OKC’s Russell Westbrook was all over the bad decision making tonight. He also had about four beautiful redeeming moments, but it was hardly enough to erase the small question mark in the back of fans heads about whether he should even be starting.
Dallas’ Jason Kidd never gives up, is always consistent and was a thorn in the side of the Thunder all night long. He didn’t loose his cool once. Not even a tiny bit.
Dirk Nowitzki, however, lost his cool all night long – his acting job continued as he plead for any foul favor he could get from the officials. He pushed too far, however, in the third quarter by telling an official that a call against him was F*ing B*Sh*t, and paid for that with a technical. The reaction from the crown was primal as they booed him and took pleasure in watching the “T-hammer” come down. He’s Dallas’ crown jewel, but I just don’t like his style.
James Hardin came through with tricky, slicky lay-ups that brought the crowd to their feet on four different occasions. OKC fans yelled “Fear the Beard” as he ran down the court with a grin on his face.
The game was give and take, get ahead then fall behind, up and down the court for 48 solid minutes of team-on-team full body play. But in the end, a beautiful and timeless moment in basketball sealed the win for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The score was 102-101 in Dallas’ favor and the game was about to end.There was only 1.4 seconds left on the clock and people were putting on their coats to leave. The Fans who headed for the exits will rue their decision for a long, long time. When they thought the Oklahoma City Thunder had lost the game – they were wrong.
Kevin Durant “told Thabo [Sefolosha] to give [him] the ball.” Durant, who now has more 30-point games than any player since the 2008-2009 season, got the in-bounds pass, turned to his left, and planted a beautiful 3-point jump shot that drained the bucket in perfect fashion.
Yes, the crowd went wild. Yes, everybody danced. And that, my friends, was some drop. Dead. Gorgeous. Basketball.
Its Fourth of July weekend and we as Americans have so much to be thankful for in this great country of ours. Despite our struggles and our differences, we still have our freedom and a way of life that is the envy of the rest of the world. I for one firmly believe in the concept of American exceptionalism.
But just because we are exceptional as a country, does that mean all of our sports have to be exceptional as well?
Two weeks ago the media was gushing over Rory McIlroy’s performance at the US Open. The so-called “experts” were heaping praise on McIlroy while simultaneously lamenting the demise of American golf. “Where is the next great American golfer?” they wondered. “Is America losing ground to the rest of the world?” was a question of much debate among golf writers and analysts. Of course those conversations led to “is there an American kid out there who’s going to take over for Tiger?”It was one big pity party. It couldn’t possibly be that the rest of the world is catching up, could it? No, no something must be wrong with golf in this country.
If you’ve watched any tennis at Wimbledon over the last couple weeks, the conversation has been exactly the same. Hosts, reporters, and commentators all emphasizing the downfall of American tennis and wondering if it will ever get back to the level it once was when names like McEnroe, Connors, Evert, Sampras, Agassi, and Williams carried the dialogue.
I’m as patriotic as the next guy, but this doesn’t bother me at all.
Acting as Commissioner of a professional sports league cannot be an easy job. It requires business savvy, knowledge of the law, negotiating skills, and the ability to wade through piles of criticism while maintaining a tough, confident appearance. Most of the job responsibilities aren’t glamorous, and the hours are long. Commissioners are rarely praised and often vilified. For the most part, I think the four Commissioners, David Stern (NBA), Roger Goodell (NFL), Bud Selig (MLB), and Gary Bettman (NHL), do a pretty decent job. But every fan wonders what it would be like to be in charge. We’d all love to take the ownership reigns of our favorite team for a week, but how does one attempt to change an entire league? Well, like this for starters.
NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
The first thing I’d address as NBA Commissioner is what I like to call the “redundancy factor.” The league’s biggest problem is that 75 percent of its teams are almost irrelevant. This is a league that revolves around seven or eight franchises at the most. The conversation, the media, and the telecasts, focus on these so-called elite teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Mavericks, Heat, and Magic. The rest of the league is barely worth talking about and that has to change. The gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” has to close for the NBA to become an all-around better product, because when only a few teams have an actual shot to win a title before the season even starts, then why is the regular season interesting? Where’s the drama? Right now, we’re all just biding our time until the playoffs start. In my mind, the best way to solve this problem is contraction. I know it’s a dirty word, but it’s time. Too many small market teams (Milwaukee, Utah, Sacramento) acquire star players only to see them bolt in a couple years for one of the big cities. The teams that can hold onto stars are eventually forced to trade them away because the players have too much power (i.e. Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams). Getting rid of six teams would help bring the league back into a better competitive balance. Talent wouldn’t be spread so thin, and increased parity is the result. In other words, a more interesting, compelling NBA than what we have right now. It gives me no pleasure to do it, but I’m taking the ax to these teams:
We all knew this was coming. We could see it when he was at that small, Christian high school in Edmond winning four straight state championships. We witnessed him match up against the best collegiate talent in the country as he left us breathless and led the Sooners to the Elite Eight. Those of us in Oklahoma have known for years what the entire world is beginning to understand…Blake Griffin is pretty good.
Kobe and Lebron are the faces of the NBA, but this season, no player is hogging more highlight time than Griffin. The Clippers power forward is good for at least one jaw-dropping dunk per night and as a rookie, he’s already being mentioned among names like Karl Malone and Tim Duncan. Griffin may not be a superstar yet, but that day is coming soon. To those that say Griffin is overrated (you know who you are Skip Bayless), stop for a second to consider the evidence.
Through 41 games, Griffin is putting up 22.7 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. Wednesday night against Minnesota, he finally snapped a streak of 27 straight games with a double-double. If you want to put Griffin’s numbers in perspective, he’s the only rookie in 25 years to record a double-double streak of 20 or more games. Shaq never achieved those numbers. Neither did Dwight Howard or Tim Duncan. Only eight players in NBA history have averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds in their rookie seasons. If Griffin keeps up his pace, he’ll be in a select club with household names like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, and David Robinson.
A few days ago I came back to Oklahoma for the first time in a couple of months. I felt at home before my truck tires even touched the driveway of my parents’ house. A comfortable feeling washed over me as soon as I crossed over the state line and saw that big “Welcome to Oklahoma” sign. It was a sense of familiarity, belonging, and identity. My license plate no longer says “Native America” but my head and my heart say I’ll always be an Okie.
Sports is part of that identity. It was so good to stop at a Loves’ station outside Sallisaw and see the t-shirts for sale. Two choices, orange or crimson. Back on the highway, the car in front of me showcased an upside down Longhorn sticker in its rear window. A few miles more and another driver had his OSU car flags furiously flapping on both sides of the car. Then the best of both worlds, when a car on the exit ramp displayed a “House Divided” license plate frame. After shuffling through radio stations for hundreds of miles, the scanning stopped when I heard the familiar voices of my favorite sports talk hosts. These are the little things I took for granted when I lived here for so many years. People ask, “what do you miss about Oklahoma?” The usual answers always come out first, family and friends, my house, my church, blah, blah, blah. Crossing the state line the other day made me realize, it’s so much more than that, it’s the sports culture in this state I miss. (I miss you too Mom, no need to get offended here.)
If you’re from this state, you likely have a fierce allegiance to OU or OSU. Pick a side and don’t turn back. So many states are watered down with loyalty divided between several major universities and multiple professional franchises. In Oklahoma, its simpler. Our way of life is simple, our sports landscape is simple.
Even though we may be divided along college lines, we can be united behind the Thunder. I used to think pro sports wasn’t a good idea for Oklahoma. We’ve got the great college atmosphere, we don’t need the NBA to enhance our status. Let’s just say I’ve digested large quantities of crow. This whole state has Thunder fever. Even though I’ve never been a huge NBA fan, I miss the sense of pride that comes from proving the rest of the country wrong. There’s room here for more than just college football. Not only is Oklahoma worthy of the a team, it is quickly becoming one of the most respected franchises in the NBA. The fan base is energized and unified by a team with players and coaches that represent our values and want to be part of this community. Maybe this is silly or over the top, but in my mind, Thunder fans see the success of their team as a big slap in the face to the East Coast, West Coast, big cities, and so-called elites. That’s the mentality of Oklahoma sports fans. I love that mentality. I miss that mentality.
The teams here are the major parts of Oklahoma sports culture, but again, it’s the little things I miss the most. I miss reading the fishing report in the paper, seeing that largemouth are good on crankbaits at McGee Creek, then thinking about which one of my lures I’d use. I miss Thursday night high school football. Every week, a handful of games played before the rest where the schools get showcased and the kids feel that much more special. I miss the public golf courses here. You’re never far from a teebox in Oklahoma, and you can usually get in a round all the way into November.
I miss the subtle jabs exchanged by Sooners and Cowboys over the airwaves. I miss living and experiencing Bedlam every single day. It’s not limited to the football field or the basketball court, Bedlam is alive and well at Wal-mart, at the bank, at the grocery store, and yes, even in the church sanctuaries.
I miss the sports personalities here. Like them or not, guys like Bob Barry Jr., Jim Traber, Al Eshbach, John Holcomb, and Al Jerkens are practically institutions in this state. We come to expect those voices and those faces delivering our sports news, telling our sports stories, and asking questions on our behalf. Why are guys like that popular? Because they’re loyal to this state and can’t possibly see themselves living or working anywhere else.
I miss hearing Bob Stoops say “in a good way” in every other sentence. I miss Pistol Pete’s freakishly large head. I miss hearing Bob Barry say “Touchdown Oklahoma!” and a high-pitched “pistols firing!” coming from the pipes of Dave Hunziker.
One day maybe I’ll once again be a full-time resident of this great state. I hope so. No matter where I might lay my head, I will love Oklahoma and consider it home. I will always know that there’s a bass to be caught in a farm pond, a Bedlam debate to be had, and a simple sports culture that suits me just fine. The little things will stick with me.
Don’t worry Mom, I’ll miss you too.
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.