Share “Who's No. 1: OU football or NBA?”

by Berry Tramel Modified: July 9, 2008 at 9:58 am •  Published: July 9, 2008

Think Alabama football is going to teeter if Birmingham ever goes major league? Ohio State football still owns Columbus, even though the National Hockey League moved in a few years ago.

But there are a few things to consider.

1. We know the NBA will go great guns. The Hornets, in a two-year respite from New Orleans, proved that. Give OKC NBA entertainment and absolute ownership in the team, and you're talking wildfire.

2. Despite the overwhelming dominance of OU football on the state's sports culture, there remains a sizable block of Oklahoma State fans who don't get misty-eyed at memories of Tommy McDonald and the Selmon brothers. The NBA figures to unite the state in ways college sports never could.

3. The longer the NBA stays, the more rooted it becomes. That explains all the frustration and anguish out of Seattle when Clay Bennett moved the team. Men whose fathers took them to Sonic games were taking their sons; tales were passed from generation to generation, about Lenny Wilkens and Jack Sikma and Gary Payton.

OU football has the same generational dialogue. Dads have told sons about Eddie Crowder and Jerry Tubbs and Prentice Gautt and Granville Liggins and I better stop there or I'll be listing names all night.

We won't soon have that generational bond with the Not-the-Sonics. Gramps and Junior alike will ship off from the same memory banks. But kids who visit the Ford Center this winter will, in the decades to come, tell their own kids and grandkids about Kevin Durant.

"Nobody attended an NBA school,” Berney said. "Until we have had an NBA team for 20 years or so, nobody's going to have grown up an Oklahoma City NBA fan It takes awhile for it to be such a fabric of people's lives.”

Berney recalled a poll he saw a few years ago that found 80 percent of Oklahomans identify themselves as Sooner football fans.

"That doesn't change because an NBA team comes to town,” he said. "...Oklahoma football is always going to reign supreme.”

Berney probably is right, though nothing lasts forever. There are sports fans alive today who can remember when Dallas was ruled by SMU football.

Who knows what will happen? But we most definitely know what has happened. The sports marketplace, at the top, just got more crowded.

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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