Over the last year, the country has been through many surprises. Nobody expected a pandemic to shut down schools. Nobody expected that Tik Tok would become extremley popular and President Trump would then threaten to ban it on twitter. Nobody expected face masks to become a fashion statement. One event that was just as unpredictable as everything else was the Oklahoma City Thunder making the NBA Playoffs.
Last season, the OKC Thunder had a record of 49-33. This record, led by the star duo Russel Westbrook and Paul George, landed the Thunder the sixth seed in the western conference. Oklahoma basketball fans were feeling optimistic. These hopes were dashed by a game-winning half-court buzzer beater by Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers. The Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs in five short games.
Looking for a change in the offseason, OKC shipped off both of their stars. They traded Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers and Russel Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. In return, they received Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and some future assets. With such a young team and an aging star, Thunder fans started to accept the reality of a rebuilding season. With a less that one percent chance of making the playoffs, the season did not look like it would be a good one. They were unaware of how successful the team would be.
The Thunder took the league by storm. Chris Paul led them to a record of 40-24. This was vastly different from what was expected. The Thunder had found their groove. Then, the NBA stood still. On Wed, March 11, the Thunder’s game with the Utah Jazz got postponed. There was a mass of confusion and worry. Eventually word came out that the NBA was postponing the remainder of the season. Nobody knew how long it would be before the country got to watch NBA basketball again. Not knowing if it would be months, or even years, the NBA players were sent home with no return in sight. Fans of the game were devastated.
The NBA and Adam Silver, the league’s commissioner, had to come up with a plan for how to resume the season in the safest way possible. Some people wanted the season to be cancelled for health reasons, while others were willing to do anything it took to bring it back. Eventually, the league office came up with a plan to bring back the season. Utilizing ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Disney World, the league decided to create “The Bubble.” NBA players would have the option to fly out to a closed campus where they would not be able to come and go. They would be forced to take COVID-19 tests every day and to live away from their families.
However, the league made sure to make the experience as comfortable as possible for the players. Offering everything from fishing to massive water slides, the league did as much as they could to make the players feel accommodated.
Once August came, a majority of the league’s players were living in The Bubble. After several weeks of getting back in shape, the NBA restart was official. The Thunder resumed play and in the remaining eight games of the season managed to have a record of 4-4. This allowed them to secure the fifth seed in the western conference, playing the Houston Rockets. As Chris Paul’s old team, the series promised to be an exciting one.
While a majority of NBA analysts claimed that the Houston Rockets would easily handle the OKC Thunder, Thunder fans disagreed. Losing their first two games to the Rockets, the odds did not look good. Nonetheless, the Thunder managed to close out the next two games in narrow victories. As the Thunder brought the series to a tie, the hopes of Thunder fans were at an all-time high. The Thunder proved that their success was no mistake. They fought to get to where they are. The less than one percent chance they had of making the playoffs now seems laughable. With everything else that has happened this year, sports fans can only expect the unexpected.