If you saw some of the pictures from Tuesday night’s game at the Owasso High School gym, you could almost mistake it for Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The stands were packed. The excitement was palpable. And fans and players alike roared to their feet when their favorite player made some big baskets in the fourth quarter.
That night, everyone’s favorite player was the one who didn’t even come into the game until late in the fourth quarter, had never taken this court before in his life and went 3-for-8 shooting to score 8 points when the game wasn’t really on the line.
Nathan Mitcham is a senior at Owasso High School. He loves basketball; his “school uniform” consists of his collection of NBA jerseys. He has been the Owasso boys’ basketball team manager for most of his high school career and has taken part in the Special Olympics.
But Nathan is an Owasso Ram, through and through, and yet – because of his special needs – had never taken the court in his team’s uniform.
A fast-and-furious Twitter campaign led by Nathan’s Owasso teammates and friends garnered retweets, support and attention from all over the state. Within a weekend, they had reached out to people in all corners of the state. Within a few more days, they got their #dressnathanout hashtag to trend.
All they wanted was to see their friend take the court in an Owasso Rams uniform.
Within about ten days of starting their campaign, their wish came true, along with one of Nathan’s dreams.
The students’ passion and Nathan’s dedication to his team exemplified the spirit of the game we love. To help Nathan mark the day his hoop dream came true – and to give him a uniform to dress out in every day – we sent Nathan a custom Thunder jersey and arranged for the entire Rams boys’ team to come to an upcoming Thunder game through our Tickets for Kids program.
But even we couldn’t imagine how magical Nathan’s night on the court would turn out to be. That people would line up outside the gym hours before the game to see Nathan play. That even the opposing team would present him with a gift to commemorate the game. That he would sink an off-balance 2-point shot shortly after coming into the game and then nail two 3-pointers. That his teammates and classmates would hoist him on their shoulders at the end of the game and so unabashedly celebrate his performance.
The power of this game to unite people is incredible, and we strive never to take that for granted. But if we ever think we might, Nathan’s story can always serve to remind us of what basketball is really all about.
- Karina Henderson