‘A Great Sense of Purpose’ – The Thunder’s Meaningful Connection in Tulsa

Written by on October 15, 2021

The scene illustrated the meaningful connection made during the Thunder’s time in Tulsa on Thursday – a connection that extended beyond the basketball court.

The team’s trip to Tulsa began well before its scheduled 7 p.m. tip off against Denver at the BOK Center. The Thunder’s annual preseason trip up the Turnpike was a welcomed return to normalcy after missing last season’s due to the pandemic and condensed preseason. However, much has transpired in the city since the Thunder’s last game in front of the Tulsa crowd back in the fall of 2019 and on Thursday, the team used the opportunity to delve into the city and its history.

In May, Tulsa recognized the centennial of the 1921 Race Massacre which was the deadliest act of racial violence in American history that destroyed one of the nation’s most affluent and self-sufficient Black neighborhoods known as Black Wall Street. The summer prior, the Thunder announced its partnership with CAA Sports to create the Thunder Fellows Program – a pipeline for Black youth in Tulsa to careers in sports, entertainment, and tech through a curriculum based in data and analytics. Since then, the program has officially opened its doors and welcomed is first cohort of students into its building.

Before arriving to the BOK Center for its game, the Thunder took a small detour a mile north of the arena to go on a guided tour through the Greenwood District to see and learn about Black Wall Street’s storied history.

Growing up, Thunder two-way rookie Aaron Wiggins had been told about the story of Black Wall Street by his mother. After driving through the area on Thursday and seeing the historical landmarks for himself, he had a whole new perspective on the historical event.

“Hearing about the story of what transpired in that time, it’s just kind of surreal to go through it all and get a first-hand experience and just look at it all for yourself,” Wiggins said. “So it’s definitely an experience that I’ll be able to after this game tonight, I’ll call my mom and tell her like ‘Mom, I went through Black Wall Street. I saw that firsthand.’”

The tour of Black Wall Street came to a close at one of the newest establishments up and running in Greenwood – the Thunder Fellows office. Players and coaches filed into the building for the first time to see the new space, meet the staff and learn about how the program came to be.

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