Thunder Struck? Thunder Suck.

by September 04, 2008

by Adam Sweeney

If snake oil salesman, make that owner, Clay Bennett is hoping to make Seattle forget about their former franchise, he’s off to a great start.

In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Oklahoma City basketball officials unveiled their team name and logo, the Thunder, a name they hoped would “denote energy and power.” They instead presented their new fans with a look that WNBA teams would laugh at, fitting when you consider the women’s team in Seattle is nicknamed the Storm.

General Manager Sam Presti said, “Today is really for the fans,” adding that the designing of a logo “does take some time.” That thought is completely in contradiction with the logo we saw, a thoughtless attempt at a Superman shield with the initials OKC and a basketball inside. There’s nothing that even closely resembles thunder in the design. How would you even begin to draw such an image? Without question, the logo is the worst in the league.

Team officials chose the name Thunder because it refers to storms that take place in the famous Tornado Alley. Bennett attempted to explain the name choice by saying “There’s just all kinds of good thunder images and thoughts.” If you’re trying to represent Tornado Alley, wouldn’t it make sense to name the team the Tornadoes? Not only would it offer designers a chance at creating a solid logo, it would offer a concrete image that people would respect. Besides, nobody is scared of thunder. It’s the lightning that people run from.

“We think the word thunder is displayed with simplicity and dignity,” Bennett said. Those are two words that seem to be unfamiliar to the owner, who first stole the team from a loyal fanbase in Seattle, then threatened the Oklahoma legislature with not relocating the team unless it received a tax rebate. You have to think Oklahoma City fans were probably asking “This is what you give us,” when the name was revealed. Funny, Supersonics fans have been saying the same thing all year.

The team’s name was no secret. In July, Oklahoma City news networks were reporting the name, and the Orlando Magic listed games against the Thunder. The horrendous effort to keep the team name on the down low perfectly reflects Bennett and company’s handling of the franchise. If one wants to generate excitement in fans, they don’t let the team’s name get out six weeks in advance. When you consider that the only players present were Damien Wilkins, with a career average of 8 points per game, and recent acquisition and Oklahoma State alum Desmond Mason, you begin to see how pathetic the whole situation is. A team that left a great basketball town like Seattle because of an alleged lack of fan support should be smart enough to know Kevin Durant, the face of their franchise, has to be present at the press conference.

Another thing the organization may have wanted to consider is the fact that the Golden State Warriors’ mascot already carried the name “Thunder.” It may seem like a small detail but I doubt Golden State is too happy about the situation. They have enough headaches after losing Baron Davis and the recent Monta Ellis injury. The last thing they need is to have to waste time choosing mascot monikers. If I’m a Golden State official, I’d file a grievance to David Stern about the name choice. Oh wait, Stern is in league with the owner of the Thunder. Damn.

Perhaps the marketing mistake of the evening was the decision to pass on displaying the team’s uniform, choosing to wait until training camp begins. A lot of fans can get behind a hideous logo if it fits within the jersey design. But I guess Bennett wanted to have his cake and eat it too, hoping that fans will buy shirts now and jerseys later. A move like this is unacceptable, especially considering how long the team has known they were making the move to Oklahoma City. Sadly, unacceptable moves are nothing new to the Thunder franchise. The name may change but the song remains the same.

Andre Agassi once said that image is everything. If this is true then the image Oklahoma City’s basketball team evokes is one that’s boring and tasteless. The Thunder missed a perfect opportunity to make their presence known. Instead, they stole a line from T.S. Eliot, coming in “not with a bang but a whimper.”