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

Track coach looking to beat the odds in battle with ALS

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY –The changes in his body can already be seen. A couple of months ago, friends and family would have had to look closely at Adam Helms to notice anything was wrong with the Putnam City track coach.

But now, with his arms and hands thinning as his muscle mass disappears, it has become evident that Helms has found himself in the middle of a battle with an opponent that is undefeated.

In March Helms was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a disease in which muscles waste away due to the death of the nerve cells that control them.

“I started feeling stuff in January. In my hand. My index finger wouldn’t straighten,” the 38-year old Helms said. “I finally decided to go to the doctor I would say mid to late January and it took a while to get into a neurologist so it was March before I got in. And I actually got diagnosed the same day as our track meet. So March 30th, I left my doctor’s appointment and went and ran a track meet. I was devastated originally.”

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. According to the ALS Association, the disease usually strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and it is estimated there are more than 20,000 Americans who have the disease at any given time.

Once ALS starts, it progresses and takes away the ability to walk, dress, write, speak, swallow and breathe. It eventually leads to death. The life expectancy for someone with the disease is three to five years and there is no cure.

“The future’s kind of an unknown. There’s not a formula. There’s not a blueprint for them to follow. It’s different with everybody,” Helms said. “And in some ways I got lucky because there are two types of it. There’s one that starts in your arms and legs, it’s called limb onset. And there’s another one that starts more in your throat and in your mouth and tongue which means you don’t swallow. You need help breathing. You can’t drink by yourself. Feeding tubes have to go in a lot quicker. So it’s just kind of one of those diseases that there’s no timetable. There’s no rationale or blueprint on what the future’s going look like.”

Helms is currently under the care of Oklahoma City neurologist Dr. Brent Beson. He gave Helms an unfiltered breakdown of exactly what his situation is.

“My first doctor, he was just trying to not drop the bomb on me,” Helms said. “But my current doctor (Beson) is more the band-aid approach guy. Just rip it off and we’ll just deal with it. I feel pretty confident in him. I don’t think he’s your typical doctor. He’s pretty open to a lot of things. If I want to try something he’s not going fire me as a patient. I’m going to have to fire him as a doctor before he’ll give up on me. Which is great.”

Yet, in the three months since Helms has found out he has ALS, he admits there have been some hard days. From informing his parents and sister to telling the members of his track team.

“I was more worried about the kids that I teach and coach because you don’t know what they are going through in their lives half the time,” Helms said. “I don’t think it’s fair to them until it’s absolutely needed.”

But there was nothing that could prepare Helms for sitting down and trying to explain to his three kids, who attend school in Yukon, what is wrong with him.

“That was rough. That was rough. My oldest son had a lot of questions. My daughter was a little numb. And my youngest son just didn’t really understand it at first,” Helms said. “So I ended up having to have a little bit deeper of a conversation with him. They still don’t know the name of it. Because I don’t want them Googling it. But other than that, they’re at a full understanding of what’s gonna happen, and how it’s gonna work. They know that my hands start getting a little bit worse, my arms start to get a little worse, my legs start coming into it. They’ve learned it eventually works its way into my lung area. The muscles around the lungs, that’s when you die.

“So they get that. They understand that it could be two years from now or 20 years from now,” They know. Stephen Hawking lived with it for 51 years.”

Overall, 2018 has not been a great year for the Helms and his family. His grandfather died in January. Three days before that, his friend of 22 years and fellow Putnam City coach Gary Wright passed away.

“It’s been a rough kind of year,” Helms said. “Whoever says it happens in threes is a liar. This happens in fives and sixes.”

For now, Helms is taking it day by day, trying not to let ALS control him. But he knows changes will have to be made. He will no longer coach basketball due to the schedule. However, he still plans to be leading his cross country and track teams for as long as his body allows.

“Biggest differences I see is the strength in my arms and hands. And then the second aspect is I get tired a lot,” Helms said. “I used to be able to work 15, 16 hour days and three or four in a row. Now if I work one day like that it takes me three or four days to recover. My doctor told me that I kind of live in that area after you’ve had a hard workout, you know, really hard workout and you know later on that night, your arms don’t want to move? Or your legs don’t want to move? Because that’s kind of where you live now. And when you do too much you live in that spot and then it takes you a couple days to get back to where you were before you did that other stuff.”

While Helms is preparing for the worst-case scenario, that doesn’t mean he isn’t planning to fight the disease in any way he can. He’s been in contact with former Jenks football coach Allan Trimble, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2016.

Helms is also enrolling in a new clinical study using stem cell research to combat the effects of ALS.

“There’s like six places that are trying it in the United States. It’s an Israeli-based company with a satellite office in New Jersey but I put in for it at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota,” Helms said. “I’ve gotten them all my medical records. They think everything looks good but I’m just waiting on approval from the doctor and apparently, that could take a month or two for a spot to open up and stuff like that.”

However, in order to be in the clinical study, he can’t take any of the normally prescribed medication (Radicava, riluzole) for ALS patients that have shown to slow progression of the disease slightly.

Before Helms even knew about the clinical study, one of the coaches at Putnam City started a GoFundMe page to help with the expenses that were sure to come. More than $6,500 has been raised.

Helms will use the money to pay for the 14 trips he will need to take to either Boston, Los Angeles or Minnesota for the stem cell study.

Despite how grateful Helms was, it was difficult for him to accept the help. Since word got out about the ALS, he has noticed a change in people.

“At times people have treated me like I was a kid in a bubble. And to be honest with you, that makes me feel a little bit worse than anything else, than even what my body feels,” Helms said. “Because they’re treating me different. And I don’t want to be treated differently, just let’s keep going. I’m sick but I’m still gonna be the same person till the day I die, whenever that is. Two years, 10 years, 30 years. Who knows when it is so I’m going to force myself to be happy.”

Yet, even with Helm’s determination to keep a positive mindset, dark times do hit. He said when he is home alone, it has given him time to reflect on his life.

“It’s made me realize that I have a lot of regrets. That life, personally, professionally, stuff, and it’s never good to live in the past to live with those regrets,” Helms said. “Because all that regrets do is stifle you for the future. Put them aside. Say the things you need to say to people that you need to say things. Quit living in fear. Because it’s not going help you, all it’s going to do is handcuff you. It limits you more than it does anything else.”

Helms knows at some point ALS will win. His body will break down, he will lose total control of his arms, legs and breathing. Then the tough decisions will have to be made because he doesn’t want to live on a feeding tube or respirator.

Helms one goal is to be around for at least seven more years to see all of his kids graduate high school. He said after that everything is gravy and they can “pull the plug”.

“Fortunately for me I know, my family will be taken care of, my kids will be taken care of,” Helms said. “They’ve got a good mom. They’ve got a good stepdad. They’ve got my parents. Their other grandparents, you know, my sister. Lots of good people in their life that’s not going to let them go without or need something. Within the Yukon schools I know the parents family, I don’t have to worry about it. You know, so there’s a lot of comfort in that.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with, @EyeAmTruth

Top to bottom, Thunder take apart Pistons

(Photo by Torrey Purvey)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – Stan Van Gundy isn’t one to mince words. The Detroit has no problem giving honest appraisals about almost any topic that is put to him.

But Van Gundy saves some of his most biting and frank comments about his team whenever they play below his expectations. That was the case Saturday when the Pistons travels to Oklahoma City.

Behind Russell Westbrook’s seventh triple double of the season the Thunder defeated the Pistons 106-88 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Van Gundy didn’t hold back on his assessment of his team’s performance.

Our defense was pathetic,” Van Gundy said. “Pathetic. We didn’t compete. It’s mind boggling with how different we are home and on the road. We didn’t take care of any of the areas we were supposed to focus on. We made very little effort and Oklahoma City played a whole lot harder than us and deserved to win.”

Westbrook posted 17 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds to earn consecutive triple-doubles on back-to-back nights. It was also his 44th career triple-double, which ties him with Cleveland’s LeBron James. However, it took Westbrook 395 fewer games.

He’s a Hall of Fame player,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of Westbrook. “I mean that’s really what he I. He’s a Hall of Fame player.”

The Thunder had five players score in double figures. Anthony Morrow came off the Thunder bench to lead the charge. He poured in a season-high 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Steven Adams added 16 points and nine rebounds. Victor Oladipo scored 18 on only 10 shots as Oklahoma City improved to 10-8.

Tobias Harris led the Pistons with 21 points on 8 of 18 shooting. Ish Smith, who once played for the Thunder, posted 14 points and three assists. As a team, the Pistons collected only 11 assists, which was less than Westbrook by himself.

Detroit dropped to 8-10 overall. But what had the players and staff most perplexed is there 1-8 record on the road.

For everybody, including myself, that goes out there on the floor, we have a job to do,” Harris said. “It’s all about team winning. It comes down to all of us being more focused, more drive to grind it out and get a win. That’s what it comes down to. We’ve proven we can do it at home. So it’s going to take that attitude at home to take it on the road and get a win.”

It was the combination of Westbrook and Morrow who helped the Thunder get off to a fast start against the Pistons. While Westbrook attacked the basket and pulled down rebounds, Morrow finally started to find his shot. After shooting 40 percent on the season, Morrow came off the bench and hit 3 of his first 5 shots.

I love coming into the game and getting a layup or a free throw or a floater,” Morrow said. “It’s something I usually want to do before taking a 28-foot 3-pointer. Billy said he was going to use me on the some post ups so I was just ready for it before the game.”

But it was an entire team effort that allowed Oklahoma City to build its lead up to 18 points in the first half. Eight of the 10 players who touched the court scored.

However, the Pistons whittled away at the lead late in the second quarter. Morris, Harris and Aron Baynes led a charge to cut the deficit to 10 by halftime.

Oklahoma City didn’t help itself by barely shooting over 50 percent from the free throw line. This allowed the Pistons to get within four points in the third quarter.

But a late surge by Morrow pushed the Thunder advantage back to 77-68 heading into the fourth.

The Thunder didn’t allow the game to get any closer. The players took turns scoring at will against the Detroit defense.

At one point, Westbrook shook Caldwell-Pope on his way to a layup, and laughed as he ran back up court.

Oklahoma City outscored Detroit 29-20 in the fourth quarter to close out the game.

“”They are good, but we just didn’t do our jobs,” Van Gundy said. “We didn’t make them make the plays we even wanted them to make. We didn’t do our jobs guys. Guys just did not do their jobs. We were bad, they were good. I thought it was actually worse than the final score indicated.”

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