Thunder-Heat Game 1 in Oklahoma City: The Diary
Posted on June 13, 2012 by ChuckTaylor
The NBA finals started with a bang tonight, an explosion really. Kevin Durant treated the basketball world to an epic Game 1 performance with 36 points, 17 of them coming in the ever so large 4th quarter… and I was there to witness.
If you know anything about the NBA, you know that OKC is supposed to be one of the loudest, most entertaining arenas in the league to watch a game at. The unfortunate thing about being an NBA fan living in Australia is that you end up watching these games in the middle of the day with 2 or 3 mates who don’t even follow your team or even worse, you’re stuck at work. Curse you, timezone demon.
This was the year to do something about it. So $1300 and multiple connecting flights later, I was in Oklahoma City, getting my nuts pumped up for Game 1. Monday night was quiet. People were out in Bricktown, grabbing dinner, having beers. There was only a bit of Thunder apparel floating around but people were quietly excited. You’d get the head nod from another guy wearing the same Westbrook jersey as you, the Taxi dispatch guy was talking hoops over the radio and signs in support of the Thunder, “Team is One”, were everywhere. I saw Serge I-block-ya at the cinemas. Good to see him sticking to his pre-game routine. I felt the urge to throw something over his head, just to see if he’d block it, but I only had my phone and my wallet on me.
Then I sat one table over from Mike Breen and Notorious Jeff Van Gundy at Brix for dinner. I’m a massive fan of JVG on the mic but the only photo I wanted with him was were I was pretend-choking him. Not sure if he’s laughing at that moment of his coaching career yet so I kept my mouth shut and eavesdropped their conversation. It was finals time baby. Everyone was in town. It was about to go down. I couldn’t sleep that night, so a Game of Thrones marathon was in order.
Game day. I get into Bricktown at 4pm, same time as yesterday, but the town was heaving. Everyone in their Thunder gear. After smacking some wings and a few quick beers I was off to the stadium nice and early to join in the festivities. “Thunder Alley” as they call the street out the front of Chesapeake Arena was buzzing. There was so much excitement in the crowd, so much anticipation, so much love. After talking to a bunch of locals since I got here, even though the Thunder haven’t been in OKC too many years, the locals were clearly in love with these guys. How could you not be. Kevin Durant is your model superstar. On and off the court. It’s a team packed with guys that are humble, “team first” players and Sam Presti drafted every single star on that Team. Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka… Nick Collison as well.
There was no one ‘Decision’ that brought this team together, just many brilliant decisions by the Thunder GM. While this city doesn’t carry the passion for a team that they’ve supported their whole lives or the baggage of not having won in 40 years or something ridiculous like that, you can tell this team means a lot to them. After all, this is their only pro sports team. You saw how they sold out every Oklahoma City Hornets game many years ago.
It was still over an hour until tipoff and the fans had ants in their pants, looking for reasons to cheer, to release some energy. Whenever a Thunder nut stood up on the podium and started chanting pro-Thunder statements, people joined in. When the local news truck was running through crowds with a camera, people were losing it. There was a party in one part of Thunder Alley cranking tunes and had people dancing along with them. N***as in Paris, Levels, Bangarang, Thunderstruck, whatever. Fans were loving it. The atmosphere was amazing.
Game time. After taking my nosebleed seat, 3rd row from the back, I didn’t even for a second dream of sitting closer. It was amazing, even from back there… and it was loud. Pre-game introductions had the crowd juiced. Everyone in the building wearing the complimentary Thunder “One” T-Shirts. The jumbotron shamed the people too cool to wear them until they put theirs on.
Tip-off. For three quarters, right from the beginning, the Heat had the lead. The crowd was loud for the most part, really loud a few times but also a little on edge. When the Thunder made their run in the 3rd, you could feel it coming. This stadium was going to burst. Then it happened. Thunder took the lead right before the end of the quarter and the roof lifted off the stadium. Lucky it was a perfectly hot OKC day so we didn’t need the roof.
The 4th quarter was great finals basketball. A superb, MVP worthy 17 points from Durantula and some suffocating defence from the entire Thunder squad. Collison was huge in his D on Bosh and Thabo did a great job on LeBron. I lost my voice. I lost my shit. No, we lost our voices, we lost our shit. Me and 18,000 of my closest bro’s closing out Game 1 of the NBA finals.
I don’t regret dropping all this cash for a second. The plan was to watch Game 2 in an OKC bar but fuck that. I’m going to hop onto Stub-hub real quick and pick me up some Game 2 tickets. The NBA finals experience is some real bucket list shit. YOU GOTTA MAKE THIS HAPPEN.
Check back in tomorrow, I’ll be posting a video of pre-game Thunder Alley action and in-stadium festivities.