OKLAHOMA CITY - Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor congratulated Oklahoma City officials on Tuesday for landing an NBA franchise and said there's no reason people in her town can't support the state's pro basketball team.
Taylor, speaking at a Rotary Club luncheon in downtown Oklahoma City, said that what benefits Oklahoma City also benefits Tulsa. She said that's why she was glad to support Oklahoma City's efforts to attract a major-league franchise.
That process was realized last Friday, when the NBA Board of Governors voted 28-2 to approve the relocation of the Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City, pending the result of a federal court case in Washington state.
Seattle officials want the team to fulfill the final two years of its lease there, while the team's Oklahoma City-based ownership group would prefer to negotiate a buyout to that lease. The Sonics are legally bound to come to Oklahoma City under a lease that takes effect as soon as the Seattle lease is fulfilled.
"It really puts Oklahoma on a national map, and that's what's important, and it continues to grow the economy of Oklahoma City, which helps Tulsa," Taylor said of the Sonics' impending move. "We are the two most significant contributors to the state economy. Anything that we can do to help Oklahoma City's economy expand is good for Tulsa."
Tulsa and Oklahoma City are connected by an 86-mile-long turnpike, but the state's two largest cities have long had what sometimes has been a not-so-friendly rivalry. Both Taylor and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said that 20 years ago, it would have been unlikely for leaders in one town to support a major initiative of the other.
But Taylor, who grew up in Oklahoma City, didn't hesitate when officials from Oklahoma City and the SuperSonics asked her to be a part of the team's March 25 presentation to members of the league's relocation committee.
Her presence _ and the role Tulsa-area residents could play in supporting an Oklahoma City franchise _ was noted by NBA commissioner David Stern. During a press conference following last Friday's vote, Stern mentioned Tulsa a half-dozen times.
Stern said the owners learned "how close Tulsa is" to Oklahoma City "and how many citizens of Tulsa will consider the team to be, and did consider the (New Orleans) Hornets when they were there .