Dennis Schröder Photobombs
Dennis Schröder has been on an absolute tear this season, placing himself firmly in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation with his play on the court. That said, some of his best highlights this season have actually come after the games are over. Whether it is an interview for Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams, or someone else, always be on the lookout for Schroder lurking in the background. He dances, smiles, waves, splashes water, and sometimes even places himself directly into the interview. It’s a fun sign of teammates with excellent chemistry, who clearly enjoy playing together.
Nerlens Noel Blocks
While a block technically only counts in one area of the stat-sheet, a humongous chase-down block, poster erasing swat, clutch tip outta bounds, etc., can have humongous momentum turning energy. Nerlens has always had a good nose for the ball, but this year he’s taken it to the next level. He’s truly become a missile defense system for the Thunder, ever ready to leap in and save the day at a moments notice. Several highlight plays have been jump-started from Nerlens’s blocks, as well, with his spiking of the ball forward, allowing a guard to jump-start the fast break. The fact that he wears number 9, only intensifies visions of Serge Ibaka patrolling the paint in OKC. Nerlens has had a standout year, and his blocks are a big and entertaining part of that.
The Danilo Gallinari Anthem
At least once a game, a fantastic anthem belts over the intercom. This anthem is the theme song for Danilo Gallinari, and is equal parts silly and inspiring. It is a song written and performed by a Swedish band pretending to be Italian, which just adds to the fun of the tune. Whenever Danilo has a big play, or hits a clutch shot, keep your ears at the ready for this song.
SGA Scoop Shots
SGA has a plethora of moves to get to the basket, with many of them ending in a scoop shot to score. His movements are fluid as water, and his stride is gracefully gazelle-like, allowing him to score on just about anyone. His scoop shot, where the ball is cupped then released at a high angle, has proven frustrating to stop for many defenders. Where Westbrook would force his way through a defender, SGA glides around them. Both are very effective, just different. The fact that SGA hasn’t yet gotten an endorsement deal from Braum’s (Oklahoma ice cream royalty) for his scoop shot is a huge missed opportunity in my opinion!
Darius Bazley’s Confidence
Darius Bazley has some serious confidence. From the way he struts into an arena wearing some mindboggling stuff, to playing every game with the swagger of an MVP, he has confidence for days. This belief in himself will pay massive dividends towards his development, as confidence is one of the keys to success. I remember him at one point this season, going up against an elite shot blocker three straight times, getting emphatically denied on the first two attempts, but managing to succeed on the third try. Most players would’ve tried something else the second time, or for sure on the third time, but his immense belief in himself carried him forward, and he was indeed charmed on the third try. The future is bright for Bazley, and it will be loads of fun to watch him grow and flourish.
Mike Muscala’s Mario Tattoo
One of the most random and fun things about this Thunder season has been Mike Muscala’s Mario tattoo. For those unfamiliar, it is a tattoo of Mario in a tanuki suit from Super Mario Brothers 3, a classic NES game. Tattoos abound in the NBA, with some players becoming murals of art (Birdman comes immediately to mind), and others opting more for the business tattoo approach, having only a few strategically placed. Mike’s Mario tattoo falls into this category, as it is only occasionally visible on his upper back. As a big gamer myself, I enjoy the fun of the tattoo as a symbol of a wonderful hobby. It’s a very small thing in the grand scheme of things, but I feel like it’s a fun representation of this Thunder squad as a whole – a playful, fun, and jubilant group of guys who are all in to win.
Hamidou Diallo’s Motor
As an energizer bunny off the bench, Diallo always brings the intensity up a notch when he enters the game. Diallo plays with a ruthless aggression and physicality, trying to enforce his will onto an opponent. Every time he gets the ball on the fast break, we collectively hold our breath in excitement, just waiting for him to pull off some crazy dunk. His hops are ludicrous, and he is always on the hunt for someone to poster.
Thunder Buzzer Beaters
It seems that at every game there is at least one Chris Paul buzzer beater to end a quarter. His accuracy on these feels like 97%, basically ensuring the Thunder a bucket at the end of a period. Not since Eric Maynor have the Thunder had such a reliable buzzer beater. However, Chris Paul isn’t the only one to get in on the buzzer-beating magic, as Steven Adams, SGA, and Schroder have all had memorable ones as well. For a team that finds itself in countless close games, these buzzer beaters are a key part of their success.
Thunder fans are long accustomed to the rip-move, as Kevin Durant inflicted that strategy on countless victims during his OKC tenure. Paul employs this tactic as well, but he is more strategic about utilizing it. He waits for when the opposing team is sitting on four team fouls, or is already in the bonus, to deploy this maneuver. CP3’s frequent use of this free throw earning strategy, has become a running story this season. Chris Fisher, the Thunder’s color analyst on FSOK, has dubbed the move the “CP-Swing”, referencing the arm swing movement to earn the foul call, while Erik Horne of The Athletic tweets out every game the victim of Chris’s trickery. Its just another fun subplot to this Thunder season.
This season, the Thunder might just have their best collection of jerseys from which to choose. They have their revamped Icon and Association Jerseys (Home White and Road Blue), their Bombing Memorial City Jersey (Gray), and their Sunset Jerseys (an orange version of their Statement Jerseys). On any given night, the Thunder are looking great and playing great. Another fun time was when Chris Paul had custom suits tailor made for each player, so they could look sharp and show their flair on and off the court. Fashion has long been a Thunder staple in OKC, as Westbrook turned every game into a fashion show, and it’s good to see that killer style remains intact after his departure.