Ten seasons of Thunder Basketball are complete, with each one providing multiple events that helped strengthen the foundation. Their inclusion in our list might be debatable, but their significance to our timeline is undeniable.
Here are a few of our favorites in no particular order.
'We Made It'
Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett announces the NBA’s arrival to Oklahoma City. “We made it. Congratulations,” Bennett proclaimed. ”The NBA will be in Oklahoma City next season.” Without a team logo or colors, the organization would work vigorously over the next few months in preparation for its inaugural season in OKC. On Oct. 29, 2008, the Oklahoma City Thunder would host its first regular-season game against the Milwaukee Bucks. | Photo courtesy of The Oklahoman
Thunder Rolls Into OKC
With a nickname denoting energy and power, a classic-look logo, and the colors of an Oklahoma sunset, Oklahoma City’s NBA team unveils its identity at a special event at Leadership Square in downtown Oklahoma City. “Our primary color blue is the color of our state flag. This is very much an Oklahoma organization,” Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett said. “The sunset is red and orange. Not too red. Not too orange. And the beautiful sun is reflected by yellow.”
Turning the Corner
The Thunder defeats the Golden State Warriors, 107-100, to win its first of 10 New Year’s Eve games in Oklahoma City. The Thunder entered the game with a 3-29 record, but would finish the season 20-30, including a 7-7 record in January. Counting that NYE win, the Thunder has amassed a 486-286 regular-season record since then, and has made eight playoff appearances, advancing to four Western Conference Finals and a trip to the 2012 NBA Finals.
Standing Ovation After Lakers Loss
Despite a 95-94 loss in Game 6 of its first-round series to the defending and eventual back-to-back NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, Thunder fans stayed in their seats several minutes after the final buzzer to applaud the team as it left the court. "We fought so hard as a team," Russell Westbrook said after the loss. "All of us. We feel we can take that next step." Two seasons later, the Thunder would defeat the Lakers in the second round en route to the 2012 NBA Finals.
How the West Was Won
The Thunder defeats the San Antonio Spurs in front of its home fans in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs had won 20 consecutive games (10 in regular season, 10 in the playoffs) in building a 2-0 series lead before the Thunder reeled off four straight wins by an average of 9.75 points to advance to the NBA Finals. “All I can think of is how this incredible group of young men has unified this city and this state as never before,” Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett said.
Lending Helping Hands and Emotional Support
As tragedy struck, the Thunder responded not only financially, but also by volunteering the following days and weeks in Moore, El Reno and other places around the state affected by destructive tornadoes. “To be up close to see something that tragic is very difficult,” Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti said. “But what makes it a lot easier to comprehend is when you meet the people. Their resolve, their resiliency and their faith is greater than what you actually see physically in front of you. It’s inspiring to be around that.”
When a series of devastating storms tore through Moore and El Reno, they tore through our team’s heart as well. The scale of the damage and loss of life that came with the series of tornados and floods that touched Central Oklahoma in May 2013 was completely unprecedented for our state.
The Thunder responded not only financially, but also by volunteering to assist the following days, weeks and months. The Thunder and Kevin Durant each donated $1 million to the rebuilding effort, and numerous players – including Russell Westbrook, who was on crutches at the time – made their way to the area to meet with first responders and visit with residents trying to pick up the pieces.
“To be up close to see something that tragic is very difficult,” Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti said. “But what makes it a lot easier to comprehend is when you meet the people. Their resolve, their resiliency and their faith is greater than what you actually see physically in front of you. It’s inspiring to be around that.”
The rebuilding effort would include a total of four outdoor basketball court dedications the following October through the Thunder Cares Foundation. The team also held its annual Blue & White Scrimmage in Moore.
Welcome Home, Thunder
Thousands of fans gathered in a clearing near Will Rogers World Airport to greet the team after its return flight home from Miami, where the team fell in the NBA Finals. Amid high and humid 90-degree temperatures, fans arrived hours before the team landed to show their support. Upon arrival, the team offered their thanks to the fans. “I played in Boston for eight years and I thought they were the best fans in the world,” center Kendrick Perkins said, pausing. “Until I got to OKC and I saw what it means to be a part of something special.”
‘Nowhere Else I’d Rather Be’
Russell Westbrook shows his commitment and loyalty to the Thunder by signing and extension over the summer. “I am grateful to extend my contract with the Thunder and continue to play with the only organization that I have played for and have loved being a part of since I was drafted into the NBA,” Westbrook said. “I’m really excited about moving forward with this group of guys and continuing to play in front of the best fans in the world.” Just over a year later at the start of training camp, Westbrook would sign another multi-year extension, reaffirming his long-term allegiance to the organization.
Book Bus Debuts, Promotes Literacy
Loaded with hundreds of books and decked out in Thunder colors, the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, presented by American Fidelity, has delivered more than 150,000 books to children in central Oklahoma since its debut at the state capitol. After boarding the Book Bus, every child selects a free book to take home, helping to inspire a love of reading and a personal connection with the Thunder. Said Christine Berney, Thunder Vice President of Community Relations: “The Rolling Thunder Book Bus has become one of our signature reading programs, and we love being able to put books in the hands of children to inspire a love of reading and emphasize the importance of literacy.”
A star is born as Rumble the Bison makes his OKC debut, playing a drum solo on a 10-foot platform lowered from the arena’s catwalk. “Rumble is very versatile and will appeal to fans of all ages on and off the court. Thunder fans are in for a real treat as they are entertained by Rumble, and we have no doubt it will be a fan favorite for years to come,” said Thunder Senior Vice President Brian Byrnes. Six months later in Las Vegas, the lovable bison was awarded the NBA Mascot of the Year in recognition of his work with the Thunder at various community events throughout Oklahoma City.