|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.
Creation of the Thunder
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 season
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 season
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 success
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 Finals
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 Title
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 awards
Note: All arenas used before 2008 were part of the defunct Sonics franchise.
- Oklahoma City Arena (formerly Ford Center) (2007–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.
- Squatch, 1993–2008
Rumble the Bison
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.
- Kevin Durant - 2008
- Scott Brooks - 2010
- James Harden 2012
- Kevin Durant 2010-2012
- Kevin Durant 2012
- Serge Ilbaka 2012-2013
- Thabo Sefolosha - 2010
- James Harden – 2010
- For the complete list of Oklahoma City Thunder players see: Oklahoma City Thunder all-time roster.
Hall of Famers from the Oklahoma City Tbunder era
Retired jersey numbers
|Oklahoma City Thunder retired numbers|