Remember Hurricane Katrina, and what brought the Thunder here
By Addam Francisco
By Addam Francisco
Does everyone remember what brought the Thunder to Oklahoma City? Better yet, what brought more motivation to bring a permanent NBA team here? It’s been 10 years since the horrific hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans that caused the New Orleans Hornets to relocate to Oklahoma City which jump-started the campaign to bring a permanent team to the city.
I was only 12 years old when all of this happened, but vividly remember everything about it. I remember seeing the gruesome images on the news and I also remember the blessing it turned out to be for the city of Oklahoma City sports wise and for our economy (I mean that in the best way possible). Also, the blessing it ended up being for the city of New Orleans in the long run and a place for a young Chris Paul to make his name known in the NBA. Lets not let this take away from the tragedy that happened in New Orleans that ended many lives and altered so many peoples life’s, some for the good and some for the bad and the fact that New Orleans is such a huge part of the United States’ tourist scene, it really effected the entire country in some way. It’s amazing but impressive that the City of New Orleans recovered well from the natural disaster and turned back into the city it was once before.
I actually remember it like it was yesterday, OKC Mayor Mick Cornett jumped on quickly after seeing the aftermath of the hurricane and met with NBA Commissioner David Stern in New York City about the Hornets relocating to Oklahoma City while the city of New Orleans recovered. All of this happened about two months before the NBA season was set to start with no chance that New Orleans would be prepared to handle a professional sports franchise. Just weeks after that, the New Orleans Hornets had a new temporary home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma right before training camp started. This was a huge move for many of the players. The first season wasn't successful for the team record-wise, they didn’t do great but the support that the developing Oklahoma City community gave the team left a lasting memory for NBA officials and fans, that maybe this city should have their own NBA franchise when this all clears up, whether it’s the Hornets or a new franchise.
When in Oklahoma City, their attendance went from 14,221 to 18,168 fans and moving from the worst attendance in the NBA to 11th during their two seasons here. They didn't hit 40 wins in those seasons, winning 38 the first year and 39 in the second season, and missed the playoffs in both but that didn't matter. George Shinn wanted to relocate the team to Oklahoma City permanently and so did former coach Byron Scott. This wouldn't happen though, because the NBA already decided they would move the team back to New Orleans because that was the fair thing to do and I agree. With Oklahoma City fans knowing this and the fact that they wouldn't change David Stern’s mind, the attendance dropped in the second half of the second and final season here. Though, Oklahoma City at this point was the prime location for a possible expansion or relocation for another franchise.
At this point, Clay Bennett and some associates made the proposal, and the rest is known about the Seattle SuperSonics moving to Oklahoma City. That year without a professional team was rough for us though. I remember, it was a very dull year for us because the city has been spoiled by the previous two seasons and my generation especially, being in that 10-16 year old age bracket at the time, we really came accustomed to the professional basketball.
I personally remember when I was thinking about quitting basketball due to a horrible AAU experience, until the Hornets came here and I saw the explosiveness of NBA basketball. It was like basketball was reborn within me. Chris Paul, David West, and Rasual Butler, being three of the teams key players at the time, really motivated me and I am sure many other kids around my age to keep playing, or push harder in order to reach their goal. I think that parlayed into me going on to play college basketball along with a lot of kids in my generation and specifically in my class (2011) going on to play division one basketball and in a couple cases, go on to play in the NBA.
Now Oklahoma City is a prime NBA franchise, ranking in the top 10 in attendance and the Oklahoma City Thunder obviously turning into a successful franchise.