Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

August 12, 2013

Bennett reflects on bringing Thunder to OKC

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Because of this, Bennett was one of seven people inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame last week. The eclectic group featured three football players, a wrestler, a basketball coach and a Romanian gymnast.

“One of the things I am proud of is that in a city that he grew up in, you presented him with this kind of honor,” Russell said. “Because most folks are not acclaimed in their own home town. I would not say Oklahoma City is lucky to have Clay Bennett. Clay Bennett is lucky to have grown up in Oklahoma City.”

While the rest of the inductees made it due to their amazing achievements on the playing field, Bennett’s honor was built solely around a business decision to bring an NBA franchise to a place where most people didn’t think one could thrive.

“I didn’t know it would have this type of impact on the city to the level it has,” Bennett said. “Again, it’s a reaction to the players. It’s a reaction to the league. The experiences of the game. Basketball, particularly the NBA, it’s so personal. You are so close to the players. You see their faces, you see their emotion. We get to know them as people off the court. It’s been far greater than I could have ever imagined this quickly.”

By quickly, Bennett means the Thunder going from the worst team in the league its first year in Oklahoma City to a trip to the NBA Finals three years later. Now, the Thunder have become a perennial title contender with the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the way.

“We had a sense of where the team would fit in given the experience we had with the Hornets,” Bennett said. “It’s an absolute tribute to the players. A tribute to the guys we have on our team, how they play the game, how they conduct themselves off the court, how they interact with our community, the work they do and the people they are.”

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