In the build-up to the clock striking midnight Jan. 1, people can choose to be just about anywhere in the world. From Times Square in New York City to the Space Needle in Seattle, all are amazing sights to behold.
However, none of them offer the chance to see Russell Westbrook sprinting down the court for monster triple-doubles or Steven Adams blocking shots into the fifth row.
Yet those who attend Oklahoma City Thunder’s annual New Year’s Eve game get to see all of that and more before heading out into the city to celebrate the coming year.
“It’s become a tradition for our fans and the community,” said Dan Mahoney, Thunder vice president of broadcasting and corporate communications. “We think it’s becoming an integral part of the Opening Night festivities.”
The Thunder has hosted a game on New Year’s Eve for the past eight years.
“We ask for it every year from the NBA,” Mahoney said. “It’s been a more successful tradition than we ever thought.
This season, the Thunder closes out 2016 by playing one of its most bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers. The two teams have squared off twice this season with each one winning a close game.
OKC native and former Oklahoma All-American Blake Griffin leading the Clippers will make for an even more raucous environment at Chesapeake Energy Arena, 100 W. Reno Ave.
However, Los Angeles will find that beating the Thunder on New Year’s Eve is not an easy prospect. Oklahoma City has a 7-1 record over the past eight years and has sold out every game.
A Thunder victory helps send patrons into the New Year’s Eve celebration in an even better mood.
“People come to the game, they enjoy the game, they are out by 9:30-9:45 p.m.,” Mahoney said, “just in time to celebrate the new year. It really has blended well and become an important part of Opening Night.”
But Thunder officials stressed they aren’t trying to interrupt the party already taking place in downtown OKC.
“We wanted to make sure we blended properly with the Opening Night festivities,” Mahoney said. “We wanted to complement it.”
Reaction to the New Year’s Eve games has let the Thunder know they have a winning formula that they can keep on requesting.
“The fans, they love it. They love a chance to be indoors,” Mahoney said. “As you can imagine on New Year’s Eve, some nights, it’s cold. Our fans see it as a great way to start off the evening.”
The Thunder pointed out that the annual game isn’t just for those who come to the arena.
“It’s also always a highly rated TV game for us,” Mahoney said. “It’s been some of our highest local TV ratings we’ve ever had. It’s become part of people’s annual holiday … tradition — not just in downtown, but wherever they are enjoying the Thunder. It’s a great chance to end the year on a good note.”
Tickets are $15-$370. Visit nba.com/thunder or call 1-800-653-8000.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers
7 p.m. Dec. 31
Chesapeake Energy Arena
100 W. Reno Ave.
Print headline: Ball bash, The Oklahoma City Thunder starts its New Year’s celebration with a game against the Los Angeles Clippers.