Obviously, one reason is that the team is among the NBA’s most talented and most entertaining. But there are plenty of other cities with good NBA teams that are fun to watch.
This Oklahoma City crowd has something special. In order to understand why it provides the team the NBA’s best home court, it is crucial to understand the state’s history of being dominated by college sports and never having any pro sports.
The fans of the state of Oklahoma have been college fans for forever. As someone who has lived in Oklahoma my entire life, I can tell you that before the Thunder came to Oklahoma City, hardly anyone cared about professional sports.
The closest franchises were in Kansas City or Dallas, which was too far away for most Oklahomans to get too excited about any of those teams.
Instead, Oklahoma sports fans turned to college sports.
The state of Oklahoma has four universities that compete in Division I sports and many, many smaller ones that compete in other NCAA divisions. The history of college sports in Oklahoma is a rich one, with the Oklahoma Sooner football dynasties of decades past, Oklahoma State’s history of success in wrestling, golf, baseball and basketball and various other sports that Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oral Roberts and Tulsa have excelled in.
As we all would probably agree, a college crowd and a pro sports crowd are very different. Pro sports fans are a varied group whose loyalty usually lies most to where they are from. They are generally not as loud or die-hard as college fans are.
This is part of why Thunder fans are so enthusiastic about their team: They do not know any other way to be a fan.
These people have been college fans all their lives, and suddenly they now have one of the best teams in the NBA positioned directly in the center of their state.
The youth of the Thunder’s stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, also adds to the college vibe that the fans have brought to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Thirst Finally Quenched
Oklahoma has never been a state that has gotten much respect nationally. Before the Thunder arrived, the thing Oklahoma City was most known for was the 1995 Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing that claimed 168 lives. Needless to say, Oklahomans were ready to be remembered for something else.
There is also the fact that Oklahoma had never had a pro sports franchise.
When the New Orleans Hornets had to move during the devastation following Hurricane Katrina, Oklahoma City welcomed them with open arms. The entire state supported the team whole-heartedly, proving itself worthy of having an NBA team.
The reason they were able to do such a good job then and are now is because they had never had this before. Never had there been a pro franchise to unite the college factions of Oklahoma sports fandom.
Now, all of us Oklahomans have something to cheer about, and we’re doing it as loudly as we possibly can.
The truth is that the Thunder have fallen into the best situation that a young team could. They are surrounded by passionate, college sports-grown fans who have longed for pro sports for too long.
That atmosphere may not last forever. But right now, it is the best home-court experience in the NBA.