So this is how the other guys live?
So this is how the other guys live?
Down here in the heartland that is Oklahoma City, what they have in the NBA’s Thunder is big time.
The pageantry, the festivities, the atmosphere, the on-court play; it’s all under the bright lights and fireworks that is pro basketball at its highest level.
No offense to the Independence Events Center, one of the best mid-sized arenas in the middle of America, or the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, but Oklahoma City Arena and its anchor tenant are the real deal.
I’ve witnessed some magnificent events at the Events Center in its two years of existence, from CHL hockey to MISL soccer to high school basketball and a Tech N9ne concert. Even tonight’s Missouri State High School sectional playoff extravaganza at the Events Center will be top-notch, but the Thunder’s Sunday afternoon nationally televised matinee with the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers was second to none.
The top athletes in the world were on display, and I came away impressed with what could have conceivably been Kansas City’s top sporting draw.
It’s widely known LA-based AIG has long tried to bring a pro basketball team to the area, and when Seattle relocated a couple seasons back, KC was thought to be in play. For myriad reasons, the Seattle franchise ended up in OKC as the Thunder, and good old Kansas City was left to fill the Sprint Center – rather successfully I might add – with other events.
Oklahoma City Arena is much like Sprint Center, and its adjoining Bricktown Entertainment District is comparable to the Power and Light District that surrounds Kansas City’s made-for-NBA arena.
The area in and around the arena is family-friendly and the adult nightlife entertainment options are plentiful.
The trip to OKC was a spur of the moment deal. I wasn’t interested in a fact-finding mission or comparing arenas, just reacting to an idea that sprang in my head as I watched, on television, the NBA All-Star game last weekend in LA.
I had planned a trip out west for that annual get-together, but those plans were nixed, and it made me wonder what it’d be like to see the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant play in person. A quick Internet search showed Bryant and the Lakers coming to town a week later, and, boom, the trip was set.
I’ve been to a few NBA regular season games back in the early 2000s during a six-month stay in the Bay area of California, but we’re talking about some bad Golden State teams. I’ve also caught a preseason game or two at the Sprint Center, but never have I witnessed the sort of explosiveness, athleticism and sheer grace that I witnessed on Sunday in OKC.
Page 2 of 2 - Former Kansas Jayhawk Nick Collison started at center for Oklahoma City and backup and fellow KU big man Cole Aldrich joined Collison on the floor in the second quarter in hopes of slowing the Lakers’ big man tag team of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Kobe was the truth. Durant showed the sweet stroke that has made him the future star that he is, and Westbrook’s behind-the-back, power-dribble-to-the-hole, left-handed dunk in the second quarter was more than worth the price of admission (and gas and hotel fare and food cost, etc, al).
Westbrook’s move was, in basketball parlance, the sickest maneuver I think I’ve ever seen on a basketball court with my own set of eyes.
The highlight reel play left me to conclude that Missouri needs an NBA basketball team. I wouldn’t care if the team was located in St. Louis or downtown in KC; I just know that the Show-Me needs a reincarnation of the (St. Louis) Hawks or (Kansas City) Kings.
More than 18,000 fans, network television cameras and ABC/ESPN television personalities all filled Oklahoma City Arena, and I’d have to guess that the majority left the game as satisfied as I was after the Lakers’ 90-87 win.
Unlike us in Missouri, they’ll get more of the high-flying, gravity-defying display for years to come down here in OKC.