Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder
2011–12 Oklahoma City Thunder season
Oklahoma City Thunder logo
Conference Western
Division Northwest Division
Founded 1967
History Seattle SuperSonics
Oklahoma City Thunder
Arena Chesapeake Energy Arena
City Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Team colors Light Blue, Orange-Red, Gold, Navy, White
Owner(s) Professional Basketball Club LLC (Clay Bennett, Chairman)
General manager Sam Presti
Head coach Scott Brooks
D-League affiliate Tulsa 66ers
Championships 1 (1979)
Conference titles 3 (1978, 1979, 1996)
Division titles 7 (1979, 1994, 1996,

1997, 1998, 2005, 2011)

Official website
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Home jersey
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Team colours
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Away jersey
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Team colours

The Oklahoma City Thunder are a professional basketball franchise based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They play in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA);[1] their home court is at Chesapeake Energy Arena.[2] The Thunder's NBA Development League affiliate is the Tulsa 66ers, who are owned by the Thunder.[3] The Thunder are the only team in the Big Four North American sports leagues in Oklahoma.

Formerly the Seattle SuperSonics, the Thunder were relocated in 2008 after a dispute between owner Clay Bennett and lawmakers in Seattle, Washington. The SuperSonics qualified for the NBA Playoffs 22 times, won their division six times and won the 1979 NBA Championship. In Oklahoma City, the Thunder qualified for their first playoff berth during the 2009–2010 season. They followed this success by winning their first division title as the Thunder in the 2010-11 season.


Franchise history

The final logo of the SuperSonics

1967–2008: Seattle SuperSonics

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.[4][5] 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.[6] 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.[7] Despite their talent, the club endured the worst season in franchise history in the 2007–08 NBA season, losing a team-record 62 games.[8]

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 in 1979.

Creation of the Thunder

Chesapeake Energy Arena (Ford Center at the time) began hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] 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 and lies from PBC LLC. to local and state governments, Bennett (who never had the intention of keeping the team in Seattle based on e-mails between his ownership group [13]) announced that the franchise would move to Oklahoma City as soon as the lease with KeyArena expired.[14]

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;[15] however, the items would remain the property of the Oklahoma City team along with other "assets," including championship banners and trophies.[16] On September 3, 2008, the team name, logo and colors for the Oklahoma City franchise were announced.

In 2009, Seattle-area filmmakers 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.[17] At the awards ceremony, beloved SuperSonic Gary Payton accepted the award on behalf of the city with a five word acceptance speech "Bring Back OUR Seattle SuperSonics"[18]

2008–09: Inaugural season

Oklahoma City defeated Minnesota on November 2, 2008 for their first win.

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.[19]

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.[20] The Thunder played their first Ford Center game on October 14 against the Los Angeles Clippers.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24] Forbes also noted an increase in percentage of available tickets sold, from 78% in the team's last year in Seattle to 100% in 2008–09.[25]

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.[26] 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).[27] 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 an estimated operating profit of $12.7 million (the first operating profit in years for the franchise).[28]

2010–present: Rise to prominence

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.[29] 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.[28][29] The Thunder finished the 2010-2011 season with 55-27 record, a five-win increase from their breakout season the previous year. The team also captured their first division title since moving to Oklahoma City, and seventh in franchise history.[30]

In the wake of a highly anticipated fourth versus fifth seed matchup against the Denver Nuggets, Kevin Durant scored 41 points in Game 1 to set a new career playoff high. In the final game of the series, he again scored 41 and forward Serge Ibaka nearly tied the record for most blocks in a playoff game (10, set by Mark Eaton and Hakeem Olajuwon) with 9 blocks.[31] With the victory, the Thunder were able to pull through and win the series, 4 games to 1, set to face off against the Memphis Grizzlies who achieved an eight seed upset over the San Antonio Spurs just days later. The Thunder advanced to the Western Conference Finals with a hard-fought 7-game series triumph over the Memphis Grizzlies. Durant was again the star, scoring 39 points in the clinching Game 7, while Russell Westbrook also had a triple-double. However, despite a hard battle with the Dallas Mavericks, the Thunder fell to the Mavericks 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder had a chance to tie the series in Game 4, but they were unable to hold a 15 point lead with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and ended up losing in overtime by the score of 112-105.

Franchise accomplishments and awards

Home arenas

Note: All arenas used before 2008 were part of the defunct Sonics franchise.

Seattle arenas had hosted two NBA All-Star Games; the 1974 edition in Seattle Center Coliseum and 1987 in the Kingdome, where Sonic Tom Chambers grabbed MVP honors.

  • 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
  • Chesapeake Energy Arena (formerly Ford Center) (2008–present)

Originally opened in 2002, Chesapeake Energy 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.[32]

Renovation work on Chesapeake Energy 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.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35] The Thunder's practice facility completion date was similarly pushed back to approximately March 2011.[36]


Seattle Supersonics Mascots

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. [37]


Current roster

Oklahoma City Thunder rosterv · d · e
Players Coaches
Pos. # Name Height Weight DOB (Y–M–D) From
C 45 Aldrich, Cole 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 245 lb (111 kg) 1988–10–31 Kansas
SF 35 Durant, Kevin 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) 230 lb (104 kg) 1988-09-29 Texas
F/C 4 Collison, Nick 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) 255 lb (116 kg) 1980–10–26 Kansas
G 14 Cook, Daequan (FA) 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 210 lb (95 kg) 1987–04–28 Ohio State
G 13 Harden, James 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 1989–08–26 Arizona State
G 7 Ivey, Royal 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) 215 lb (98 kg) 1981–12–20 Texas
G 15 Jackson, Reggie (DP) 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 208 lb (94 kg) 1990-04-16 Boston College
G 6 Maynor, Eric 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 175 lb (79 kg) 1987–06–11 Virginia Commonwealth
C 8 Mohammed, Nazr 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 250 lb (113 kg) 1977–09–05 Kentucky
C 5 Perkins, Kendrick 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) 280 lb (127 kg) 1984–11–10 Clifton J. Ozen HS (TX)
G 3 Robinson, Nate 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) 180 lb (82 kg) 1984–05–31 Washington
G 0 Westbrook, Russell (C) 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) 187 lb (85 kg) 1988–11–12 UCLA
Head coach
Assistant coach(es)
Athletic trainer(s)

  • (C) Team captain
  • (DP) Unsigned draft pick
  • (FA) Free agent
  • (IN) Inactive
  • (S) Suspended
  • Injured Injured
  • * High school

Last transaction: 2011-06-29

Individual awards From Sonics and Thunder

This section includes awards from the franchise's years in Seattle.

NBA Finals MVP

NBA Defensive Player of the Year

NBA Rookie of the Year

NBA Coach of the Year

NBA Executive of the Year

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

NBA All-Defensive First Team

NBA All-Defensive Second Team

NBA Rookie First Team

NBA Rookie Second Team

Former players

For the complete list of Seattle SuperSonics players see: Seattle SuperSonics all-time roster.

This section includes players from the franchise's years in Seattle.

Gary Payton won the franchise's only Defensive Player of the Year in 1996.

Hall of Famers

This section includes players from the franchise's years in Seattle.

  • 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.[43]
  • 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.[44]
  • K. C. Jones – After being inducted in 1989, Jones coached the Sonics to two deep playoff runs in the 1991 and 1992 seasons.[45][46]
  • 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.[47] 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)[48] - 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.[48]

Retired jersey numbers

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.[49]

Seattle SuperSonics retired numbers
No. Player Position Years
1 Gus Williams Guard 19771984
10 Nate McMillan Guard 19871998
19 Lenny Wilkens Guard 19691972
24 Spencer Haywood Forward 19711975
32 Fred Brown Guard 19711984
43 Jack Sikma Center 19781986
No. Coach Wins/Losses Years
19 Lenny Wilkens 121–125


Head coaches


Logo and uniforms

The Oklahoma City Thunder unveiled their first logo on September 3, 2008, showing a shield with a basketball on it. According to majority owner Clay Bennett, the team's logo takes several of its elements from other Oklahoma sports teams such as the collegiate Sooners and Cowboys.[citation needed] The uniform design was unveiled on September 29, 2008.[50][51]

Television and radio


All Thunder games are broadcast on the Thunder Radio Network,[52] led by the flagship stations WWLS-FM 98.1 and WWLS AM 640, "The Sports Animal".[53] Matt Pinto is the radio voice of the Thunder.[54]


For their first two seasons, the Thunder's TV broadcasts were split between Fox Sports Oklahoma (a regional fork of FS Southwest), which broadcast most of the games, and independent station KSBI (channel 52), with around 65 Thunder games airing during the season and more than half of the games available in HD on FS Oklahoma, along with other team-related programming such as pregame shows. Around 15 to 20 regular-season games were broadcast over the air on KSBI, which had a network of rebroadcasters spanning the entire state. All televised games are called by Brian Davis on play-by-play and Grant Long as color commentator.[55][56] During the 2009–2010 season, KSBI telecast all Thunder games it aired in high definition (KSBI had previously aired in HD the first regular-season game played at the Ford Center - against the Milwaukee Bucks on October 29, 2008 - while all other games during the 2008–2009 season were telecast on KSBI in standard definition). On August 3, 2010, the Thunder signed a new exclusive multi-year agreement with Fox Sports Oklahoma, beginning with the 2010-11 season, ending the team's broadcasts on KSBI.[57] Kelly Crull serves as the sideline reporter.[58]


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  50. ^ Thunder 'flashes' new uniforms, September 29, 2008
  51. ^ Kelly Dwyer, Introducing your Oklahoma City Light Blue Knicks, September 29, 2008
  52. ^ (PDF). http://www.nba.com/media/thunder/tunein_081031.pdf. 
  53. ^ Mayberry, Darnell (2008-07-30). "NBA team reaches deal with local radio station". NewsOK.com. http://newsok.com/nba-team-reaches-deal-with-local-radio-station/article/3276819/?tm=1217456631. Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  54. ^ "'Thunder' roars into OKC". News9.com. 2008-09-08. http://www.news9.com/Global/story.asp?S=8945631&nav=menu681_2. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  55. ^ "FS Oklahoma to air Thunder games". The Oklahoman. 2008-09-29. http://newsok.com/fs-oklahoma-to-air-thunder-games/article/3304544/?tm=1222733614. Retrieved 2008-09-29. 
  56. ^ Mel Bracht. "KSBI to air Thunder games". The Oklahoman. http://newsok.com/ksbi-to-air-thunder-games/article/3306605. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  57. ^ Thunder Signs Exclusive Television Agreement with FOX Sports Southwest NBA.com/Thunder August 3, 2010
  58. ^ http://blog.newsok.com/thunderrumblings/2010/10/08/getting-to-know-kelly-crull/

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