Fresh off of the first professional sports championship appearance in state history, four Oklahoma City Thunder players are set to make world history on the Olympic stage in London.
The 12-man USA Basketball roster was announced over the weekend, and for the first time in the 20-year history of the “Dream Team” era, three players from the same NBA team will be on the squad.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden will represent the USA over the next six weeks, chasing Olympic gold. One-quarter of our nation’s basketball Olympians (at least on the men’s side) are from the Western Conference Champion OKC Thunder.
But that’s just the beginning of the biggest “OK” Olympics in nearly half a century. This year, we have a real shot at Olympic gold in men’s basketball for a native Oklahoman.
Blake Griffin, LA Clippers forward and star of those wacky Kia commercials, was of course a standout at OU. He is the only member of the team who was actually born in Oklahoma.
Even our own Jerry Shipp, who was raised in Blue, starred at Southeastern and won gold with the 1964 team in Tokyo, can’t claim that - he was born in Shreveport, La.
Speaking of Shipp, it seems every 50 years or so, Oklahoma has a break-out Olympic year. A century ago this summer, Jim Thorpe (likely born near Prague in Indian Territory days) won two gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon in Stockholm, Sweden.
Shipp won his gold 52 years later. Now, 48 years after Tokyo, a group laden with Oklahoma connections is looking for basketball gold.
We’ve already mentioned Durant, Westbrook, Harden and Griffin. But Tyson Chandler and Chris Paul are also on the squad. Both of them played for the New Orleans/OKC Hornets in 2005-06 when that team relocated in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
That first taste of the NBA, and the state’s love affair with pro hoops since then, paved the way for the Thunder to relocate here from Seattle.
If that weren’t enough, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka will play for the Spanish National Team in the upcoming Olympics. Perhaps not enough to get me rooting for Spain, but it still gives the Thunder an awful lot of bragging rights.
There are no Oklahomans or Tulsa Shock players on the women’s national team, which is too bad. Courtney Paris (formerly of OU and now a Tulsa Shock of the WNBA) would have made for a great “Paris shines in London” headline.