Late to the Game: Is It Wrong for a Longhorn to Root For a Team From Oklahoma?

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Assistant editor Chris O’Connell isn’t from Texas; he’s from New Jersey. That’s OK though—he’s here now. But without growing up in a place that cherishes college sports the way many parts of the South—and especially Texas—do, Chris has taken it upon himself to learn more about all aspects of college athletics in a series we like to call Late to the Game.

There were two big NBA trades that went down in advance of last Thursday’s trade deadline. One involved two brothers named Goran and Zoran, born in the now-dissolved Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The other revolved around a Swiss-born Turkish former lottery pick named Enes. Longhorns should care about the second one.


Buried in the fifth paragraphs of stories on this trade—a three-teamer between Detroit, Oklahoma City, and Utah—is a notice that former Longhorn D.J. Augustin, ’08, moved from the Pistons to the Thunder, where he’ll back up superstar point guard Russell Westbrook as the Thunder make a late-season push for the playoffs. We should care about this because he will reunite with his college teammate Kevin Durant, ’07. But it also brings up a serious question: Is it ever OK to pull for a team from Oklahoma?

So I’ve asked my Longhorn friend circle how they feel about cheering on a team located a scant 30 minutes up the road from their archrivals in Norman. I conducted my research in the most comprehensive and official way possible: through sporadic GChats.

Friend: Adam Longley
Strengths: Longtime UT fan; his parents and twin brother are alumni
Weakness: Not an alumnus himself
Favorite alcoholic beverage: Bacardi and Coke

“I think that most Horns hoops fans have already come to terms with sort of rooting for the Thunder because of Durant,” Longley says. “But at the same time, with the Spurs, Rockets, and Mavs all being playoff-caliber teams this year, there’ll definitely be some conflicts of interest come playoff time.”

Longley, though a proverbial bleeder of the burnt-orange variety, is all-in on Durant, and has been since he was the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

Friend: Jason Saldaña, BS ’01
Strengths: UT alumnus; has an IMDB page
Weakness: His favorite Dairy Queen Blizzard flavor is a tie between Pecan cluster and Oreo-strawberry
Hometown: San Antonio

“I think most UT fans have no problem rooting for Thunder even though it’s in OKC,” Saldaña says. “I am conflicted, but not as a UT fan … my issue lies with being a Spurs fan, too.”

Ah yes, the Spurs. Due to their proximity to Austin and the fact that the team has had all-time greats consecutively on the roster since the brothers Dragić lived in Yugoslavia, the Spurs are a common rooting interest among Central Texans.

This brings me to another point: Since Texas is such a sprawling state, does it really matter where you come from? Do you just root for the closest professional team, and since Austin doesn’t have a professional team in the Big 4 sports, does an Austin native latch on to whatever they can, like Longley? If you love Durant, can you attach yourself to the Thunder, even if you grew up obsessing over Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets?

I need a Houston native to give it to me straight, one with judgment unclouded by the recent success of the Spurs.

Friend: Stuart Reilly, BA ’01
Strengths: Was an undergrad at UT; is a lawyer
Weakness: Is a lawyer
Biggest regret: Getting blocked on Twitter by Mack Brown

“On the one hand, two excellent Longhorn players on one team makes it a very enticing team to root for, like watching Colt McCoy and Brian Orakpo on the Redskins, even though I find that franchise name to be unethical,” Reilly says . “And we live in Austin, where we’re allowed to take liberties with our pro team allegiances; we were even getting Titans games here on network TV by default during Vince’s [Young] rookie year.”

I can feel a big but coming on.

“But … Oklahoma makes it different. Heck, it’s Oklahoma City!” Reilly says, with palpable rage. “I’ve been trained to dislike anything Oklahoma related my entire life, even though my mom —by accident—was born in Oklahoma. So, the answer to your question is that the Spurs (and Rockets) run this state. Dallas is too close to Oklahoma for me to root for, and D.J. and [Durant] being on the Thunder just makes me feel bad for those guys. They deserve better.”


I must—gulp—turn to an OU fan, because I have to know how they felt about cheering on two beloved Longhorns. So I reach out to the only one I know, a fine young gentleman who is related to my wife.

Friend: Cullen Bryant
Strengths: Smart man; great haircut; very knowledgeable about sports
Weaknesses: Is from Oklahoma; is a New York Yankees fan
Fun fact: Cullen and his younger brother Caleb, both die-hard OU fans, married OSU fans

“Oklahomans love the Thunder,” Bryant says. “When it comes to Kevin Durant and now D.J. Augustin, the love for this team even bleeds across state borders. Thunder fans forget about the uniforms the players wore in college.”

Sometimes, however, Thunder fans have to turn the other cheek when Durant shows support for Texas, which he is known to do on occasion. A writer for The Oklahoman even asked this very same question from a Sooner’s perspective in 2011.

“On occasion KD will flash the horns sign or mention the Longhorns in an interview,” Bryant says, “and I believe we just choose to overlook it, pretend it didn’t happen.”

So after much research, where have we landed? It seems Longhorn fans mostly want Durant to have a season like he did in 2013-14. Last year, he had the greatest statistical season of his eight-year career, bagged MVP honors, told his mom she “was the real MVP” during an emotional speech as he accepted the award, and was promptly bounced from the Western Conference Finals by Tim Duncan and the Spurs.

It probably feels a little wrong to root for laundry stitched with the words “Oklahoma City,” but Longhorns and Sooners alike love Durant, and now Augustin as well. So for now, the consensus seems to be that it’s very much OK. That being said, it’ll be a sigh of relief for UT fans once Durant signs with the Wizards in free agency in 2016.

Darnell Mayberry, the author of that story in The Oklahoman, came to the conclusion that Durant should be able to “diss” OU, just as Oklahoma-based Thunder fans diss the Longhorns. It looks like Longhorns finally agree with the Sooners. If both teams can agree on that, they can agree to share Durant and Augustin. It’s the civilized thing to do.

Photo courtesy UT Athletics; illustration by Melissa Reese.


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