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Thunder television broadcaster Brian Davis speaks at the Tri-City Area Chamber Luncheon on July 18 at Newcastle High School Field House.(Staff photo by Jeff Harrison)
By Jeff Harrison
Managing Editor

NEWCASTLE – Everyone knows first impressions are important. And when the national spotlight was thrust upon Oklahoma City during the NBA Finals, we were ready for it, Thunder broadcaster Brian Davis said last week during the Tri-City Area Chamber Luncheon at the Newcastle High School Field House.

“It gives you a chance to change the perception of the city and our state,” Davis said. “It’s a chance not only to show that we’re playing good basketball, but also the way we treat people here in Oklahoma.”

Davis said he saw that first hand while playing the role of ambassador to a group of national sports writers. He picked out a few unique dining options for the out-of-town guests and let the locals do the rest.

“Howard Beck, who writes for the New York Times, and some of the other national guys came here thinking Oklahoma City is just a cow town,” Davis said. “And their perception of it really changed. Howard told me he went to Cheevers Café one night and said it was one of the best meals he had on the road all year. And I told him ‘see it’s not a cow town.’”

Davis said the NBA franchise has not only opened doors, but added value to community and area businesses. The Thunder led the league in season ticket retention, new sponsorship dollars and has the third most visited website in the league.

“It’s hard to put dollar value on it, but it has really brought a lot of prestige,” he said. “People are looking at Oklahoma City and Oklahoma more closely now. Boeing is bringing 500 engineering jobs to the city. And I believe having the team here is at least a small factor in that consideration.”

Davis also touched on the NBA Finals, which he described as a whole different ball game. He said they were playing their best basketball of the season against San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals, but learned just how hard it is to win the NBA Finals.

“After the Finals I talked to (Miami Heat guard) Mike Miller and he said last year they learned how deep you have to dig to find the energy both physically and mentally to win a championship,” Davis said. “Miami learned it last year, and this year it was our turn. We have some smart basketball players and I think they’ll have it down, if they’re lucky enough to get back there.”

Following the 30-minute speech, Davis field questions about the decision to shut down Thunder Alley and how the team will approach contracts for some key players.

Davis said the team had no choice about ending the watch parties outside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“That was straight up a public safety decision,” he said. “…The deeper they went into the playoffs, a meaner edge developed as to what was going on down there.”

Davis said it does not appear likely that veterans Nazr Mohammed or Derek Fischer will be back with the team next year. But he couldn’t speculate on the team’s ability to resign both James Hardin and Serge Ibaka in the future.

“That’s one of the things that will be left to smarter people like Sam Presti on down to make the decision,” Davis said. “The way the team operates is to always leave a little flexibility whether it’s an extra draft pick or salary cap room.”

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