Photo by Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder

“We Get to be the Superstars” – Thunder Honors Community Draft Picks

By Paris Lawson | Broadcast & Digital Reporter |

The four newest members of the Thunder roster weren’t the only ones donning brand-new custom uniforms during their introductory press conference on Saturday. Before the young hoopers had a single photo snapped or answered a single question from the media, six deserving and beloved community members had their time in the limelight.

On Saturday, the Thunder selected six Community Draft Picks to join in the festivities at Paycom Center. Joe Cardenas from the Latino Community Development Agency, Brent Powell of the Regional Foodbank of Oklahoma, Dee Liggens from the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City, Alyssa Peterson of Cleats for Kids, A. Jaye Johnson from the Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma and Geri Valdez from the YMCA of Greater OKC were all treated to a VIP experience usually reserved exclusively for players.

“We get to be the superstars,” said Johnson with a wide smile. “We’re very grateful that the Oklahoma City Thunder has allowed us to be a part of this.”

"Our players understand how important community is to us and lifting up Oklahoma City because that’s what we want our players to do while they’re here."

-Mark Daigneault, Thunder Head Coach

From helping to distribute over 58 million pounds of food to ensuring a safe remote-learning environment for students, each Community Draft Pick was selected because of the vital role they played within their respective organization during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The experience began as soon as the group entered into the arena where they had the opportunity to strut down the infamous concrete catwalk where players have the chance to show off their outfits of choice before heading into the locker room. The camera lights flashed, snapping photos of the guests of honor as they made their way up to the Thunder Boardroom. There, the group was treated to lunch before Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault met the group to present each VIP with their crisp new uniform that donned their last name.

After introductions, Daigneault and the six community draft picks all settled into the high-back conference room chairs and discussed how the past year had affected each organization.

“It’s been a pleasure to meet these representatives of the community today,” said Daigneault. “The times are tough, and these are the people that are rising up and we couldn’t be more grateful for their presence in the community and the work they’re doing.”

The excitement didn’t stop there. When the time came for the press conference to begin, the community members had a front-row seat to the see the Thunder’s 2021 Draft Class in their first public debut. As honorary draft picks for the afternoon, that excitement and anticipation was also met with a few nerves as the community members were put in the shoes of the newcomers with their VIP experience.

“[I’m feeling] the excitement of meeting the new players and hear about what their goals are being here part of this great organization,” said Cardenas. “What we do within the community has paid off to be a part of such a great event. It’s also a little nerve wrecking, but at the same time exciting and just an honor to be here.”

Capping off the surreal afternoon, both sets of Thunder draft picks had the opportunity to meet one another. Two vital pillars to the Thunder organization ­– basketball and community ­­– came together in celebration of the bright future for both the city and for the organization.

“It’s important that our players and certainly our draft picks understand how important community is to us and specifically the parts of the community that are reaching out and lifting up Oklahoma City because that’s what we want our players to do while they’re here,” said Daigneault. “We want them to elevate the community, elevate the city, not only with how they live out in the community but also with how they play and represent Oklahoma City on the court.”

Watch: Superstars in the Community


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