I'm not a huge basketball fan. Baseball is my sport.
But I live in Oklahoma City, and my sons, Brady and Keaton, are Thunder fanatics. The team's surprisingly strong playoff run against historic powerhouses San Antonio and Golden State has the Thunder one win from the NBA Finals.
With Loud City — OKC's earsplitting fandom — in a frenzy, I've jumped on the bandwagon.
Thunder up, y'all!
If you're a regular GetReligion reader, you already know there's a Godbeat angle with the Warriors — the Thunder's Western Conference finals opponent and the team that won an NBA-record 73 games this season.
Think Stephen Curry, the first unanimous NBA MVP:
But what about Oklahoma City? Any potential religion angles here? Ya think?
When Kevin Durant won the NBA MVP back in 2014, we noted the media silence concerning the Thunder superstar's mention of God.
This week, Sports Illustrated published an excellent piece on the Thunder and how far they have come:
I saw the story when my oldest son tweeted the link:
I really enjoyed the story, although I always chuckle when out-of-town writers use lines such as this to describe Oklahoma City:
A global celebrity can rise from the bottom of the Dust Bowl.
As I felt compelled to point out the first time I wrote a GetReligion post about Durant, we have running water in this small town of 611,000 — 1.3 million if you count the entire metro area.
"Oklahoma City is not your typical NBA market in a lot of ways," said a person who emailed me about the Sports Illustrated story. "And several of them fit KD."
Yes, that list would include religion, even if the Sports Illustrated story does not. Ghosts, anyone?
But for a piece on the Thunder that nails the religion angle, check out this recent feature by the Wall Street Journal (if you hit a paywall, try Googling "Thunder halal WSJ," and see if you get a free preview version):
The WSJ's lede nicely sets the scene:
OKLAHOMA CITY — In the middle of every Oklahoma City road game, David Howarth’s phone buzzes in his pocket. The Thunder’s athletic performance coordinator excuses himself from the bench and escapes to the arena’s loading dock. That’s where he picks up the team’s dinner: takeout halal food.
This is not what most NBA teams eat after games. But the more adventurous Thunder players have done away with the traditional locker-room fare this season. Instead they’re digging into generous helpings of lamb and chicken kebabs.
The person responsible for Oklahoma City’s culinary revolution isn’t Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or any other Thunder starter. It is Enes Kanter, the team’s reserve center, who is Muslim and observes his religion’s dietary laws.
Thunder executives took measures to accommodate Kanter’s religion when they traded for the Turkish-born big man last year and signed him to a long-term extension in the off-season. He has access to his own prayer room in the team’s arena, for example, and uses owner Clay Bennett’s office in the team’s practice center, where he uses towels as prayer rugs. The team also made sure that Kanter’s very first meal in Oklahoma City was cooked under halal standards, which means the meat was raised and slaughtered properly, and Thunder chefs started cooking for him with separate kitchenware.
The Oklahoman published a similar story — before the WSJ, I believe — that's worth a read, too:
This last link has nothing to do with religion per se, but if you've read this far, you're probably a basketball fan. And I'm betting that you'd appreciate this amazing column by my Oakland friend Marcus Thompson, whom I introduced to some of Oklahoma's best barbecue on Sunday,
The Thunder lead the Warriors, 3-2, in the best-of-seven playoff series. Game 6 is Saturday night in Oklahoma City. Loud City will be rocking.
Thunder up, y'all!