It was an extended awaited afternoon for the group of highschool college students on the Thunder Fellows facility in Tulsa. They thought they had been on their final spherical of interviews to be a part of the second cohort of Thunder Fellows. All the things modified when a bunch of extraordinarily tall company unexpectedly emerged via the again door of the constructing.
The Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder shocked the group of 11e – and 12e –college students a really particular message. Seven gamers held up indicators with completely different phrases on them. After a second of decoding the phrase, a scholar lastly put the items collectively and shouted, “You’re a Thunder Fellow!” The scholars had been formally accepted into this system.
Thunder Fellows, now in its second yr, is an after-school program positioned within the Greenwood district of Tulsa for black highschool college students to show them to alternatives in sports activities, leisure and expertise via a curriculum based mostly on knowledge and evaluation. After a profitable inaugural yr in 2021-2022, this system has gained momentum and formally entered its second yr with nearly a 3rd of the present cohort making use of based mostly on what they heard from their friends about of their expertise in this system final yr.
“It is come a great distance,” mentioned Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who’s getting into his fourth season with the Thunder and has seen this system go from an concept to a actuality. “It is nice what we have accomplished, and we simply wish to preserve going. It is nice to place smiles on youngsters’s faces. That is what it is all about utilizing our platforms to provide again.
The Thunder Fellows shock was a part of a a lot greater day for the Thunder. The day earlier than the group’s annual preseason recreation on the BOK Middle, they took the afternoon to immerse themselves in Tulsa’s historic Greenwood neighborhood. From the Greenwood Rising Museum to the Silhouette Sneaker and Artwork retailer to the Thunder Fellows facility, the group spent the day seeing and studying concerning the previous, current and way forward for the Greenwood District.
The afternoon began on the nook of Greenwood Avenue and Archer Avenue. The group walked via the doorways of Greenwood Rising – a historical past middle positioned within the coronary heart of the Greenwood district that tells the story of Tulsa’s black neighborhood, together with the story of the thriving black economic system and neighborhood from North Tulsa, the Tulsa Race Bloodbath of 1921, and the unbelievable resilience of the neighborhood to rebuild what was misplaced.
Gamers slowly walked via the displays absorbing each doable element. Cease to scan an artifact from the early 1900s, increase your hand to ask questions on historical past, and punctiliously watch movies that element the experiences of Tulsa Race Bloodbath survivors.
On the finish of all of it, Thunder winger Aaron Wiggins summed up his emotions in a single phrase: grateful. The North Carolina native expressed his gratitude to those that devoted their time and vitality to chronicling and documenting this vital story for all to see.
For Kenrich Williams, it was Greenwood’s resilience after the bloodbath that stood out probably the most.
“That is a very powerful half,” Williams mentioned. “As you stroll via the museum, you see the darkness, the issues folks went via again then, however you additionally see the years that adopted and the optimistic results of how they had been capable of rebuild the neighborhood. It reveals resilience and it reveals that for those who get knocked down, you rise up and do it once more.
After studying concerning the wealthy historical past of black-owned companies and entrepreneurship within the Greenwood District, the Thunder strolled down the road from Greenwood Rising to certainly one of Black Wall’s present thriving black-owned companies. Avenue – Silhouette Sneakers and Artwork.
The shop, owned by Tulsa-native Venita Cooper or “Coop,” is lined floor-to-ceiling with new and classic sneakers and is a must-visit for any sneakerhead within the Tulsa space. On the entrance of the shop, Coop beamed from ear to ear as gamers browsed the cabinets and browsed the clothes racks within the middle of the shop whereas Thunder showcased the TV behind the counter.
“Actually a dream come true,” Coop mentioned.
From there, the group traveled half a mile down the street to the Thunder Fellows places of work to shock the brand new cohort. After the group introduced that the scholars had entered this system, Thunder Fellows Govt Director Cedric Ikpo additionally introduced that every of the scholars would obtain a pair of tickets to the Thunder recreation on the BOK Middle, which was hosted with cheers and applause. The group spent the remainder of the time handing out Thunder gear, giving high-fives and taking selfies.
“For the primary level of contact on this program, for them to see the entire group shaking palms, taking selfies, it is a massive telltale signal of how a lot the group and the group have invested in them on this program,” Ikpo mentioned.
When the Thunder take the stage Wednesday on the BOK Middle, it should make a bit of extra sense realizing that the Thunder Fellows — the longer term leaders and subsequent technology of Black Wall Avenue — can be in attendance.
“Thunder followers are nice. It is a bit of sweeter relating to children,” Gilgeous-Alexander mentioned. “They give the impression of being as much as you and realizing it was you as soon as, you had been so little and also you look as much as somebody, it has an impact on them. It is an unbelievable feeling.
It was a day that neither the scholars, nor the Coop, nor the gamers will quickly overlook. Greenwood’s centuries of serious historical past, the significance of Silhouette Sneakers and Artwork and the joy of the Thunder Fellows mix to make Wednesday’s Thunder recreation on the BOK Middle much more particular.