As we reach the end of the decade and everyone comes out with their lists and rankings of all things relevant in the past 10 years, I thought, “Well, I can do that, too. I can definitely come up with a list of something slightly relevant. It can’t be that hard.”
Well, it isn’t difficult, but I’m not creative enough for an entire list. I’m barely smarter than a trained chimp, so instead of a list or a ranking, I came up with my top three sporting events I’ve been to in the past decade.
Three is more than enough.
Game 6 Western Conference Finals – Spurs vs. Thunder
June 6, 2012
Nothing like it. Never seen anything close to it. Not the win, not just making the Finals, both of which are amazing accomplishments, but the whole surreal experience. First, for the game. Check out the box score.
Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili – all All-Stars in Oklahoma City in the biggest game in franchise history. How about Kawhi Leonard? I forget he was on that team, too. Leonard had just seven shots in almost 41 minutes. And how good was OKC that night? Kevin Durant had 34 points, 14 rebounds and two turnovers in more than 40 minutes. Russell Westbrook had 24 points and eight rebounds. Russ took just one 3-pointer. James Harden came off the bench and scored 16 points and made three 3-pointers. That’s seven future Hall-of-Famers in one game.
In Oklahoma City.
That’s what hit me the hardest as I stood on the floor in the final moments of the victory. More than the fact the Thunder just beat the legendary Spurs in the Western Conference Final, it was a moment of realization that the NBA wasn’t just in Oklahoma City, but Oklahoma City was international. I’m not sure how you took in the moment, the game or the experience, but I remember looking around the crowd, trying to take it in and realizing no one was sitting and no one was leaving.
So often Oklahoma is split between the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State argument. Orange or Crimson. That night, it was truly something for everyone. A moment where you could see – and feel, because it was loud – the power of sports.
Glad I got to experience it.
The Sugar Bowl – Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Jan 2, 2014
If you’re an Oklahoma football fan, not a day goes by when you don’t mention or think about that night in New Orleans when Bob Stoops and Trevor Knight smacked the SEC.
Alabama came into the game as a 17-point favorite, but outside the college football national title picture. Oklahoma came in 10-2 and started the season 5-0 before losing to Texas and then getting blown out by Baylor. From there, OU somehow rallied to a Big 12 title with road wins against ranked teams Kansas State and then at Oklahoma State.
You could make the case, and I did in this story here about the game that Stoops not only had his best game coaching, but put together his best season with OU, despite an 11-2 record and the lack of a national title.
It happened with a mix of quarterbacks (Trevor Knight, Blake Bell, Kendall Thompson) and an array of undervalued playmakers like Brennan Clay and Lacoltan Bester. And it happened against big, bad Alabama.
Now, some might say Alabama didn’t have anything to play for and they didn’t care. OK, maybe. But I was there. I saw the Superdome. It was full and it was mostly full of Bama fans. I also saw Alabama go 75 yards in four plays to start the game and then go another 80 yards in five plays for a touchdown drive. They cared. So did the Tide fans.
But what made this game so special – one of the best I’ve seen in person – is what Stoops did. Knight passed the ball all over the yard. He threw passes the Sooners hadn’t even attempted all season. Knight was better than Bama’s A.J. McCarron and it showed. Knight was a near-perfect 32-of-44 passing for 348 yards. Amazing because Knight had never even completed more than 15 passes in any game. Against Bama, Knight hrew four touchdowns. Taylor McNamara caught a pass. He hadn’t caught one all season. Keith Ford played at running back after not playing the previous three games. Defensively Geneo Grissom, who was a non-factor the season before, had two sacks and two fumble recoveries. The Sooners had seven sacks. Seven! Meanwhile, Alabama turned it over five times.
Amazingly the game was as surprising as the entire season. OU won at Notre Dame but was embarrassed by Texas and Baylor. The Sooners switched quarterbacks and switched offenses and even made a defensive alignment move before the year started. Then the outscored and survived Alabama.
You should have been there.
Kevin Durant is named the NBA’s MVP
May 6, 2014
This was the speech all other MVP speeches should be measured against. Sure, yeah, I know, KD is a snake and a whimp and super-soft. We’ve been over all that. But you didn’t think so then. You weren’t making fun of Durant and you weren’t making memes about “You the real MVP.” Nope. On that day, you were moved like I was listening to Durant inside the Thunder practice facility.
He didn’t just give a great speech, he gave a great speech that was selfless and powerful and thoughtful and inspiring. Listen to a part of it here. You loved it. You loved it because Durant represented Oklahoma City and made you proud he played for your team. At that time, Durant was the rare superstar with no baggage. He won the award, but that was after he won us over, whether it was by scoring basket after basket or whether it was donating his time, money and effort after a devastating tornado.
Durant had his teammates on stage, thanked each and every one of them. What he says about Russell Westbrook is great. Give it a listen. The Boys and Girls Club of Oklahoma City was represented and his mom was presented a huge bouquet of flowers. Here’s what I wrote that day.
I’ve often said in the past 30 years, the most important thing to happen in Oklahoma City were the passing of MAPS and the arrival of Kevin Durant. Listen to this speech again and forget about what’s happened with Durant since. Just remember what it was like then. Unforgettable.