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

Oregon commit ready to put on show in final prep season

By Michael Kinney

At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Andre Dollar is hard to miss. Even for a tight end he casts a pretty imposing shadow whether he is lined up along the offensive line or running routes in the secondary.

So it should not have been a surprise when Dollar said the player he most wants his game to resemble in San Francisco’s all-pro George Kittle.

Continue reading “Oregon commit ready to put on show in final prep season”

Hospital staff overwhelmed as COVID surges among unvaccinated

By Michael Kinney

LAWTON– Dylan Humphrey doesn’t get many nights off, so when he does, he tries to relax. But that has become harder the past couple of months.

Recently, while enjoying a night off from his job as House Supervisor at Comanche County Memorial Hospital, Humphrey got called into work. When he arrived, he was caught off-guard by what awaited him in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Continue reading “Hospital staff overwhelmed as COVID surges among unvaccinated”

Struggles continue for OU despite double-digt victory

 

By Michael Kinney

NORMAN– On Saturday Oklahoma won it’s 10th game of the season with a 55-40 victory over Kansas. It was the 17th time since 2000 that the program has reached double-digit victories in a season, which leads the nation in that time span.

However, the mood of the fans, players and coaches coming out of Memorial Stadium was far from celebratory.  Once again it was the Sooner’s defense that garnered most of the attention as they allowed the Jayhawks to run up and down the field.

“Defensively, we didn’t tackle at all the whole night and that’s really the story. I thought our pass defense was much improved,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “It was something we spent a lot of time on, certainly after the way we played in that fashion the week before. We had some good things there as far as coverage, but clearly, we weren’t good on the run game and it was disappointing because  we’ve really done a good job against the run all season.”

The futility of the Kansas offense during the past decade is the biggest sign of how bad the Oklahoma defense looked Saturday.

Since 2015 Kansas has only scored more than 40 points twice. Both came in wins against non-conference teams. Their output against the Sooners is the most they have scored against a Big 12 team since beating Colorado 52-45 in 2010.

“I take it very personally. I don’t think a team should get over 50 yards on us if it was up to me,” safety Robert Barnes said. “I just think as a unit we just have to start playing more physical and be more fundamental. It starts in practice. It starts on Monday through Friday. Just continuing to work on tackling. It’s a long season and there’s a lot of inquiries that happen throughout a season. So it’s not like in practice we can do full-tackling drills. But tackling is a mentality If you train that mentality all week, when you come out on Saturday, it won’t be an issue.”

Run defense disappeared

The Jayhawks posted 348 rushing yards on the night. That included Pooka Williams rushing for 252 yards on only 15 carries. That is a 16.8 Yards per carry average.

We have guys in position. We tell them to not worry about mistakes. All mistakes are mine, so don’t hesitate. Go make it,” defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill said. “We tackle every day, so we’ll just continue to do that and continue to work hard. We’ll watch the film and see what angles would help, but look from all different angles on that too. Ready to get back to work and watch the film and fix what we’ve got to fix to get ready for next week.”

Tackling still at the heart of the problem

The OU coaches and players all said tackling is still the issue that has been causing them the most issues.

“We’ve had games where we tackled really well,” Riley said., “I think we have guys that can tackle well. Tackling is just so many things. It’s being in position, knowing where you help is. It all comes down to playing great team defense and when you do you put yourself in position to make those plays and you have got to go make them. The group I watched tonight was too hesitant. I thought we were in position a lot and we have to go. We have to trigger and go play confident and go play explosive. Go play to make the play as opposed to just trying to keep them from making a play. I felt we were more on our heels than we need to be. Certainly, we have to be more aggressive and as coaches, we have to find a way to get there out of them.”

According to defensive end Kenneth Mann, bad tackling can cause a snowball effect.

“I think it can,” Mann said. “ Things like that can but we just have to gather the troops and get back together. We need to make the right moves.  Everybody needs to settle down when things get going like that and continue to tackle and get guys down.”

 

Last one standing

On the first offensive series of the game, Oklahoma leading rusher Trey Sermon left the game with an injury. That left redshirt freshman Kennedy Brooks as the only healthy tailback for the Sooners.

Brooks carried the rock 25 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns as he played the majority of the game.

“He did a great job, doing it by himself,” quarterback Kyler Murray said. “He’s been doing it since he got his chance earlier in the season. We’re going to need him going forward and I’m sure he’ll continue to run well.”

Brooks said he just had to be ready for his moment when his number was called.

“All the guys in the room helped me get to this point,” Brooks said. “I couldn’t do it without them. Everybody just being there and telling me I can do it. Just keeping my confidence up. Going through practice, seeing what I can do, then you’re in the game and you’re actually doing. I give all my glory to God, my teammates second and believing in myself that I could do it. Being in this position is nothing new. We just go out there and do the best we can to help the team win.”

Brooks pointed out his offensive line especially.

“They did amazing,” Brooks said. “We have the best offensive line in the country. I am so happy I can run behind them. They made my job so much easier.”

The best?

Tackle Cody Ford was asked if OU had the best offensive line in college football. Ford kept his answer pretty simple.

“Yes.”

Scoring machine

The Sooners 55 points is their third highest output of the season. They also tallied 566 total yards (294 rush, 272 pass)

Despite that, quarterback Kyler Murray wasn’t too impressed. Even with his five touchdowns (3 rushing, 2 passing), it was not close to what he expects from the offense in general.

“It wasn’t bad,” Murray said. “I thought we moved the ball well. I would say personally, a little disappointed. It wasn’t the best game, but it got the job done. We put up 55 points, so I guess you could say it was a good day.”

Except for the two turnovers.

“That’s something we don’t want to do, put the ball in other people’s hands,” Murray said. “We have actually done a good job with that all season, taking care of the ball. Tonight it got away from us a little bit.”

Heisman Worthy

Wideout Marquise Brown, who had 6 catches for 64 yards, said Murray is the clear Heisman frontrunner.

“I just don’t feel like nobody is playing better football than him, to be honest,” Brown said. “He’s throwing it, running it. He’s really the most valuable player for this team. I feel like he should be the Heisman.”

Big game on the horizon

With West Virginia losing to Oklahoma State earlier in the day, it took a little luster off of next week’s matchup with the Mountaineers. Yet, the game is still a big contest for the Sooners as they look to lock up a spot In the Big 12 Championship.

Barnes knows his team has to show an element the defense has shown much of the year if they are going to win.

“I would say from the first play be the most physical team out there,” Barnes said. “From offense and defense, but especially from the defensive standpoint. When you’re going into a hostile atmosphere, an away game, especially at this caliber, from the first play we need physicality across the board.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

Story first ran in The Yukon Review

 

Sooners comeback bid foiled as defense falters

 

By Michael Kinney

As bad as the Oklahoma defense performed throughout the day Saturday, in order to have a chance to beat rival Texas and keep their season undefeated, they needed just one last stop in the fourth quarter to give their potent offense a chance to win the game.

Unfortunately for the Sooners, that stop never came as the Longhorns kicked a game-winning field goal with nine seconds left to beat the Sooners 48-45 at the Cotton Bowl.

“We have to get better in a lot of areas,” Lincoln Riley said. “But we’ve got some fight in that room. We have some guys who are incredibly disappointed right now. They will be ready when we get back on the field here at TCU Congratulations to Texas. They played a very good football game. It was one of the epic ones there. It will be one people will be talking about for years and years and years. It was really a special atmosphere like it always is. It lived up to the billing like it always does.”

The Sooners entered the fourth quarter trailing the Longhorns 45-24. The game looked like it was done.

But then OU seemed to flip a switch in the final 10 minutes of the game.

First quarterback Kyler Murray hit Lee Morris for a 19-yard touchdown with 8:28 left on the clock. The defense came up with a stop to give the ball back to the offense with 5:11 left.

On the first play of the drive, Murray sprinted 67 yards down the left sideline and into the endzone to close the gap to 45-38.

For a third consecutive series, the defense came up with a huge stop and forced Longhorns to punt. The Sooners took over on their own 43yard line. It took only three plays for Trey Sermon to score and tie the game at 45-45.

“It was a tale of two games for us,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “First part we were inconsistent offensively. Didn’t get any stops defensively. We were kind of just average on special teams. Then at the end of the game I was very proud of our team’s fight there at the end. To get it back there to tie the game, have a great chance to win the football game.”

Texas ended the day with 501 total yards. Sam Ehlinger threw for 324 yards.

UT came into the game averaging only 396 yards per outing. Their 48 points were 20 more than their season average as well.

The Longhorns had their best offensive performance of the season against an Oklahoma defense that was supposed to be a strength this season.

“Our players got a little bit disjointed. We all did,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “[Texas was] reading what we were doing. We were trying to audible back out of it and I think our players got in between two calls at times. I thought [Texas] played more physical than we did today, and some of it is just who we have there in certain positions. That’s an area we obviously need to get better in – just our physicality across the board.”

Murray suffered his first loss as a starting quarterback in college with his defeat at Texas Despite throwing for 304 yards and two TDs on `19-of-26 passing and leading the Sooners in rushing with 116, he put the loss on his shoulders with his two turnovers.

“Obviously, I’m not used to losing,” Murray said. “It hurts. Disappointed. It’s just tough because I feel I turned the ball over today and you give them the advantage when you turn the ball over. I feel like if I didn’t turn the ball over we had a better shot at winning the game. Obviously, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to. We knew coming into this game it was going to be a four-quarter game. We’re better than that. I know we’re better than that. It’s just tough.”

Marquise Brown snagged nine catches for 132 Yards and two touchdowns on the day. Lamb added six receptions for 75 yards.

Curtis Bolton led the Sooners with 13 tackles. Kenneth Murray, who leads the Big 12 in tackles, ended with 10. Kahil Haughton added nine tackles.

For Texas, Lil Jordan Humprey tallied nine catches for 133 yards while Collin Johnson tacked on 6 receptions for 81 yards.

Keaontay Ingram led the Longhorns ground game with 13 carries for 87 yards.

Oklahoma took the first lead of the game when Kyler Murray and Brown hooked up for a 4-yard TD pass on the game’s opening drive.

However, UT outscored the Sooners 24-10 the rest of the first half.

The Longhorns kept finding ways to putting the Oklahoma defense in positions it didn’t want to be in. On their second touchdown of the first half, quarterback Sam Ehlinger hit tailback Tre Watson on a wheel route out of the backfield on a 28- yard touchdown catch. He was being defended by defensive end/linebacker Mark Jackson, who was trailing him the entire way.

On the ensuing drive, the Longhorns went on an eight play, 75-yard scoring drive as they rammed the ball down the Sooner’s throat with the run game. They were physically moving the defensive line off the line of scrimmage and back into the linebacker’s laps.

“At the end of the day if we may not get the call, it’s still our jobs as players to get down and run the defense at the end of the day,” Neville Gallimore said. “Whether we get the call or not, get lined up, that’s the biggest thing for us. We just need to do a better job at that. It’s the little things.”

The Longhorns came out of halftime like they started the game. They pulled out an 11-play drive that covered 75 yards. Ehlinger’s 5-yard touchdown run put Texas up 31-17.

But the Sooner’s struck back with a 77-yard scoring strike from Murry to Brown. It’s the longest reception by a Sooner in the series.

After Oklahoma forced a three and out on the next series, they got the back with a chance to tie the game. However, Murray fumbled while trying to evade pressure up the middle and the Longhorns recovered.

“Coach Riley, he is preaching to me all the time about ball security in the pocket. And then it ended up in a big game,” Kyler Murray said. “I don’t know how many times he’s told me that. That one defiantly hurts.”

The Longhorns took advantage of the turnover and scored twice more I the third to take a

45-24 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

“We all as a group are supposed to be on the same page,” cornerback Tre Brown said. “We got on different pages and you could see the frustration out of us. But we’re a team, we’re brothers and we picked that up very late. Should have been doing that the whole time. Second half it came together, but we should have been doing that the whole game. We knew what was coming, but we didn’t execute like we should and everything was just coming to us late. We knew it was right there, but we didn’t make the play. It’s on all of us.”

Story ran in the Yukon Review

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider

King of New York

By Michael Kinney

NEW YORK – Tae Ham hadn’t been out to enjoy the nightlife of New York City in some time. He became a homebody after the birth of his second child.

But on the evening of Aug. 12, Ham found himself relaxing at Mr. Purple, the posh rooftop bar at the Hotel Indigo near the SoHo District.

He was surrounded by young, upwardly mobile New Yorkers enjoying their lives and successes in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. As Ham stared out into the New York City skyline, he recalled growing up in Oklahoma when the setting would have seen more of a fantasy than real-life possibility.

Ham, 44, the founder and CEO of the investment firm Open Hedge, said he has come a long way from the days when he could barely speak English as a young immigrant. He arrived in Lawton with his family when he was 10.

“I wasn’t the smartest kid. I wasn’t the most talented,” Ham said. “But I believe that if you have passion and you’re willing to focus and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to do it, I think that will lead you to greater things in life.”

Ham founded Open Hedge almost two years ago. The motto of the investment company, which is located on 57th Street in the heart of New York City’s financial district, is to bring Wall Street to Main Street.

Before going out on his own, Ham worked for 14 years as a senior executive with Viking Global Investors and HBK Capital Management, a pair of multibillion-dollar hedge funds. While Ham was successful at both companies, he wanted a change. The realization came about three or four years ago.

“I had my first son and I used to go to work at 6:30 a.m. and come home at 9 o’clock,” he said. “So, I never got to see my son for three years. That’s when I started to realize what I’m missing. There’s not a real balance in my life.”

It wasn’t an easy decision. The pay was great, but wealth wasn’t the most important consideration. On the other hand, the challenge of becoming an entrepreneur appealed to him.

Coming to America

Ham was already familiar with challenge, beginning when he and his family first left South Korea.

“My dad, he came to the United States knowing that if his kids stayed in Korea, we would never have the same opportunity that we could have in America,” Ham said. “He believed in the American dream. He didn’t know what that was, but he knew that in America opportunities abound, and he knew that his kids would have better chances.

“So, he came to America first and he brought us after,” he said.

When Ham reached Oklahoma, he had no idea what to expect. He didn’t know anything about his new home.

“None of us spoke English,” Ham said. “We had to learn English when we came here and when we moved to Lawton. I wasn’t particularly thrilled because I thought it was a little cowboy town.”

Ham’s family was poor. His father’s salary as a pastor at a small Korean church barely covered the basics for a family of six. He recalled feeling embarrassed because he was a part of the free lunch program at school. But he learned from that experience, he said.

“It taught me to say, ‘my parents came here with nothing and they’re trying their best to provide,’” he said. “I can’t just sit back. I think my parents instilled this in me too. Believing, whispering in our ear saying, ‘you can be more than what we have done here.’”

Ham was an all-district performer on the Eagles varsity soccer team at Lawton Eisenhower High School. His coach, John Stiefer, said the tenacity Ham displayed on the soccer field helped him get ahead in business. Initially, Stiefer said he was skeptical that Ham had the size and skill to play goalkeeper.

“But, he was tenacious with a ‘the keeper position is mine’ mindset,” Stiefer said. “Each training session was a competition for him and his skill improved exponentially. Tae was very intelligent and this enabled him to gain more skill on the technical and tactical aspects of goalkeeping. He was a very hard worker.”

But one trait stood out to separate him as an outstanding ‘keeper from every other player, his former coach said.

“It’s courage,” Stiefer said. “Tae was a very courageous keeper. All of the practice and training repetitions cannot elucidate courage. Time after time I saw him sacrifice his well-being to make outstanding saves.”

Ham graduated from Eisenhower in 1992 and earned a bachelor of arts degree across the state at the University of Tulsa.

First financial lessons

Ham’s first job was in Dallas working at Microsoft. He then joined the company Data Returns. He was 23-years old and seemingly had everything he wanted in front of him.

But that is when life decided to deliver its first blow as the dot.com bust hit. Data Returns busted and Ham was left out in the cold, but with some life lessons.

“When the dot.com bust occurred I lacked the finance knowledge to protect myself. Sonny (Perdue), at one point his net worth was over a billion dollars, and he didn’t protect himself,” Ham said. “I think a lot of the people that worked at Data Return were in the same boat. So that’s one of the reasons my vision was I want to go to business school to understand finance and accounting.”

Ham made the decision to deviate from his initial plan and head to business school in New York, where he attended Columbia. It wasn’t an easy decision, but one he knew he had to make.

“I think any time you leave a place that you’re comfortable in, it’s hard,” Ham said. “It challenges you. It pushes you and it’s hard for people to be uncomfortable, but I think being uncomfortable is a great thing. You can’t be comfortable. If you’re comfortable you sometimes forget that you could achieve more.”

That is the mindset Ham continues to carry with him today at Open Hedge. He hopes that young women and men coming out of Oklahoma now realize they can do whatever they want and not to use where they came from as an excuse not to dream big.

“If you look at the kids that work at my previous firms, most of them were Harvard grads, undergrads, Ivy League grads; and most of them had opportunities that people from Lawton or even Oklahoma just didn’t have,” Ham said. “But I think people understand your passion. They understand your work ethic. They understand that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters what you do.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Producer

Story ran in The Journal Record

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