By Michael Kinney
It has become a standing tradition in Oklahoma City. Ever since the Thunder made it’s first postseason run back in 2010, fans have met the team at the airport when they return from a road playoff games.
It’s not just when they win or lose. It’s not even just the final game of the team’s season.
Rain or shine, first round or NBA finals, Thunder fans show up and greet the team with cheers, screams and unbounded enthusiasm.
That included the early hours of Wednesday morning after Oklahoma City defeated San Antonio 95-91 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals. The win gave Oklahoma City a 3-2 lead in the series and a chance to close it out at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Game 6.
An estimated 500 fans were on hand to meet the players, who soaked in every moment of the walk to the waiting vehicles.
Anthony Morrow posted a video of the madness to his a social media account in which the assembled crowd sounded like a mini-version of the Chesapeake.
“We are really lit out here,” Morrow said on the video. “We are lit out here.”
The Storm Chasers were on hand to keep the crowd pumped up after midnight. Food was brought in from Falcone’s Pizza and music was played loudly.
Even Kevin Durant, who has seen it all in his years with the franchise, is still impressed with the welcome home greetings he and his team receive.
“I can’t speak on other organizations and what they do with their fan base, which I’m sure are great,” Durant said, “but it’s something I never even thought about when you want to be an NBA player, how dedicated the fans are. What you mean to the city. In college, it’s been there for 30, 40 50 years. But here, a new franchise, they embraced us from the beginning. Just to see that. I think I saw on Twitter, win or lose, they were going to be there. It shows how dedicated and how passionate they are about basketball. It’s just grateful to have people who care about you so much.”
On a video Durant posted to Twitter he said “Shout out to all our fans here supporting us. One more game baby. We have to win one more.”
If the Thunder win tonight, the series is over and they won’t have another welcome home party until the Western Conference Finals. But the team knows getting rid of the veteran and prideful Spurs will not be easy.
“Close out games are the hardest,” Enes Kanter said. “All be we can do is worry about us. Just give everything we have.”
As the series has gone on, Kanter is one of the role players who’s game has been gaining confidence. Coach Billy Donovan has so much confidence in what Kanter brings to the table, he is now on the court in crunch time. He has replaced Serge Ibaka and teams up with Durant and Steven Adams for a front court combination that the spurs have had no answer for.
“If you compare me right now to the beginning of the season or last year,” Kanter said, “I feel so much more comfortable and have so much more confidence.”