Former OU football and basketball player Dean Blevins later became one of the state’s most heralded sports broadcasters. Many times named Oklahoma sportscaster of the year, he covered the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team for KWTV and WWLS radio from its inception and provided the following retrospective from his long, close interaction with the organization.
It’s hard to overstate the positive impact the Oklahoma City Thunder has had on OKC and the state of Oklahoma since the team tipped off its first National Basketball Association (NBA) season in 2008. The blueblood history of Oklahoma Sooner college football had stood as the proudest beacon of sporting greatness from the time Coach Bud Wilkinson began dominating the sport in the late 1940s and continues to this day. But the emergence of the state’s first major professional franchise, boosted by the Thunder’s remarkable early success, trampolined state pride and recognition to a completely different level. Citizens and fans stuck out their chests with a more confident feeling of, “We’re in the big time now!”
Overnight, all around the globe, people became familiar with not just a new NBA franchise, but one that quickly earned respect and exposure unseen on the Oklahoma plains. Unlike most pro franchises that struggle to become established, the Thunder succeeded from Day 1. It could only have happened with a strong ownership group led by Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon, brilliant leadership from general manager Sam Presti, and a deep love affair with a rabid fan base that has never allowed a single ticket to go unsold.
Even with all of this, however, the overnight rise of the organization would have been impossible without Thunder players Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. All three were perennial NBA All-Stars as well as MVPs for the Thunder and, later, other teams. These legends’ on-the-court success catapulted the Thunder to the NBA finals their fourth year in Oklahoma City, and also led to tons of nationally-televised games, media adoration, and a fan base stretching from the Bronx to the Bahamas who purchased and wore OKC Thunder merchandise.
A state that enjoyed substantial sports achievement from college teams and produced iconic athletes like Jim Thorpe and Mickey Mantle had nonetheless reconciled itself to never standing on the big stage. Now it basked in the sunshine delivered internationally by the OKC Thunder, an elite professional sports organization. Move over Big Boy, the Thunder has rumbled its way to the big time, letting the world know that Oklahoma has come a long way from the Dust Bowl and is a place demanding attention.
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.