I don’t write many personal posts on this blog. Typically, the material is focused on legal things or technology things. The last personal post I can recall writing is probably from the summer of 2010 when we adopted our 2-year-old son David. You can probably figure out however from this lead-in that I’m going to write a personal post. The arrival of the NBA Finals in Oklahoma City due to the extraordinary vision of the City is worthy of a personal post.
Two hours from Nowhere
I grew up in a tiny town in Northern Idaho, called Lewiston. It was the textbook definition of the middle of nowhere, you had to drive two hours to reach the “city” and the nearest interstate. Big league sports teams were located over the mountains (Seattle and Portland) 7-8 hours away. To provide some context on Idaho, the total population of the state is slightly more than the Oklahoma City metro area population.
The solid rock of sports
I have loved sports all my life, it is one thing that is consistent about me since I can remember. I love the numbers, the drama, the community and the whole package. I have watched the major sports closely since childhood. I can recall watching Marcus Allen’s 91 yard touchdown for the Raiders against the Redskins in the 1984 SuperBowl, Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homer, from one leg, helping the Dodgers beat the A’s in the 1988 World Series, Isaiah Thomas throwing away an inbounds pass in game 6 of the 1987 NBA Finals, allowing the Celtics to eke by the Pistons and into the Finals and Michael Jordan beating the Jazz with a last second shot in game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, sixth championship and final game for the Bulls.
But sports have always been a distant experience for me, something that happened in the big cities or on the East or West Coast. For me, the championship games were something to watch on television or read about in Sports Illustrated, like tales of majestic feats in a far off land. Keep this in mind as I tell how I got to Oklahoma City.
Coming to Oklahoma
I came to Oklahoma City in August 1995 to go to law school. The only 2 things I knew about Oklahoma at the time were the bombing and Oklahoma sooner football. Little did I know when I showed up that I was arriving upon the beginning of tremendous growth and development based on the vision of Oklahoma City’s years in the late 80s and early 90s. I’m talking about MAPS and it’s progeny. When I arrived, MAPS had been passed and a few of the early projects had started. I can recall visiting Bricktown for the 1st time in probably September 1995 and thinking it was an interesting place without a lot going on. I could see at the time the plans that had been made but it was difficult to grasp the impact that MAPS would have. The talk was that Oklahoma was a “college” sports market which meant that major league sports were out of place.
The vision and success of Oklahoma City
It is over 16 years later and as I look back it all becomes clear now what people were thinking when MAPS was passed: take Oklahoma from a comfortable regional city to a major league city. Build the infrastructure first and then the opportunities would arise. And arise the opportunities did!
Nothing symbolizes the success of Oklahoma City’s vision better than the Thunder, Oklahoma City’s NBA team. When I arrived in Oklahoma City, I knew it was much larger than anywhere I had lived, but that it was also a tier below major market cities such as Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Denver and even Portland. How did I come to this conclusion? In addition to the lack of direct flights to major cities, it was the absence of big league sports. Although a city is defined by more than its sports, it seems the litmus test for achieving major market status is having a team from one of the major sport leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL). Oklahoma City’s lack of major league teams when I arrived meant I continued to have the same experience I had all my life: watching sports from a distance, something on television, but almost not quite real. This didn’t last though.
It appears to me in addition to all the other wonderful things MAPS did for the city, a primary focus was on bringing a major league sports team here. The City built the infrastructure, then the arena, the very least required to enter big leauge status. Through a series of preparation, persistence and a little bit of luck, we ended up with the Thunder. Through a series of skillfull and precisient player acquisitions, the Thunder are tipping off tonight, in the NBA Finals, in my city.
Experiencing the unimaginable
The NBA Finals, which I have watched for most of my life as an event somewhere else, is an event in my city, ESPN is here, the sports media world is focused on the city in which I live. Because of the great vision and boldness of Oklahoma City, I am experiencing what was imaginable for most of my life.