As we wrap up the fifth annual Thunder Holiday Assist initiative, presented by Cox Communications, the Thunder offices are abuzz with heartwarming stories from each of the events we’ve hosted during our favorite time of year. If having toy and food drives at games, giving away turkeys and taking grandparents who are raising their grandchildren on shopping sprees weren’t enough to keep our spirits bright year round, this note from our friends at OU Children’s Hospital about our recent visit would surely do the trick:
On Saturday, the Thunder visited The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, bringing smiles and giggles to the faces of children and families who are currently hospitalized. Although special visits are always a treat, a visit by the Thunder over the Christmas holiday was especially meaningful. A true gift of hope and joy this season!
From seeing the truly thrilled and grateful faces of mothers with their toddlers’ new caricature drawings, to watching the Storm Chasers crawl around on the floor engaging with children, helping them to make baskets in their backpack-goals – the Thunder visit brightened the spirits of everyone at the hospital. Having special, positive family memories of events at the hospital can help families look back and smile at a time that is often stressful and difficult.
One sweet little boy had been laying flat for 72 hours. As a next step in his recovery, the goal for Saturday was to get up and out of bed but he did not want to try. When our Child Life Specialist, Laura, visited him in the morning, she noticed the Thunder blanket on his bed and knew exactly how to motivate him to reach his goal. The Thunder’s visit gave him a very exciting reason to get up. He got out of bed and rolled down to the event in a wagon with his mom (and with his Thunder blanket) and meet his heroes. Excitement from a special event like this can truly motivate children to push themselves and meet their recovery goals more quickly!
Another teen boy sheepishly attended the event by himself – a brave move for teens who can often withdraw and turn down social activities while in the hospital. He shyly got autographs and talked to the players – building courage and interacting more and more. It was amazing to see him at the end of the event, squeezing into the photo booth to take pictures with his idols! You could see his face light up with pride and excitement.
Thank you to the Thunder for making time to visit our patients and families! You do not know how important it is to feel joy and excitement, be motivated to leave a unit and to engage and socialize.
These daily “normal” interactions can be interrupted for some families in the hospital. This was a gift our families will treasure for years to come – a meaningful gift of time and love during the holidays!
Peace, Love & Joy to all of your players and staff!! Thank you on behalf of our patients and families! Go Thunder!!
Members of the Child Life Department and Public Relations team
The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center
Jean Liddell of Norman was up early Thursday morning, preparing Thanksgiving dinner for her family of 35…not bad for an 85-year old great-grandmother hit square in the head by a sharp pass from an NBA basketball player the night before.
Sitting courtside at Wednesday night’s Thunder game with her sons Mike and Mickey, Mrs. Liddell was enjoying her favorite team when midway through the third quarter an errant Kevin Durant pass came her way. The ball hit her in the head and even knocked her glasses to the floor.
“ I was having a great time and that ball just came out of nowhere, you don’t think about it,” she told us today. Seconds after being hit, she was all smiles as Durant came over, asked her if she was ok, bent down and gave her a comfort kiss on the head. “Ain’t he a sweet guy? He is so sweet,” she added. Thabo Sefolosha also helped comfort her.
Lightning struck twice a few minutes later as the ball came towards her again. This time, hitting her on her knee, on which she recently had surgery. Realizing that might be an unlucky seat, she wanted to enjoy the rest of the game in another location. “My son got up and moved me out of that terrible territory,” Liddell joked.
Mrs. Liddell’s “souvenir” for the night is a black eye from where the ball hit her, but she said she is fine. “That’s minor when you have somone like Kevin give me a kiss.”
She said Thabo and the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford came over to check on her after she was hit the second time, one of the referees gave her a hug and Rumble came and sat in her lap. “After a while I said, everyone go away so I can watch that game again,” she joked.
As for her family, they are glad she is doing well and are taken with her new-found YouTube fame. Her son Mickey is a Hollywood producer whose phone lit up immediately with texts from friends in L.A. who watched it all on national TV.
“I had little angels watching me the whole time. I have that guardian angel that stays with me, when a ball comes at me, it didn’t even hurt me,” Mrs. Liddell said.
But next game, she won’t take any chances. ” I will pick a different seat next time, I think.”
Watch Brian Davis and Grant Long’s coverage of the moment on FOX Sports Oklahoma.
Today, as Cole Aldrich and Reggie Jackson joined the Rolling Thunder Book Bus for a visit at OKC’s Westminster School, we found a familiar face in the crowd of kindergarteners looking to pick out a book.
Our Community Relations staff made sure that the visit to Westminster included Jack, who had written them this letter asking if he could meet some Thunder players:
One of Jack’s teachers noted that he follows Thunder Basketball intensely during the season, frequently coming to school the next day and wowing her with the statistics he’d memorized.
Jack, who got his wish to meet a couple of Thunder players granted, rattled off the Thunder roster again today for Aldrich and Jackson.
“Thunder Jack,” Aldrich called him. “It’s hilarious. The quality of fans that we have, knowing those things. The kid is six years old and he knows everybody, even the newest guys on the team. It’s remarkable.”
The USA Men’s Basketball team – featuring your hometown players Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook – remains undefeated in pool play leading up to the race for gold, including yesterday’s 110-63 win over Tunisia.
Spain and Serge Ibaka are also undefeated two games into the opening round.
Be sure to check out the full schedule on the USA Basketball website; the final pool-play games are coming up on Thursday, Saturday and Monday, with quarterfinal matches beginning Wednesday, August 8. Preliminary games are televised on the NBC Sports Network.
Of course, you’ll find the most Thunder-centric coverage at THUNDER.NBA.COM, with updates on both Team Spain and Team USA, as well as features and photos of our players, like the great shots above.
As Team USA arrives in Washington, D.C. for its final tuneup before heading to England for the Olympics, the D.C. area is excited to have Kevin Durant back on his home soil.In Seat Pleasant, a neighborhood just across the D.C. line in Prince Georges County, Maryland, they fondly recall KD and his non-stop work ethic playing hoops in the Seat Pleasant Rec Center. He worked so hard, he ended up finding a precious few hours to sleep in the gym between workouts. They are also beaming with pride that he, along with 2 of his teammates, will represent the USA in London.
That rec center is now undergoing a significant facelift and will reopen with a newly remodeled gym next month. It also includes a special area Kevin himself donated, the Durant Den, which includes KD memorabilia. Those who work here say Kevin inspires every kid who comes through.
The Thunder web/broadcast team, including Grant Long, paid a visit to Seat Pleasant to see where Kevin grew up and worked to become what he is today, an NBA player recognized for his humility, hard work and passion. We talked with those who knew and played with him. Grant even made a stop at the local barber shop where Kevin used to get his hair cut, when he could find the time to get out of the gym. On our website, look for Grant’s reports from USA Basketball’s activities in D.C. this weekend and an exhbition game against Brazil on Monday night.
And throughout July and August, we will bring you more from Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden as they head to the Olympics as well as Serge Ibaka who will represent Spain.
Grant will also have a special feature on Kevin’s roots in the D.C. area, coming in August.
UPDATE: Friday night, Kevin Durant and James Harden paid a visit to another of KD’s old stomping grounds, the famous Barry Farms neighborhood court. It’s where some of the best city basketball you’ll ever see is played and it’s another of the locations where Kevin honed his skills growing up. Friday the Farms was the site of the World Basketball Festival, organized by Nike and USA Basketball. KD and James received a wonderful reception as they watched a D.C. team take on a New York City team.
Grant Long talked to both of them. You’ll be able to watch that starting Saturday morning at THUNDER.NBA.COM
Thunder had its regular game day shootaround at the American Airlines Center in Miami this morning. Coach Brooks says Thunder is down but not out, saying it’s not impossible and his players are up to it.
Game 4, Thunder vs Heat in the NBA Finals is tonight, 8 p.m. on ABC and Thunder Radio. Thunder cameras were there at today’s gameday shootaround. Here’s a sample. You can find complete coverage all day from Brian Davis, Grant Long, Matt Pinto, Kelly Crull and Nick Gallo at THUNDER.NBA.COM
Looking to even the NBA Finals series Tuesday night, the Thunder took to the floor of the American Airlines Arena Monday afternoon for practice and media sessions. Full coverage is at THUNDER.NBA.COM. Here’s a sampling of photos.