|Oklahoma City Thunder|
The Oklahoma City Thunder is an American professional basketball franchise based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They play in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA); their home court is at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder's NBA Development League affiliate is the Tulsa 66ers, who are owned by the Thunder. The Thunder are the only team in the major professional North American sports leagues based in the state of Oklahoma.
1967–2008: Seattle SuperSonicsEdit
The Thunder's previous incarnation, the Seattle SuperSonics, were formed in 1967. Early in their history they appeared in two consecutive Finals against the Washington Bullets (now the Wizards), losing in seven games in 1978 and winning in five the next year. Seattle's victory remains the only modern-era championship in that city's major-sports history. During the course of the next decade, Seattle had moderate success until they drafted the duo of Shawn Kemp in 1989 and Gary Payton in 1990. Alongside Nate McMillan, coach George Karl and other notable players, the Sonics rose up among the rank of title contenders in the early 1990s. The team qualified for the playoffs every year between 1991 and 1998.
In the 1995-96 season, the Sonics established the franchise mark for most wins with a 64–18 season (.780 winning percentage) and earned their third NBA Finals berth. Seattle met the record-setting 72–10 Chicago Bulls in the Finals and lost in six games. The Sonics' fortunes slowly spiraled after that season, with most of the core players retiring or departing from Seattle. The next decade did not fare better as the franchise, aside from a surprising 2004–05 NBA season in which the Sonics won 52 games, disappointed with playoff futility. The Sonics drafted cornerstones Kevin Durant and Jeff Green in the 2007 NBA Draft. Despite their talent, the club endured the worst season in franchise history in the 2007–08 NBA season, losing a team-record 62 games.
In their 41 years in Seattle, the SuperSonics compiled a 1,745–1,585 (.524) win–loss record in the regular season and 107–110 (.493) in the playoffs. The franchise's titles include three Western Conference championships and one NBA title.
Creation of the ThunderEdit
In the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, Louisiana and the surrounding areas, the New Orleans Hornets temporarily relocated to Oklahoma City, playing the majority of their home games during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons at the Ford Center. Consequently, the city showed it could support an NBA franchise such as the uprooted Hornets. Spurred by a reporter's question, NBA commissioner David Stern came to comment unequivocally that Oklahoma City could support a franchise of its own.
In 2006 the SuperSonics were sold for $350 million to a group of Oklahoma City investors led by Clay Bennett, a move approved by NBA owners the following October. Terms of the sale required the new ownership group to use a "good faith, best effort" for the term of 12 months in securing a new arena lease or venue in the greater Seattle area. Bennett spent much of 2007 attempting to gain public funding for a new arena or a major renovation of the KeyArena. After 12 months and numerous disagreements between local and state governments and the team, Bennett announced that the franchise would move to Oklahoma City as soon as the lease with KeyArena expired.
In June 2008, a lawsuit between the City of Seattle and Bennett regarding Bennett's attempts to break the final two years of the Sonics' lease at KeyArena went to federal court, and nearly a month later the two sides reached an agreement to settle. The terms awarded the city $45 million to get out of the remaining lease at KeyArena, and could provide an additional $30 million payment to Seattle in 2013 if certain conditions are met. The owners agreed to leave the SuperSonics name, logo and colors in Seattle for a possible future NBA franchise; however, the items would remain the property of the Oklahoma City team along with other "assets," including championship banners and trophies. On September 3, 2008, the team name, logo and colors for the Oklahoma City franchise were announced.
In 2009, Seattle-area filmmakers calling themselves the Seattle SuperSonics Historical Preservation Society produced a critically acclaimed documentary film titled Sonicsgate: Requiem For A Team that details the rise and demise of the Seattle SuperSonics. The movie aimed to shed a scandalous light on the team's departure from Seattle, and it won the 2010 Webby Award for Best Sports Film.
2008–09: Inaugural seasonEdit
The Thunder participated in the Orlando Pro Summer League featuring their second-year players, potential free agents and rookies. The players wore generic black and white jerseys reading "OKC-NBA" against an outline of a basketball. The Thunder's temporary practice facility was the Sawyer Center at Southern Nazarene University, which had been used by the New Orleans Hornets when they relocated to Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina.
The Thunder played several preseason games before the 2008–2009 regular season, but only one of those games was in Oklahoma City. The Thunder made their first appearance in Billings, Montana on October 8, 2008 in an 88–82 preseason loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Thunder played their first Ford Center game on October 14 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
In their regular-season home opener, the Thunder faced (and lost to) the Milwaukee Bucks. Earl Watson scored the first points of the season with a layup. Three nights later on November 2, the Thunder won their first game as a franchise by defeating the Timberwolves, improving their record to 1–3. The team then went on a 10-game losing streak before deciding on November 22 to fire head coach P. J. Carlesimo and assistant Paul Westhead. Assistant coach Scott Brooks then took over on an interim basis. Oklahoma City lost its next four games to tie the dubious franchise losing streak of 14 set in Seattle the previous season. But the team managed to prevent history by winning their next game on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies.
As the season continued, the Thunder began to improve. After starting 3–29, the Thunder finished the regular season 20–30 for the remaining fifty games. Not only were they winning more often, they played much more competitively than in the first part of the season. The team ended their first season in Oklahoma City with a win against the Los Angeles Clippers, bringing their record to 23–59 and improving upon their record of 20–62 from the team's final season in Seattle. The late-season successes of the Thunder contributed to the signing of Scott Brooks as the team's official head coach.
As a result of moving to Oklahoma City from Seattle, the team's operating situation improved markedly. In December 2008, Forbes Magazine estimated the team's franchise value at $300 million – a 12% increase from the previous year's $268 million when the club was located in Seattle. Forbes also noted an increase in percentage of available tickets sold, from 78% in the team's last year in Seattle (playing as a virtual lame-duck franchise) to 100% in 2008–09.
2009–10: The turnaround seasonEdit
After an inaugural season filled with many adjustments, the Thunder hoped to improve during their second season in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City did not make any major moves in the offseason, other than drafting James Harden from Arizona State University with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft. The Thunder selected Rodrigue Beaubois with the 25th pick in the 2009 draft before immediately trading him to the Dallas Mavericks for the 24th pick, C Byron Mullens from Ohio State University. The team then added veterans C Etan Thomas and G Kevin Ollie. The last major change to their roster occurred on December 22, 2009, when the team traded for Eric Maynor from the Utah Jazz. Maynor immediately supplanted Ollie as the backup point guard.
From the outset the young team looked determined and cohesive. The increasing leadership of Kevin Durant, along with the growing experience of the Thunder's younger players, were encouraging signs that the Thunder were improving. The 2009–10 season included several victories over the NBA's elite teams, including a 28-point blowout over the Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic and a 16-point blowout of the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. Road victories over the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks greatly enhanced their reputation. Though they hovered around .500 for the first half of the season, they eventually went on a 9-game winning streak that sent them into serious playoff contention. Kevin Durant became the youngest player in league history to win the scoring title, averaging 30.1 points per game while playing in all 82 games.
The Thunder finished 50–32, more than doubling their win total from the previous season. The 50-32 tied with the 2008 Golden State Warriors as the best 8 seeds in the modern Playoffs era, at least in terms of record. The Oklahoma City Thunder also had the same record as the Boston Celtics in this season.  They finished fourth in the Northwest Division and eighth in the Western Conference playoff standings, and earned a spot in the 2010 NBA Playoffs. On April 22, the team secured their first playoff win in Oklahoma City when they defeated the defending-champion Los Angeles Lakers 101–96. This was also the Thunder's first playoff win at the Ford Center. However, the Thunder were eliminated by the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, 4 games to 2.
Oklahoma City ranked twelfth in overall attendance in the NBA, and seventh in percentage of available seats occupied (98%, including 28 sellouts in 41 home games). The team's operating situation also continued to improve in 2009–10. Forbes Magazine estimated the team's franchise value at $310 million (an increase of $10 million over the prior year) with a estimated operating profit of $12.7 million (the first operating profit in years for the franchise).
2010–11: Building on successEdit
Financially, the Thunder organization continued to build on the positive returns experienced from relocating from Seattle to Oklahoma City. In January 2011, Forbes Magazine estimated the franchise's worth at $329 million, up 6% from 2009–10 and ranking #18 in the NBA. The magazine also estimated the franchise's revenue at $118 million and operating profit at $22.6 million – up 6.3% and 78%, respectively, from the previous year. The Thunder also captured their first division title since moving to Oklahoma City, and seventh in franchise history.
2011–12: Making the NBA FinalsEdit
During the extended lockout, Thunder players (notably Durant, Harden, Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha) played in exhibitions in the United States and in other countries[clarification needed] to stay in shape. When the abbreviated training camp began, OKC started with an intact roster and all players, with the exception of Russell Westbrook, under contract up for the near future. In addition, Kendrick Perkins lost more than 30 pounds during the lockout. The Thunder made their two pre-season appearances, after the lockout, against the Dallas Mavericks, winning both games. They won their first regular-season game against Orlando at home and went on a five-game winning streak. Kevin Durant became the sixth player to score 30 or more points in four consecutive games at the start of a season. In addition, the Thunder was the first to sweep their back-to-back-to-back games, winning a home-and-home series with the Houston Rockets, then routing the San Antonio Spurs. In addition, Thunder players Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Perkins, and Ibaka made it onto the 2012 All-Star ballots. After the Thunder's win over the Utah Jazz on February 11, 2012, Scott Brooks was named the Head Coach of the Western Conference All-Star squad for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida. In the 2012 NBA Playoffs, the Thunder swept the defending champion Dallas Mavericks in the first round to advance and face off against their first-round foes from 2010, the Los Angeles Lakers. They defeated the Lakers in five games and advanced to play the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder lost the first two games against the Spurs but won the next three including a Game 5 road win, to take a commanding 3–2 game lead in the series. In Game 6, the Thunder defeated the Spurs 107–99 and advanced to the 2012 NBA Finals. Durant led the way with 34 points, playing all of regulation time in the game. In the 2012 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, the Thunder won the first game at home but then lost four in a row and lost the series in five games.
2012–present: Chasing the TitleEdit
In the 2012 NBA Draft, the Thunder selected Baylor University forward Perry Jones III with the 28th overall pick. The Thunder also signed free agents Hasheem Thabeet, Daniel Orton and signed guards Andy Rautins, and DeAndre Liggins, as well as re-signing forward Serge Ibaka to a 4-year, $48 million extension. After failing to sign James Harden to an extension that was worth 4 years and $52 million, OKC decided to trade Harden rather than having to pay the luxury tax penalty. On October 27, 2012 the Thunder traded Harden along with center Cole Aldrich, and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round draft picks from Toronto and Dallas and one second round draft pick. Martin took over Harden's sixth-man role for the season. The Oklahoma City Thunder finished off with a 60-22 season, taking both the Northwest division title and top seed of the Western Conference. They faceed the 8th seeded Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, featuring former team member James Harden. In game 2 of the series, Russell Westbrook fell down with an injury and was forced to miss the rest of the playoffs after having knee surgery. Without the team's 2nd leading scorer, the Thunder, who had a 3-0 lead, allowed the Rockets to bring series back to 3-2. In game 6, the Thunder defeated the Houston Rockets to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs, facing a rematch of the 2011 second round, Memphis Grizzlies. The Thunder lost the series 4-1, losing 4 straight after winning Game 1 at home.
Franchise accomplishments and awardsEdit
Note: All arenas used before 2008 were part of the defunct Sonics franchise.
- Seattle Center Coliseum 1967–1978 (occasionally used during the Kingdome years when the latter was unavailable due to either Mariners or Seahawks games)
- The Kingdome 1978–1985
- Seattle Center Coliseum 1985–1994
- Tacoma Dome 1994–1995 (During KeyArena Remodel)
- KeyArena (the remodeled and renamed Seattle Center Coliseum) 1995–2008
- Oklahoma City Arena (formerly Ford Center) (2008–present)
Originally opened in 2002, the Oklahoma City Arena was built without many of the luxury accommodations ultimately planned for it. The arena had been designed to accommodate such luxury "buildouts" should a professional sports franchise locate to the city.
A plan for such buildout improvements began in 2007 in the wake of the acquisition of the Seattle Supersonics by an Oklahoma City-based ownership group the previous October. A city ballot initiative on March 4, 2008 - approved by a 62% to 38% margin - extended a prior one-cent city sales tax for a period of fifteen months in order to fund $101 million in budgeted improvements to the arena, as well as fund a separate $20 million practice facility for a relocated franchise.
Renovation work on the Oklahoma City Arena was delayed due to a sales tax-receipts shortfall during the 2008-10 economic crisis; eventual tax receipts totaled $103.5 million rather than the projected $121.6 million. The shortfall was accommodated by revising plans for certain features of the arena expansion project, including limiting the size of a new glass entryway and eliminating a practice court planned for above the delivery entrance of the arena. Major construction work on the arena expansion was also delayed from the summer of 2010 to the summer of 2011.
Similar revisions were made to the plans for the Thunder's separate practice facility, for a total cost savings of approximately $14 million. The Thunder's practice facility completion date was similarly pushed back to approximately March 2011.
Seattle Supersonics MascotsEdit
Rumble the BisonEdit
On February 17, 2009, Rumble the Bison was introduced as the new Oklahoma City Thunder mascot during the halftime of a game against the New Orleans Hornets. Rumble was the winner of the 2008-2009 NBA Mascot of the Year.
- Dennis Johnson - 1979
- Gary Payton – 1996
- Kevin Durant - 2008
- Scott Brooks - 2010
- James Harden 2012
- Kevin Durant 2010-2012
- Kevin Durant 2012
- Spencer Haywood - 1974-1975
- Dennis Johnson 1980
- Gus Williams - 1980
- Shawn Kemp - 1994-1996
- Gary Payton - 1995-1997, 1999, 2002
- Vin Baker - 1998
- Russell Westbrook 2011-2013
- Lonnie Shelton - 1982
- Jack Sikma - 1982
- Danny Vranes - 1985
- Nate McMillan – 1994-1995
- Thabo Sefolosha - 2010
- Bob Rule - 1968
- Al Tucker - 1968
- Art Harris – 1969
- Tommy Burleson – 1975
- Jack Sikma – 1978
- Xavier McDaniel – 1986
- Derrick McKey – 1988
- Kevin Durant – 2008
- Jeff Green - 2008
- Russell Westbrook - 2009
- For the complete list of Seattle SuperSonics players see: Seattle SuperSonics all-time roster.
- Ray Allen – An All-Star in all six of his years in Seattle. In the 2005–06 season, Allen broke the NBA record for most three-point field goals made in a regular season with 269. After being traded away after the conclusion of the 2006-2007 season, Allen won the 2008 NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics.
- Shawn Kemp – The franchise's all-time leader in blocks and a key player in the Sonics' 1996 run to the NBA Finals. Although more known for his dunks, Kemp averaged nearly 16 points and 10 rebounds for eight years in Seattle.
- Rashard Lewis – The club's career leader in 3-point field goals with 973. A proficient shooter while with the Sonics, averaging 39% from behind the arc. He gained a reputation as a solid forward and earned All-Star status in 2005.
- Xavier McDaniel – A mainstay on the late '80s Sonics. Nicknamed the "X-Man", he was drafted 4th overall in 1985 out Wichita State University after an exceptional year in college. McDaniel came into his own as a scorer in Seattle before being traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1991.
- Gary Payton – The Sonics all-time leader in most major statistics, including points, assists and steals. Payton played tenacious defense and earned the Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1996. "The Glove" has expressed his desire to have his jersey retired in Seattle, rather than Oklahoma City.
Hall of Famers from the Seattle SuperSonics eraEdit
- Patrick Ewing – Center, best known for playing for the New York Knicks; traded from the Knicks to the Sonics in an early season trade during the 2001 season. Inducted in 2008.
- Dennis Johnson – Under coach Lenny Wilkens, he took the Sonics to two NBA Finals; a seven-game series loss in 1978 and a win in 1979 in which Johnson was named Finals MVP. Inducted in 2010.
- K. C. Jones – After being inducted in 1989, Jones coached the Sonics to two deep playoff runs in the 1991 and 1992 seasons.
- Bill Russell – Notable for winning 11 championships for the Boston Celtics, Russell coached and led the Sonics to their first playoff appearances during his time in Seattle from 1973 through 1977. Inducted in 1975.
- Lenny Wilkens – Played point guard in Seattle for four years, becoming a player-coach for his last three. He returned in 1977 for eight straight seasons, coaching the Sonics to their only championship in 1979. Wilkens held two notable NBA records for coaches - most wins (1,332) and most losses (1,155) - but he has since been surpassed in wins by Don Nelson with 1,335. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice, in 1989 as a player and in 1998 as a head coach.
Retired jersey numbersEdit
As the Oklahoma City Thunder's original iteration, the Seattle SuperSonics retired six numbers and awarded an honorary microphone to longtime broadcaster Bob Blackburn, who had called the majority of the team's games from 1967 through 1992.
|Seattle SuperSonics retired numbers|