NBA team to be called Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY — Thunder can be heard from miles away, an early warning that a storm is about to arrive. So, perhaps it’s only fitting that the name of Oklahoma City’s NBA team didn’t sneak up on anyone.
Six weeks after the name first surfaced, team officials officially announced Wednesday that the team formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics would be known as the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"It’s hard to keep a secret," team chairman Clay Bennett said after stepping to a podium on the ground floor of the downtown office building where the team is headquartered.
The announcement had long been anticipated, but everyone knew what was coming.
The local ABC affiliate reported in mid-July that Thunder had been chosen as the nickname. Then the NBA Web site listed NBA.com/thunder as a link to the Oklahoma City team’s page. Then the Orlando Magic’s site listed games against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Even the logo and colors leaked out over the weekend. Then, prior to the 5 p.m. announcement, Thunder merchandise started showing up on the NBA’s online store.
"I thought it was great fun. Maybe I have a warped sense of things," Bennett said. "I thought it was a lot of fun. I was disappointed in the image being released."
That left Bennett somewhat surprised that hundreds of people still showed up in the atrium of Leadership Square, watched from their office windows or leaned over a second-floor walkway to hear it for sure.
"My family talked about wanting to come down, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t think it’s that big a deal. Everybody seems to know the name already,"’ Bennett said.
To unveil the logo, six children joined players Desmond Mason and Damien Wilkins to pull down a curtain as the AC/DC song "Thunderstruck" blared over the loudspeaker. What was revealed was a large blue banner with the logo in the middle, and splashes of yellow at the top and reddish-orange at the bottom.
Bennett said the light blue color coincides with the state flag to represent the inclusion of all Oklahomans, the yellow refers to the sun and the reddish-orange color to the sunset. With the University of Oklahoma featuring crimson as its primary color, and Oklahoma State using orange, Bennett said it was "not too red and not too orange."
Thunder is a fitting moniker for the Oklahoma City franchise, not only as a reference to powerful storms in the area known as Tornado Alley. The Oklahoma City-based 45th Infantry Division carries Thunderbirds as its nickname, and that’s a reference to the state’s American Indian heritage. Even one of Oklahoma native Garth Brooks’ biggest hits was "The Thunder Rolls."
"There’s just all kinds of good thunder images and thoughts, and the in-game experience of Thunder," Bennett said. "Just here was a good sense of how that evokes emotion. It’s very powerful."
The team name had been the most evident — and talked about — element missing after Bennett announced July 2 that the SuperSonics would be moving to Oklahoma City through an agreement that will have him pay the city of Seattle up to $75 million to settle a lawsuit.
Bennett said the uniforms and mascot won’t be unveiled for another few weeks, but T-shirts, basketballs and other Thunder merchandise went on sale immediately after the announcement.
"The guys in the jerseys, if they play, the jerseys are going to look real good," coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
While the team applied for trademarks to six names — the others were Wind, Barons, Marshalls, Energy and Bison — Bennett said the decision on the name had been made "quite some time" ago. He said the names on the trademark applications weren’t finalists, and he wouldn’t reveal what other names got serious consideration.
General manager Sam Presti told the crowd designing a logo "takes an immense amount of work, and it does take some time.
"Not that anyone was really paying attention to the amount of time it was taking," he quipped.
Team officials said they hope they can make the qualities of character, perseverance, selflessness, community and winning synonymous with Thunder.
"It’s very unique," said Mason, a former Oklahoma State forward who the Thunder acquired in an offseason trade with Milwaukee. "It’s going to take some time getting used to, just like Utah Jazz or Orlando Magic, but I think it’s a great thing for the state and a great thing for the city."