Well I never been to heaven
But I’ve been to Oklahoma
Well they tell me I was born there
Never Been to Spain, hit song performed by Three Dog Night
Lyrics by Hoyt Axton
“I call it a little small city that’s booming.”
Owner of Deep Fork Grill restaurant in Oklahoma City
Tonight the spotlight shines on Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City Thunder play their first NBA championship game ever when they host the Miami Heat. And while the pressure is perhaps most on LeBron James, the spotlight is definitely on the city of Oklahoma City like never before in recent history.
I know I don’t follow sports like I used to, but I honestly didn’t know that Oklahoma City had an NBA team until I did a video shoot there last year. While Oklahoma has never had a MLB or NFL franchise, the Thunder (who transplanted from Seattle) have been in Oklahoma since 2008. And that nickname “OKC”? I don’t recall ever hearing that until the Thunder’s impressive playoff run as they took down the Dallas Mavericks, the LA Lakers and then the San Antonio Spurs. Now, OKC is the new LOL.
Perhaps I’m the last person in America to learn these things, but I think this championship (win or lose) will do to Oklahoma what happened to my hometown Orlando in 1995 when Shaq lead the Magic to their first (and only) NBA championship series.
Orlando had long been in the shadow of not only bigger cities like Atlanta and Miami, but also Tampa and Jacksonville (which both had NFL teams). Orlando had Disney World, which was great, but it had long sought an identity beyond the Magic Kingdom. I grew up in the Orlando area and was there in ’95, and I really believe being in the NBA Finals changed how people perceived Orlando. Less jokes about retirees and banter about humidity. Shaq gave Orlando a facelift. (Of course, he fled after that, and that’s a different story altogether.) Orlando was no longer fantasyland—just a place you flew into— but a real city.
Oklahoma City’s perception to outsiders has long been tied to oil and cowboys, and while a large city, it has never gotten the attention of Dallas or Denver. But that’s all going to change tonight. (Don’t underestimate the cultural identity a champion team like the Dallas Cowboys or the Denver Broncos brings to a city.) Win or lose, national TV exposure is only going to enhance the revitalization Oklahoma City has been going through for years.
“This incredible group of young men has unified this city and state like never before.”
Oklahoma City Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett after the team defeated San Antonio last week
Tonight Oklahoma City moves out of the cable spotlight into ABC primetime. And tonight someone in Los Angeles will be flipping through the stations and see the score of the Miami—Oklahoma City game and will think, “Huh, I didn’t know Oklahoma City had an NBA team.” And then he’ll be exposed to a vibrant downtown full of construction, people partying in Bricktown, and all the things I saw and photographed when I was there last year field producing and shooting several Google micro documentaries on behalf of Magnet Media and their Get Your Business Online campaign.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are young and hungry so I wouldn’t bet against them. Of course, I wouldn’t bet against LeBron and the Miami Heat. Good thing I’m not a betting man. But it should be an interesting series. At least the aerial shots will be a refreshing change for the first time in years.
P.S. Hoyt Axton (1938-1999), who wrote the hit song Never Been to Spain (and Joy to the World), actually was born in Duncan, Oklahoma and inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of of Fame in 2007. And he also was occasionally an actor and had a roles in the 1990 Frank Darabont directed TV film Buried Alive, the Francis Ford Coppola directed Black Stallone, and was Randall in Gremlins. And his songs where featured on soundtracks for many films including Forrest Gump, Roger & Me, The Big Chill, Thank You for Smoking, Tropic Thunder, Four Christmases, and the under appreciated Heart Like a Wheel.
Talent comes from unlikely places like Duncan, Oklahoma (2012 census population 23,432). Man this is turning into a long P.S., but I can’t stop. Actor/Director Ron Howard was also born in Duncan. But here’s the real mind blower, Duncan is also the birthplace of the Halliburton Corporation where Erle P. Halliburton founded the New Method Oil Well Cementing Company in 1919. Today the Houston based company employs 60,000 people in more than 70 countries. (And, of course, has had its share of press coverage in the past decade.)