Throng of Fans Greets Thunder at Airport
The Thunder had just completed a 103-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semi-finals five hours beforehand, winning thanks to a 25-9 rally in the final 7:45 of the game, capped by a dagger three-pointer by Kevin Durant from the top of the key.
The fans that lined up alongside the fence about 100 yards away from where the team charter plane came to a halt represented a number of communities throughout the Oklahoma City area. From Norman to Edmond to Mustang and Moore, the brave fans greeted the players and staff to "OKC, OKC" chants and even had the chance to high five guard James Harden as he ran across the fence to greet the fans.
Afterwards, I got to catch up with a few fans, who, in between the cheering and the chants talked about why they were so excited to come out to the airport, even at such a strange hour. Many of the fans had been at the airport since 1:30 or 2:00am, meaning there was quite a wait in the rain and wind, with lightning crashing in the background. For these fans, it was well worth the wait and the conditions.
"Because we love the Thunder!" young fan Vanessa Martinez said. "They've done this city well."
Standing a few feet away from Martinez was Cassy Phares, who has been a Thunder fan since the team arrived and is a season ticket holder. She and a group of her friends were out on the town on Saturday night, but stopped what they were doing to watch the Thunder game, and after it ended made the trek out to the airport. There's a special relationship between this Thunder team and the Oklahoma City community, summed up succinctly by Phares.
"They're humble, they love the fans and they're like brothers," Phares said. "They're like family."
Even Head Coach Scott Brooks, who has seen Thunder fans rally to the airport to greet the team before, was impressed by the display of fans who showed up to cheer on the team, given all the extenuating circumstances.
“This time I was surprised," Brooks said. "We didn’t know what time we were really getting in due to the weather, but they were there. It’s incredible the support that our players receive. They’re thankful, they love it. It’s great to see them walk by and get the cheers and the crowd has nicknames for every guy, so whoever is in front of the group they’re chanting their names. These are exciting times."