs are always championship contention by spending money wisely. They are the same things the Thunder tries to do.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 24, 2012

Greater Oklahoma City has a population of 1.278 million people. Little bit bigger than Richmond, almost as big as Louisville.

Greater San Antonio has 2.194 million residents. Little bit bigger than Sacramento, almost as big as Portland.

Oklahoma City's television market ranks 45th in America, just ahead of Greensboro. San Antonio's TV market ranks 37th, just behind Greenville.

But Sunday in San Antone, the NBA's two best teams begin a series for the Western Conference championship. Call it the Small Market Showdown.

Through smarts and commitment and dumb luck, the Thunder and the Spurs have produced elite teams that are the envy of the league.

The Spurs have been doing it for 15 years. The Thunder seems set to do the same, with a roster of stars no older than a vintage Eddie Sutton team.

And this is historic.

Only thrice in NBA history has a conference finals matched teams from single-franchise markets.

2007: San Antonio-Utah.

1999: San Antonio-Portland.

1992: Portland-Utah.

Never has an NBA Finals matched single-franchise markets, at least not in the modern era.

And the NBA is an oasis for small markets.

The National Hockey League has had only one championship series (conference or Stanley Cup) matching single-team markets: the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals between Edmonton and Carolina (Raleigh), and that's only if you don't count football's Edmonton Eskimos as major league. I don't claim to know how the Canadians fall on that question.

In the Super Bowl era, the NFL has had only one championship game (Super Bowl or conference) matching single-team markets: Dallas-Miami in Super Bowl 6. I know, sounds screwy, but in 1971, the only major league franchise in South Florida was the Dolphins, and the only major league franchise in DFW was the Cowboys.

As for baseball, the grand old game hasn't even had a single-franchise market since Kansas City in 1962.

So Thunder-Spurs is a special series. The frontier towns that could.

Of course, it's hard to paint any city with the lottery fortune to get Tim Duncan or Kevin Durant as a big underdog.

But the Spurs are here not just because of ping-pong balls. They're here because they spend money wisely and know what they're looking for in a ballplayer and don't get caught up in all the bad decisions that sink more advantaged franchises.

You know, all the same things the Thunder tries to do.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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