Oklahoma City is small.
When compared to other NBA cities, it doesn’t have a huge draw because of its lack of glamour, no beach, and a population of only about 650,000.
Even with these disadvantages present, the Oklahoma City Thunder have built a basketball brand across the entire world. But this invites an important question: why does the Thunder appeal to so many international fans?
For THUNDERBALL, a Thunder fan and popular Thunder YouTuber from South Korea, the answer is simple: the players and fans.
“I have watched NBA for a while, but I came to gain interest in NBA as I watched KD,” THUNDERBALL said. “Thus, I have watched Thunder games from 2011-2012. Russ is the one who actually made me a Thunder fan. His loyalty, the mindset he brings to the game, his mentality, coupled with the passionate fans of OKC was very attractive. Also, the dedication of Nick Collision, Andre Roberson, and Steven Adams showed on the court was just lovable. I also cannot leave out the team culture; it’s very passionate and at the same time, like a family. “
While THUNDERBALL became a fan many years ago, he decided to share his passion with the world in 2018 when he started his YouTube channel. Since then, he’s gained over 8,000 subscribers and 3.5 million views.
He says having this channel is a great way to spread the word about his favorite team.
“Sometimes in my channel, there are some comments saying that because of me, they got to know Russ better and realized how attractive OKC is,” THUNDERBALL said. “Those comments are very rewarding. The reason behind starting this channel was to set the facts straight on misconceptions of Russ, and also to introduce OKC players who are in the spotlight much.”
“The NBA’s market and the interest level is not that big in South Korea. So, there are times when even reporters are not aware of the details of each team and the true colors of players. It is realistically impossible to cover every team in great detail and since reporters are human as well, they are not paying attention to small market teams like OKC. Even for me, it’s hard, if not impossible to know 100% what is going on with the players and team. But I try to translate every interview Sam Presti makes and also try to set distorted information straight.”
THUNDERBALL is not alone in sharing his Thunder pride with fellow international fans.
Another Thunder fan we spoke with from China, finds unique ways to convert people to the Oklahoma City fandom at her college– even if it involves waking people up at midnight.
“Of course yes, all my friends know that I am a crazy NBA fan,” they said. “When I was in college, I always let my roommates watch NBA games even if at midnight. I would wake her up and watch NBA games with her.”
“Now I am a teacher in college. I show my students my love for (Chris Paul) and the NBA, passing the positive energy to them. I play basketball every day and I always wear Thunder jerseys on the court, showing my love for the Thunder.”
Their connection to Paul goes deeper than a jersey.
A diehard fan of his since the beginning of his career; he’s the reason they gained an interest in basketball. They even began producing articles and videos about the Thunder and Paul as a result.
“All I do for basketball started from CP3,” they told Daily Thunder. “Actually, I followed CP3 in 2008. I played basketball and watched the NBA from that time. He had some games versus the Thunder. In 2012 Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden led a young team to the Finals. That was my first time I truly followed the Thunder’s game. They were competitive for about 10 years. Luckily, CP3 went to Oklahoma City (this season), the place where his career began.”
“So now I am a complete Thunder fan, collecting CP3’s Thunder jerseys and watching every Thunder game, although I have a time difference in China.”
The Thunder have a special way of attracting fans from most countries across the globe. Andrew Reidi isn’t alone as an OKC fan in New Zealand. While you may assume Reidi became a Thunder fan because of New Zealand’s own Steven Adams, he was actually drawn in by something else.
“I always followed the NBA but I was actually interested in the Thunder before Steven Adams came along,” Reidi said. “But it’s definitely a big deal to have Steven there.”
The Thunder also appeals to fans because of the strong global presence on their roster. Six Thunder players are from international countries, which allows these fans to relate to someone on their team.
“I find that interesting,” Reidi said. “The Thunder seem to be more open to international players than some organizations.”
“Watching this season has made me feel that such mixed nationalities contribute to making for more selfless basketball,” THUNDERBALL said. “They show less of a so-called American basketball style, which is centered around 1-on-1. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say which type of ball is better. It’s just that I felt that way watching OKC highlights repetitively.”
Maybe Oklahoma City, unlikely as it seems, is the perfect locale for a global hub of hoops interest. After all, sharing a common, intense appreciation for something like basketball can make the world feel small.
“(The Thunder organization) is very hard-working, strengthening the Thunder’s culture and adding more diversity,” the Thunder’s biggest teaching fan in China said. “And I can learn about other cultures from them, knowing people play (and watch) basketball in their countries.”
The best aspect of the Thunder’s makeup, both on the roster and throughout their global fanbase? This fan stresses the united in the United Nations of Thunder.
“They make Thunder a big family. I love them.”