Die-hard basketball fans were treated to some southern Oklahoma pro sports history on Sunday – as well as a dandy of a triple-overtime thriller with an NBA atmosphere.
The Texas Legends and the Santa Cruz (Calif.) Warriors brought the first-ever professional basketball game to Durant at Bloomer Sullivan Arena, with Santa Cruz taking a 129-126 triple-overtime win over the Legends.
Both teams are members of the NBA Developmental League, the official minor league of the NBA with 16 teams across the U.S. The Frisco-based Legends are tied to the Dallas Mavericks.
Further, Choctaw Casino and Resort is a major sponsor of the Legends – so much so that the resort logo is featured on the front of player jerseys.
That partnership, together with Southeastern Oklahoma State University, was evident at the Sunday game. Admission was free, but donations were taken as part of SOSU’s effort to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The Legends, who are starting the franchise’s third year, play at Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco, Texas, just 75 miles south of Durant. The Sunday game was a pre-season exhibition for the Legends, who open the regular season on the road Friday in Tulsa.
“Frisco is not that far away from Durant, so we’re hoping to have a fan base along the borderline,” said new Legends head coach Eduardo Najera. He is a former Maverick player and also was a key part of Sooners basketball in college. “It’s great to be back in Oklahoma.”
And Najera wasn’t the only former Sooner on the floor of Sullivan Arena on Sunday. Taylor Griffin of the Warriors, a former Phoenix Sun, poured in 20 points for Santa Cruz. He and little brother Blake (L.A. Clippers) were part of the very successful 2009 OU team which reached the NCAA “Elite Eight.”
“I’ve been able to play basketball all over the world, but it’s always good to come back,” said Griffin. His goal is to make the cut at Golden State and have a chance to play against his hometown Thunder.
As for the game, nothing could overshadow the 49-point performance from Chris Douglas-Roberts of the Legends. At this pace, “CDR” could very well be a Dallas Maverick soon, and those who attended Sunday can brag about seeing him at the Sullivan.
NBADL Notes: Streetball dunk legend Kenny Dobbs provided a ceremonial pre-game dunk over SOSU Athletic Director Keith Baxter. It was an appropriate opening for the first pro basketball game on Choctaw soil, as Dobbs himself is a quarter Choctaw. Dobbs is on the Legends roster but was unable to compete Sunday due to a toe injury… Besides the Legends, Santa Cruz is affiliated with Golden State, and Oklahoma is home to the NBADL’s Tulsa 66ers (affiliated with the Oklahoma City Thunder)… The win puts Santa Cruz at 2-0 in the preseason since departing Bismarck, N.D. last year as the Dakota Wizards… In an ironic twist of basketball fate, the NBA affiliates for both the Legends and Santa Cruz met a day later - and also took their game to overtime. The Dallas Mavs lost to Golden State, 105-101.