The NBA playoffs start next week, and you can go ahead and throw your brackets in the trash right now. We already know who the champion is.
The Oklahoma City Thunder is hands-down number one in our book.
Why, you may ask, are we so sure of this fact?
Before you go there, no, it has nothing to do with Russell Westbrook (although yes, we did lose our voices while cheering for his recent, record-breaking triple-doubles).
Here in Tulsa, we are unique in the fact that we have long rooted for a team that was not allowed to engage with us directly.
“Up until last year the NBA limited teams from doing any direct marketing outside a 75-mile radius of their home arenas,” explained Dawn Turner, director of marketing and brand management for the Thunder.
But a recent adjustment of league rules changed that.
“Now that the rules have relaxed, we have the ability to facilitate brand marketing, advertising and community programming in Tulsa, outside of the preseason game we play at the BOK Center every October.” (Side note: This year's preseason game at the BOK on Tuesday, October 3 marks the ninth time the team has played in Tulsa!)
But the team has done so much more than just marketing in the Tulsa metro. They’ve started truly investing in our community.
The Thunder has built basketball courts in underprivileged neighborhoods. They’ve visited schools. But most thrilling for us, they’ve partnered with 36 Degrees North, our nonprofit coworking space for entrepreneurs.
36 Degrees North houses over 200 startup founders and small business owners who are dedicated to building amazing companies and adding jobs to our local economy. Before this season began, the Thunder expressed a desire to support these innovators by giving them a chance to take a break from business and treat their families.
The team graciously gave our community tickets to home games, and as you can see in the attached photos, it was a huge hit.
“This was my parent’s first Thunder game. Watching their faces was amazing,” said 36°N member Gaby Ortega, who went to the April 12 game against the Nuggets. “We had a blast.”
Through the new partnership, the Thunder business team also wants to invest in our community by working at our space and interacting with our people.
"Our hope is that our members will take advantage of their presence by building relationships and learning more about high-level business development," said Dustin Curzon, executive director of 36°N.
“We anticipate continuing to build upon these efforts in the years to come,” Turner added.
But why would an NBA team want to serve entrepreneurs in a coworking space over a hundred miles from where they play?
“The Thunder play in Oklahoma City; however, we view the team as belonging to the entire state and region,” said Turner. “36 Degrees North embodies an innovative and progressive cultivation of new business and serves as the center of entrepreneurial activity, all of which align well with Thunder brand values.”
So as much as we love winning ball games and celebrating Westbrook’s endless supply of triple-doubles, we believe the Thunder is so much more than that.
A lot of teams have loyal fans, but not every fan has a loyal team.
And that’s why the Thunder is our champion.