Thunder Puts on a Show at the Zoo

Russell Westbrook was protecting the rim, but his opponent was a bit more slippery than usual.

On Sunday a Thunder trio of Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher stopped by the Noble Aquatic Center at the Oklahoma City Zoo to entertain a packed audience of families there to see the Sea Lion Show. Entering to a cascade of cheers, the three Thunder players let the zoo’s staff entertain and get the show started, then joined in the festivities shortly after.

Led by Heather Down, the event started with a ring toss competition with two seal lions, which Perkins and Fisher took part in along with four children selected from the audience. Next up was Westbrook, who stood next to a half-sized basketball hoop as one sea lion, Piper, grabbed a ball from Down and proceeded to dunk it.

Fisher then held up a small canvas and allowed a sea lion to paint on it, with the brush hanging out of its mouth, much to the glee of the kids in attendance. The afternoon rounded out with each player standing in front of the audience as Piper jumped out of the water, waddled up to the stage and gave each player a hug and kiss.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Perkins said. “Hopefully I can get a picture of it, bring it home and put it in my office.”

“It was really interesting because we were so excited to have the players with us here today,” Down said. “They were more excited to have the sea lions hang out with them. It was this mutual camaraderie.”

The theme of the show at the zoo on Sunday was wellness and healthy living, which was both the message to the children in attendance but also a major aspect of how Down and the rest of the staff train the sea lions. Through their both mental and physical exercises along with dietary decisions for the sea lions, the staff educated those in attendance about how living a healthy lifestyle is not just important for the sea lions but for every kid and adult there.

“Here at the Oklahoma City Zoo we really pride ourselves in talking about how we care for our animals and the healthcare that we provide for them in human care,” Down explained. “We share that bond with the Oklahoma City Thunder because we focused a lot of health just like they do.”

“We do a lot of mental and physical stimulation with our animals in the work that we train them with,” Down continued. “That’s something the Thunder really focuses on in their work here in the community.”

The fans in the arena bowl were there to see the show itself, but were treated with an extra special surprise when the Thunder trio walked out from a building behind the stage and joined the festivities. Not surprisingly, Westbrook, Perkins and Fisher’s presence made the exhibit that much more exciting. The Thunder trio learned a ton, got to experience something brand new and gained an extra respect for those who work at the zoo and with animals. They also enjoyed the opportunity to entertain Oklahomans in a slightly different way than they normally do at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“Our fans are so great to us, so anytime we have the opportunity to give back, it’s a great deal,” Perkins explained. “We enjoy doing this… It’s always fun and always a blessing.”