Influencers take over City House for Thunder uniform reveal

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY– It has become a tradition in the NBA. Every year since the league showcases its Nike City Edition uniforms with all 32 teams releasing photos and videos on the same day. 

This year the City Edition uniforms, which are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the NBA, were publicly announced Oct. 25. 

However, the unveiling of the Thunder City Edition uniforms actually took place Oct. 28 at a spot in downtown Oklahoma City which they dubbed the City House. With a swimming pool and a view that provided a solid view of the city, it gave off a reality TV show feel.  

But what made the night even more interesting was who the Thunder invited to the event. Instead of the customary local media, the franchise went a different route. The City House was filled with influencers from around the metro. 

Social Media influencers at the OKC Thunder uniform reveal .

Those with sizable followings on social media were invited to get the first look at the uniforms. They were also told they couldn’t release any of the content until they were given the signal by the Thunder. 

According to Erin Lewis, director of Brand Influence and Brand Identity for the Thunder, they chose this method because they are looking to connect with a new, young and energetic audience who may have never been to a game before or even considered themselves sports fans. 

“This is an opportunity for us first and foremost to connect with a really important part of our fan base, a part of our local community in a really unique way, in a way that we think is really meaningful,” said Lewis. “But it’s also an opportunity for us to unveil a really important asset for us which is our city edition uniform and again to do it in a way that is unique and engaging and meaningful and in a new way. A way that we’ve never done so before.” 

Malcolm Tubbs, the Thunder MC, was the host of the evening. In leading up to the unveiling of the new uniforms, he first took the ensemble on a journey into the past.  

Each room in the house was set up to showcase past uniforms the Thunder have worn. From the original white, blue and orange combo from the team’s first season in Oklahoma City to the first years of alternate jerseys, which included the navy and white combination. 

As Tubbs announced the opening of each room, Chef Eric Smith simultaneously would put one of the four-course selections. They included Jerk Pork Tenderloin, Smoked Chilean Sea Bass Salad and a Chocolate Cake. 

Chef Eric Smith prepares the final meal of the evening at the Thunder City Edition uniform reveal.

Smith is the executive chef and managing partner at Pachinko Parlor, Disco Taco and the Crown Room. 

“I’m just trying to make sure we represent the Crown Room,” Smith said. “I want to make sure that they got a clear picture of what we do there, which is pairing offbeat cocktails with food and smells.” 

The final stop on the night was the unveiling of Oklahoma City’s new City Edition uniform. The white on white with gray trim is a complete departure from what the franchise and Nike had put forth before.  

Each of the elements on the uniforms are taken from previous years in the franchise’s short history. Those elements include the vertical OKC bar (2012 Alternate Uniforms), the short sash (2018 City Edition) and sound waves (2017 State uniforms). 

However, my favorite piece may be the belt buckle, which was worn by the very first Thunder summer league squad in 2008 and would go on to become the foundation of the team’s logo. 

“This is a unique uniform. It’s an opportunity to tell the story of our city and we’ve had a great history with our city edition uniforms,” Lewis said. “We always want to do something special and we’ve certainly had the opportunity whether it be telling the story of our Native American roots and heritage, whether it be telling the story of the bombing and connecting with the Oklahoma City National Museum Memorial. So we’ve had really rich stories to tell. This year is no different in that we have a special story to tell particularly because it’s connected to the NBA 75th anniversary.” 

Story & Photos: Michael Kinney Media

Oklahoma City Thunder arena renamed Paycom Center

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY– Outside of drafting a game-changing draft pick or landing a big-time free agent, the Oklahoma City Thunder had no bigger deal in front of them this summer than deciding who was going to put their name on the organization’s arena.

For the past 10 years, that job had been bestowed on Chesapeake Energy, an energy company based in Oklahoma City. But after financial issues forced the company to end its partnership this year, the Thunder didn’t have to wait too long or look too far to find a replacement.

Continue reading “Oklahoma City Thunder arena renamed Paycom Center”

BCC teams up with Google, Thunder

By Michael Kinney

The Journal Record

Eran Harrill knows a thing or two about teamwork. As a sergeant in the Oklahoma National Guard, he witnessed firsthand the importance of groups coming together for a common goal during his tour of duty in Afghanistan.

While Harrill may not be wearing fatigues and roughing it in the desert, he is still working to bring different groups together. Now he’s just doing it as the chief executive officer of the Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce.

One of Harrill’s missions as CEO is to help the chamber’s members learn to keep pace in this technology-driven era.

“When I took over the Black Chamber, it was something that I immediately saw as a need that needed to happen,” Harrill said. “And so I’ve always been cognizant of that and trying to look for ways that can continue to push that mission out there and accomplish those goals.”

That is why Harrill forged partnerships with Google and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The three groups have come together to create monthly workshops for the Black Chamber of Commerce to host for its members and other small business owners looking to use Google products.

Harrill first saw the value of Google in 2017 after attending a “Grow with Google” event at the Devon Boathouse.

“That’s when I really started seeing some of the deliberate efforts they were trying to do on their portfolio and the suite of products, to be able to help small business owners and entrepreneurs really get a leg up in some of the products that they were creating,” Harrill said.

The workshops cover a variety of topics each month. When the OKC Black Chamber of Commerce met Feb. 15, the subject was “Get Your Business Online.”

For two hours, Harrill went through ways different Google products could help business owners create a bigger and more effective imprint online. That is one of the reasons Joel Pendarvis of JP Accounting & Tax Services has been attending the workshops.

“I come to a workshop like this to get different strategies for optimizing my website, giving myself a better web presence,” Pendarvis said. “Also, I am a member of the Black Chamber and I come here to support one of my fellow Black Chamber members.”

Harrill explained to the small group at the Thunder Launchpad how the web is specifically working for businesses in Oklahoma with the help of Google. In Oklahoma alone, Google helped provide $532 million of economic activity for businesses, website publishers and nonprofits in 2017.

“(Google) gets small business owners being more recognized with the brand and using their suite of products in a way that they couldn’t do, or would cost them a lot of money to be able to try to get the word out that way,” Harrill said.

For the Thunder, being partnered with the Black Chamber of Commerce and Google is a way to continue to give back to the community and also showcase the viability of its Thunder Launchpad, which provides space and resources.

“We wanted to open up this space for nonprofit organizations, for-profit organizations, for educating small businesses, for educating youth, for educating veterans to better their careers,” said Karlis Kezbers, director of business intelligence and strategy for the Oklahoma City Thunder. “Then there is our partnership with Eran. We have hosted many events for the Black Chamber of Commerce, whether it’s at the arena or here at the Launchpad. We want to help support that as much as possible.”

So far in 2019, the Black Chamber of Commerce has hosted two Grow with Google events. Thirty people attended in January and 13 in February.

Harrill sees room for growth, but he knows the key continues to be getting the word out on how Google can work for people.

“We deal with a lot of entrepreneurs, people who are just starting their business. So this gives them an opportunity to improve their business presence on the web for free,” Pendarvis said. “That always helps. It doesn’t cost anything, there are no barriers for entry. It’s something you can do on your own and it also helps your business.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Thunder dismantle Kings

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — On March 7, Russell Westbrook scored a career-high 58 points for Oklahoma City. It was one of the best individual performances the NBA has seen this season.

However, the Thunder lost that game as the team stretched its skid to four games at that point.

Since then, the Thunder seemed to have turned the corner. While Westbrook is still the focal point, his teammates have found their roles and their contributions have increased.

That was the case in Oklahoma City’s 110-94 victory over Sacramento on Saturday afternoon at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“We know we have the talent to score the ball inside or outside,” Thunder center Enes Kanter said. “We just need to focus on the defensive end, play with an edge.”

Westbrook led all scorers with 28 points, making 9 of 20 shots from the field, and had eight rebounds and 10 assists. He was two rebounds away from his 36th triple-double of the season.

Westbrook was asked if triple-doubles ever cross his mind late in games when he’s close.

“I just play bro,” Westbrook said.

Doug McDermott came off the Thunder bench to score 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor. Steven Adams added 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Enes Kanter contributed 14 points as Oklahoma City won its fifth straight game and improved to 40-29. The Thunder are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for fifth in the Western Conference.

Georgios Papagiannis led the Kings with 14 points and 11 boards.

“I’m in a rhythm right now. I started with 11 minutes and then started to get more, so I am just starting to get used to it because most of the time I have been playing for the D-League and when I got here the last few games it was a lot different,” Papagiannis said.

“So just every game and every practice I am trying to get used to the players because most of the time I had been in Reno and everything works right now.”

Skal Labissiere added 13 points and Buddy Hield scored 11 points as the Kings dropped to 27-42.

In the opening minutes of the game, the Kings looked like they might give the Thunder a fight. Led by Darren Collison, Sacramento opened a quick 10-9 advantage.

That was the last bit of hope the Kings had. The Thunder outscored them 20-9 the rest of the quarter to grab a double-digit lead.

The Oklahoma City bench continued to cause problems for Sacramento. Kanter wore out the lighter Willie Cauley-Stein in in the paint as he racked up 10 first-half points.

While Westbrook didn’t have to explode for big numbers, he made enough signature plays to leave an imprint on the game. That include draining a jumper in the final seconds of the first half to give Oklahoma City a 63-41 halftime lead.

Sacramento could never get its offense rolling. Oklahoma City’s Andre Roberson played suffocating defense on Hield. Meanwhile, Cauley-Stein, Collison and Labissiere couldn’t buy a basket.

“It’s hard to come back on a great team like that,” Hield said. “They have been playing together for a while, Russ is always great and then add the pieces of Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, who are playing really well.

“We are a young team, so we just have to keep learning from these losses and keep getting better.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

 

Musical introduces Motown to a new generation

 

By Michael Kinney

As the daughter of a musician, Amber Johnson grew up in a house full of music. Whether it was country or old-school R&B, the Norman native was raised with melodies and songs.

Despite that, after graduating from Norman High School in 1998 and attending the University of Oklahoma, Johnson found herself developing an interest in working behind the scenes of musicals instead of singing onstage.

The Motown sound made an impact on Johnson growing up. Founded in Detroit in 1958, it was described as “the soundtrack of a generation.” Johnson can attest to that, as everyone from The Temptations to The Supremes has reserved a place in her memories.

As an adult, Johnson finds herself working on Motown’s reincarnation as an assistant stage manager for Broadway’s Motown the Musical.

For me, Motown has such a great history and growing up in a household where music was very important, to be part of something that is continuing the legacy of Motown music, bringing people together with the music is important and a great thing to be part of,” Johnson said.

Motown the Musical opens March 7 at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Ave., and runs through March 12.

It’s based on founder Berry Gordy’s autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown and the story of how Gordy transformed a small label to the biggest hitmaking machine of the 1960s. The label featured Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, The Isley Brothers, Diana Ross, Boyz II Men, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson.

David Kaverman, who portrays Robinson, said the production hits all the right notes.

For me, it has really been life-changing. It came at the right time to spread this message of love and family and unity among people and the importance of music,” he said. “We just had a brunch at Mr. Gordy’s house. It was just really humbling and eye-opening to see the kind of history he’s had through the pictures on his wall and everything. Now, we’re part of that Motown family and all these great legends, iconic people, movement makers, inspirers. So for me, it’s one of the high points of my life so far.”

Motown soul

The current Motown the Musical tour is the second one since the show opened on Broadway in 2013. But this is Kaverman’s first run as a castmember.

He originally auditioned as an ensemble player. After several callbacks, he faced the chance of a lifetime.

They kept calling me back for more things, different things. I ended up in the final round auditioning for Smokey,” Kaverman said. “We had our opening in LA, and Smokey Robinson came and saw the show and I got to meet him. … He gave me some really nice words and was really supportive of the work I’m doing trying to capture him on stage.”

In researching his character, Kaverman said he learned about the importance of Motown and that Robinson was more than a performer.

Smokey was really kind of the heart and soul of Motown,” Kaverman said. “He was a prolific songwriter. Wrote a lot of music for Motown, for other groups, which I really didn’t know before. He was also a leader. He rose to be vice president of the company, so he understood the business side as well as the creative side. In the show, we have a couple of tense scenes in which Smokey is taking charge.”

Along with Kaverman, Motown the Musical stars Chester Gregory as Gordy, Allison Semmes as Ross and Jarran Muse as Gaye. CJ Wright and Raymond Davis Jr. portray Jackson and Wonder as young boys.

While the behind-the-scenes stories on the uphill battles Motown endured shape the show, the music gives it its soul. Motown the Musical features more than 40 hit songs, including “My Girl,” “What’s Going On,” “Dancing in the Street,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Kaverman described a part in the show in which Diana Ross asks everyone in the auditorium to hold hands as they all sing together. He said he feels the energy coming from the room. He wants as many people as possible to feel that same energy.

I would say come to the show because the music is fantastic,” Kaverman said. “And there are such good stories. There is something there to latch onto that is real. It’s touching and inspiring. I think people go to theaters to have a good time, but also to feel things. But I think people will be surprised with how much heart this show has.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

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