Soon we will be watching the Oklahoma City Thunder compete for an NBA championship.
Like the highs and lows of a seven-game playoff series, the story of how major-league professional sports came to Oklahoma City is about tragedy, triumph, plot twists and larger-than-life characters.
A new book by Mayor Mick Cornett’s former chief of staff, District 30 state Sen. David Holt, chronicles the tale behind the transformative moment when OKC became more than just a city.
Big League City (Full Circle Press, 228 pages, $24.95) is a fascinating historical account of what Holt called the “singular series of serendipitous events” that brought the Thunder to town.
The book offers previously unknown anecdotes and reminds readers of points that might have been forgotten, said Cornett, who read an advance copy.
“David scores on a historical level of putting it all into perspective,” Cornett said.
The book illustrates Holt’s premise that a city must land a major-league team to attract young professionals and Fortune 500 companies.
“I don’t think there is a way that a city of Oklahoma City’s size could merit the national attention that it currently has without major-league sports,” said Holt, a first-time author.
A youth in the 1990s, Holt said his hometown languished in an “alternate reality outside of American pop culture,” defined by the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, the oil bust and minor-league sports.
“If we could get major-league sports, it would be like winning the lottery,” Holt said. “It would change us overnight, and it has.”
According to the book, people knew this. People like former Mayor Ron Norick, who rallied voters to pass MAPS in 1993, which enabled the Chesapeake Energy Arena to be built. People like former Mayor Kirk Humphreys, who championed a six-month MAPS extension in 1999 to provide funds to finish the arena.
People like Cornett, who courted NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in 2004 and NBA Commissioner David Stern in January of 2005, well before Hurricane Katrina resulted in bringing the New Orleans Hornets to Oklahoma City for a two-season stint that served as a critical NBA dress rehearsal.
People like Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett, who drummed up corporate support for the Hornets and led the ownership group that bought the Seattle SuperSonics in 2006, despite there being no guarantee the team would ever relocate.
“This is one of the most unique stories in the history of professional sports,” Cornett said.