Alex Abrines, Josh Huestis Spread Holiday Cheer

By Jimmy Do |

Squinting at the mini hoop, 94-year-old Carl Held inched his walker close enough for a one-handed throwdown detonating raucous howls and cheers.

It was the first converted basket of the day after a series of unsuccessful shot attempts uncorked by challengers before him in the shooting game.

Congratulations were in order as Alex Abrines and Josh Huestis rewarded Held with a bag full of Thunder goodies—an early Christmas present for the OKC resident born on Christmas Eve.

The teammates joined residents for a Thunder-themed holiday party at the Lionwood Senior Living Center on Thursday.

The surprise visit by Abrines and Huestis was part of the team’s 10th annual Holiday Assist, presented by Cox Communications.

One of the party-goers unfurled an asterisk to Held’s moment of glory. He didn’t shoot from the designated spot that was six feet away from the hoop like everyone else.

In a playful exchange, she cried foul: “He cheated!”

Held retorted: “I didn’t cheat. I just can’t see,” drawing laughter and smiles from those within earshot.

From the festive décor to the Thunder blue tees all around, the holiday party could’ve been mistaken for another watch party. In fact, the Lionwood residents have been throwing watch parties for every single Thunder game for years.

For resident party organizer David Liner, 77, each Thunder game broadcast served as a fun way to bring the residents together. All they have to do was comply with the dress code.

“Before every game, we have a Thunder party. We put the time on the board and people would come to watch the game here,” said Liner. “But you got to wear blue.“

Earlier this season, Liner and his fellow die-hard Thunder fans at Lionwood traveled to Tulsa to watch the team’s first preseason game at the BOK Center.

For Huestis, he appreciated the opportunity to connect with the fans as he bounced from table to table talking to the fans.

“These people watch every single game every night in here,” said Huestis. “They are one of our best supporters.”

Racking up photo ops and building gingerbread houses with Huestis and Abrines, the afternoon was “heaven on Earth” for 79-year-old Lily Buckner, who was decked out in Thunder gear including hat, t-shirt and cape.

“We’re so thankful that they took the time to have fun with us,” said Buckner. “I just thank the organization for all the good things they do in our city.”

For the win. Carl Held, 94, extends for a one-handed dunk to win a Thunder prize pack.

Heaven on Earth. “It’s cool to see people of all ages enjoy the team and the game,” said Huestis. “To be able to come here, it’s so exciting to know that we reach so many people.” Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

Best fans in the world. Abrines: "They knew the upcoming games more than myself. We really appreciate them watching the games and cheering for us." Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

This is why we play. Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

Watch: Thunder Spreads Holiday Joy