Zusatztext 79265504 Informationen zum Autor Sam Anderson is currently a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine . Formerly a book critic for New York Magazine and regular contributor to Slate ! Anderson's journalism and essays have won numerous awards! including the National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism. He lives in New York with his family. Klappentext A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018 NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, THE ECONOMIST AND DEADSPIN Award-winning journalist Sam Anderson's long-awaited debut is a brilliant, kaleidoscopic narrative of Oklahoma City-a great American story of civics, basketball, and destiny. Oklahoma City was born from chaos. It was founded in a bizarre but momentous "Land Run" in 1889, when thousands of people lined up along the borders of Oklahoma Territory and rushed in at noon to stake their claims. Since then, it has been a city torn between the wild energy that drives its outsized ambitions, and the forces of order that seek sustainable progress. Nowhere was this dynamic better realized than in the drama of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team's 2012-13 season, when the Thunder's brilliant general manager, Sam Presti, ignited a firestorm by trading future superstar James Harden just days before the first game. Presti's all-in gamble on "the Process"-the patient, methodical management style that dictated the trade as the team's best hope for long-term greatness-kicked off a pivotal year in the city's history, one that would include pitched battles over urban planning, a series of cataclysmic tornadoes, and the frenzied hope that an NBA championship might finally deliver the glory of which the city had always dreamed. Boom Town announces the arrival of an exciting literary voice. Sam Anderson, former book critic for New York magazine and now a staff writer at the New York Times magazine, unfolds an idiosyncratic mix of American history, sports reporting, urban studies, gonzo memoir, and much more to tell the strange but compelling story of an American city whose unique mix of geography and history make it a fascinating microcosm of the democratic experiment. Filled with characters ranging from NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook; to Flaming Lips oddball frontman Wayne Coyne; to legendary Great Plains meteorologist Gary England; to Stanley Draper, Oklahoma City's would-be Robert Moses; to civil rights activist Clara Luper; to the citizens and public servants who survived the notorious 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, Boom Town offers a remarkable look at the urban tapestry woven from control and chaos, sports and civics. A Visitor's Guide to Oklahoma City Welcome to Oklahoma City. It's been a long day. You've taken two flights to get here, possibly three. You've eaten unfortunate foods. You fell asleep at the Memphis airport, somehow, with your head leaning hard against the wall--you slept so deeply that the woman working at the gate had to actually come shake you awake just before the plane took off. Don't be embarrassed. It's all part of the long, unglamorous process of getting yourself to a minor airport out in the middle of the country. But now you've made it. Welcome. Come along. Stretch your legs. The OKC airport is small, so you'll have no trouble finding your way around. First, get yourself a car. You won't be able to survive here without one. Go to the rental desk. The clerk will be curious to know why you are here, all the way from wherever you have come; tell him. If the conversation lulls, you can talk about the Thunder. (He will be a fan.) He might ask you about the James Harden crisis. Will Harden stay or will he go? Tell him that no one knows for sure, obviously, but that if you had to bet, you'd bet he'll stay. The young man will encourage you to pay an ...
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2019 ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION
A NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR'S CHOICE
“[Anderson] has discovered a subject that energizes him the way a birch-bark canoe roused John McPhee, the way a French meal stoked M.F.K. Fisher and the way a burning Bronx fired up Jonathan Mahler… Unlike navel-gazing yappers like Hunter S. Thompson, Anderson doesn’t splatter himself all over the story. He never drowns out anyone with his sly, entertaining voice. His sensibility, sophisticated though it may be, is generous enough to stand up and offer its seat to others… For all of the surrealism in [Franz Kafka’s Oklahoma-set] Amerika, whose runic metaphysics helped give rise to the adjective ‘Kafkaesque,’ the manuscript doesn’t begin to match the genuinely American phantasmagoria of Boom Town. What’s most surreal about Oklahoma City, as brilliantly rendered in Anderson’s wild and gusty history, is that this city is for real.”
—THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
“[Boom Town is a] dizzyingly pleasurable new history of Oklahoma City. If ‘dizzyingly pleasurable’ and ‘Oklahoma City’ aren’t words you expect to see in the same sentence, Anderson’s book wants to convince you that the capital of America’s forty-sixth state is the most secretly fascinating place on earth… It’s a peculiarly concentrated locus of old American energies, creative, destructive, and bizarre, and Anderson illuminates both the romance and the hubris of a city that went from wild gunfights to unrestrained freeways in a single human lifetime… Boom Town is a dazzling urban history… Anderson writes beautifully about the human beings he encounters, both living and dead. A minute-by-minute account of the Oklahoma City bombing left me almost in tears… Anderson’s curious, hilarious, and wildly erudite book vividly evokes the bonk he describes here, as it holds together, quivers, and remakes itself over the following century.”
—Brian Phillips, THE NEW YORKER
“If you could snap your fingers and instantly invent a city from scratch, you’d be hard-pressed to conjure a weirder one than Oklahoma City… This, and so much more, is the subject of Sam Anderson’s fantastic new book, Boom Town, an enthralling, hilarious, and unexpectedly moving biography of Oklahoma City that already feels like a classic of its kind. Think City of Quartz if Mike Davis was a basketball junkie (City of Courts?) or if Jane Jacobs had co-written Blazing Saddles... [Anderson] will have you opening your preferred travel app, idly pricing tickets to the Sooner State."
—Jack Hamilton, SLATE
“A delightfully deep dive into ‘one of the great weirdo cities of the world’… [Boom Town is] one of the more unexpectedly entertaining -- and stimulating -- nonfiction romps in recent memory. Anderson deftly weaves together history, personalities and his own observations.”
—SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"[Boom Town is] one of my favorite things I've read in the past year. I think it will go down in history as one of the great pieces of narrative nonfiction."
—ROMAN MARS, 99% Invisible
“It’s hard to believe that any biography of any American city could be more consistently interesting, entertaining and informative than this one."
“In writing both idiosyncratic and unerring, this culture critic (formerly of New York) proves that any subject, in the right hands, can mesmerize and delight… Befitting the title, OKC is always on the verge of triumph (oil booms, redevelopment) and disaster (oil busts, tornadoes), a young locale more archetypal of the American mythos than the 26 bigger cities in the country.”
—VULTURE, "8 New Books You Should Read This August"
“Boom Town serves as a guidebook to a corner of America by turns utterly unfamiliar and easily recognizable… Anderson writes about Oklahoma City with zeal and devotion, his rollicking prose perfectly suited to Oklahoma City’s boom mentality. He expertly deploys singular characters to illustrate the city’s strangeness… The city demands attention.”
—WALL STREET JOURNAL
“Boom Town [is a] nuanced, immersive portrait of Oklahoma City… This is the strength, the unlikely triumph, of Boom Town, which takes a city almost universally overlooked and turns it into a metaphor for, well, everything.”
—THE WASHINGTON POST
“A bonkers, kitchen-sink cultural history of Oklahoma City, with the local Thunder’s would-be dynasty as its driving soul.”
—NEW YORK TIMES
“[Anderson sets] a winning course in his biography of Oklahoma’s capital city. What could have easily devolved into a bone-dry academic text instead surfaces as an animated Plains epic that complicates the popular notion of a supposedly stale place… Every city, every town, has an epic tale, but it can be hard to locate a through line, the tissue connecting every major figure, historical event, and local affair. Writers and critics sometimes talk of place as a character itself, referring to some hazy sense that setting plays a crucial role in a story. In Boom Town, that character is squarely in the crosshairs… I haven’t read a nonfiction book that has made me yearn so strongly to visit an American city since John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
“[Anderson] is a gifted sports writer who finds high drama not only in the play-by-play narratives of individual games, but in the off-court dynamics as well… [Anderson] empathizes with and loves Oklahoma City for all of its weirdness. He doesn’t slum with pity or rage. But he is at his best describing farces and historical tragedies in sober, simile-rich prose.”
—LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS
“The decorated journalist Sam Anderson, a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, has set out to fill a yawning gap in the American popular imagination: our tendency to ignore the nation’s 27th-largest metropolis, Oklahoma City. Anderson’s rollicking narrative is woven from two threads —the vicissitudes of the city’s NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the city’s boom-and-bust history… Anderson runs wild with this material.”
“Every city should be so lucky as to have a Sam Anderson in its corner. In the often dull genre of urban biographies, Boom Town is a rollicking, engaging, and occasionally hilarious account of the past and future of Oklahoma City… Anderson and Boom Town show us how to see a city with fresh eyes.”
—PLANETIZEN (Top 10 Urban Planning Books of 2018)
“Boom Town is filled with so many crazy, hilarious tales that it will cause most readers to second guess long held assumptions. Surprises are found throughout Anderson’s tales, even for those who consider themselves most informed about Oklahoma City. Boom Town, however, aspires for a national audience. Putting aside civic pride and obvious bias, this well written book deserves that audience and may be the key to helping those outside of Oklahoma realize its capital city is far more colorful, unpredictable, dangerous and fun than is represented by its reputation of being ‘nice.’ Add Boom Town to your collection for the entertainment; appreciate it afterward for the education.”
“Maybe you didn’t know that Oklahoma City was the key to everything. But it is. Boom Town is a bone-shaking thrill ride through civic history.”
"A wild ride of a book that goes from fascinating to hilarious to hair-raising to powerfully moving, sometimes in the space of just a few pages. With clear-eyed affection and consummate skill, Anderson shows us an amazing American place wherein we recognize ourselves."
"No one—no one—writes like Sam Anderson: so vividly, so stylishly, so smartly, so weirdly, so funnily. By the time I’d finished this doozy of a book, he had me asking: Oklahoma City, where have you been all my life?"
“In Boom Town, Sam Anderson shrewdly anatomizes the deep strangeness of Oklahoma City—its messy history of hope, self-subversion, and occasional wretched luck—and of its citizens’ grandiose belief in their capacity for renewal and greatness. The result, a yarn that deftly navigates between then and now, brims with wit, bright color, relentless reporting, and, most admirably, empathy.”
“Sam Anderson is a visionary artist who sees what others can’t; he’s a master wordsmith who creates beauty and light from confusion and plunging darkness; he's our tour guide to a better tomorrow because he understands a complex and foundational history that is our launching pad to new and unexplored universes.”
“This book offers [Anderson’s] take on the histories of both [the Oklahoma City Thunder and its boom or bust hometown], rendered through research, copious interviews, and a sharp eye for the quirky. Written with style and amazingly good humor, considering the hopes blooming and dashed nature of both city and team, this should please a wide range of readers, from basketball fans to historians to city planners.”
—LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred)
“A rollicking, kaleidoscopic chronicle of America’s 27th-largest city… Anderson’s lively and empathetic saga captures the outsize ambitions, provincial realities, and vibrant history of a quintessentially American city.”
“An irreverent look at one of the nation's quirkier cities… [Boom Town is] a rollicking [and] entertaining history of a city that, for all its booms and busts, is never boring.”
“[Anderson’s] first book, Boom Town, is a hilarious history and drive-through study of this Midwestern city born of bedlam and ambition… Anderson digs relentlessly into the state capital’s boom-and-bust history. Illustrated with archival photos, his story jumps between top-flight sportswriting and more lighthearted and diverse chapters on the idiosyncrasies of OKC.”
Sam Anderson is currently a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine. Formerly a book critic for New York Magazine and regular contributor to Slate, Anderson's journalism and essays have won numerous awards, including the National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism. He lives in New York with his family.
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, THE ECONOMIST AND DEADSPIN
Award-winning journalist Sam Anderson's long-awaited debut is a brilliant, kaleidoscopic narrative of Oklahoma City-a great American story of civics, basketball, and destiny.
Oklahoma City was born from chaos. It was founded in a bizarre but momentous "Land Run" in 1889, when thousands of people lined up along the borders of Oklahoma Territory and rushed in at noon to stake their claims. Since then, it has been a city torn between the wild energy that drives its outsized ambitions, and the forces of order that seek sustainable progress. Nowhere was this dynamic better realized than in the drama of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team's 2012-13 season, when the Thunder's brilliant general manager, Sam Presti, ignited a firestorm by trading future superstar James Harden just days before the first game. Presti's all-in gamble on "the Process"-the patient, methodical management style that dictated the trade as the team's best hope for long-term greatness-kicked off a pivotal year in the city's history, one that would include pitched battles over urban planning, a series of cataclysmic tornadoes, and the frenzied hope that an NBA championship might finally deliver the glory of which the city had always dreamed.
Boom Town announces the arrival of an exciting literary voice. Sam Anderson, former book critic for New York magazine and now a staff writer at the New York Times magazine, unfolds an idiosyncratic mix of American history, sports reporting, urban studies, gonzo memoir, and much more to tell the strange but compelling story of an American city whose unique mix of geography and history make it a fascinating microcosm of the democratic experiment. Filled with characters ranging from NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook; to Flaming Lips oddball frontman Wayne Coyne; to legendary Great Plains meteorologist Gary England; to Stanley Draper, Oklahoma City's would-be Robert Moses; to civil rights activist Clara Luper; to the citizens and public servants who survived the notorious 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, Boom Town offers a remarkable look at the urban tapestry woven from control and chaos, sports and civics.
A Visitor’s Guide to Oklahoma City
Welcome to Oklahoma City. It’s been a long day. You’ve taken two flights to get here, possibly three. You’ve eaten unfortunate foods. You fell asleep at the Memphis airport, somehow, with your head leaning hard against the wall--you slept so deeply that the woman working at the gate had to actually come shake you awake just before the plane took off. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s all part of the long, unglamorous process of getting yourself to a minor airport out in the middle of the country. But now you’ve made it. Welcome. Come along. Stretch your legs. The OKC airport is small, so you’ll have no trouble finding your way around.
First, get yourself a car. You won’t be able to survive here without one. Go to the rental desk. The clerk will be curious to know why you are here, all the way from wherever you have come; tell him. If the conversation lulls, you can talk about the Thunder. (He will be a fan.) He might ask you about the James Harden crisis. Will Harden stay or will he go? Tell him that no one knows for sure, obviously, but that if you had to bet, you’d bet he’ll stay. The young man will encourage you to pay an extra $10 per day to upgrade to a Mustang--a special deal, he’ll tell you--but do your best to resist the temptation, because when you get out to the parking garage you’ll suddenly remember what a Mustang looks like: like a shark, with a fat snout, bullet-nosed and swaggering. Politely refuse, and collect the keys to some kind of nondescript sedan.
Walk out of the terminal. On your way out you’ll see a statue: Will Rogers, the folksy sage of the Great Plains, cast in bronze, wearing a bronze cowboy hat, riding a bronze horse, with a bronze lasso frozen in the air beside him. The whole airport is named after him: Will Rogers World Airport. “World” is meaningless here because there are actually no international flights. It’s just another example of one of Oklahoma City’s defining behaviors: trying to make itself seem bigger than it is. The city conducts itself, whenever possible, like a hiker threatened by a bear in the woods, hysterically exaggerating its size. Before you move on, take a moment to stop and look at the Will Rogers statue. (Now is perhaps not the time to think about the fact that Will Rogers died in a plane crash.) Here is another peculiarity of arriving in Oklahoma City: the statue will always be the same, but the sky over it will always be different. Most places have one sky; Oklahoma City has about twelve. There seem to be many different vectors up there, completely unrelated to one another, happening all at once. Sometimes you’ll see silent lightning blinking, very high, in one region, while smooth white clouds slide around lowly behind you. Will Rogers’s lasso, if you look through it, might be holding the sun, might be holding some ragged cirrus clouds, might be holding a volcanic piece of dusk.
Once you’ve come to grips with the sky, move on from the statue, walk into the parking garage, pick up your rental car, steer it out onto the streets.
Congratulations: you are now driving in Oklahoma City, an activity as characteristic as poling a gondola around Venice or weaving a moped through the crowds of central Marrakech. You have driven cars elsewhere, but it will never have felt exactly like this. Oklahoma City is the natural habitat of cars. In normal cities, cars feel slightly out of place, like zoo animals, pacing narrow roads between mobs of gawking pedestrians. Here in Oklahoma City, cars can stretch, roar, and run free. Many of the city’s neighborhoods lack sidewalks, intentionally, as a symbol of status, because walking was considered to be outmoded, primitive, impoverished, a little sad, an activity that might even distract the cars, or offend them. You will hear, while you are here, two basic axioms about driving in OKC, each of which seems to violate the laws of space-time, but each of which is true:
1. Even traffic jams move the speed limit.
2. Everywhere is only fifteen minutes away.
Drive. The airport roads are nice and new. They take you out under the wide skies. You are moving like a smooth cloud. You will notice, out your windows, that Oklahoma City has no topography to speak of: everything is flat in every direction. This is because it was once the bottom of an ancient ocean. Keep looking around. Before you’ve even left the airport, you will see oil pumps working along the side of the road. Oklahoma is completely devoted to sucking fossil fuels up out of the ground, and unembarrassed about its devotion. How else would it be possible to enable all of this wonderful driving? You will pass billboards for drilling equipment, and when you get into town you will see active oil pumps in people’s backyards. The state capitol building had a working oil derrick in front of it for many decades before it even had a dome.
Keep driving. Leave the airport, merge onto the freeway, head toward the city center. There are signs, but you won’t need them: you can navigate by the skyscraper--skyscraper, singular, because there is, by modern standards, only the one, and it is so completely out of scale to the rest of the city that you can see it from everywhere else. It is nearly twice as tall as any other structure for one hundred miles in every direction. It dominates downtown, glittering like an open blade. This is the Devon Tower, headquarters of one of OKC’s biggest energy companies, a glass-and-steel monument to the miracle of hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. “fracking,” the lucrative but controversial practice of destroying underground rock formations with a slurry of wet chemicals in order to release huge quantities of natural gas. But don’t worry about the source of the wealth. You are here to enjoy Oklahoma City, the newly shiny center of which you are rapidly approaching. The skyscraper was meant to make the city seem big, but mostly it makes everything around it look small: thick, stocky, ancient, heavy, extremely midwestern.
It is perfect, however, for navigation. Ignore your GPS. It can’t help you now. Keep your eye on the skyscraper. OKC is in the midst of a downtown renaissance, a growth whose improbability--after decades of busts and self-inflicted disappointments and unspeakable tragedies--has made the place almost legendary among contemporary American cities, and one result of this renaissance is constant construction. Streets are being rerouted, public art installed, medians expensively landscaped. Competing energy companies are building themselves increasingly grand headquarters. The old elevated highway that has loomed, for nearly fifty years, over the center of the city is now in the midst of being torn down. Its on-ramps and off-ramps end, eerily, in midair--entrances and exits to a ghost road that your GPS will keep trying to make you drive on. Ignore it. Drive on the actual roads. You’ll cross over the Oklahoma River, healthy and full, although it is not, technically, a river anymore, because it has been corralled in a concrete trough that is fed and drained by dams at either end, which makes it more like a canal, really, or an inland lake. But at least now it is full of water, more dependable than the natural river, and as such it has become the anchor of a whole new area of town: the Boathouse District, which draws competitive rowers from all over the world, and which is getting ready to host an episode of American Idol. As you drive over the water, you might see Olympic kayakers training.
Keep driving. Now that you’re in Oklahoma City, it won’t take you long to get to know the basic landmarks. You’ll see signs for the tourist destinations: Bricktown, Stockyards City, Myriad Botanical Gardens, Chesapeake Energy Arena, the National Memorial. Everything is more or less right on top of everything else. Neighborhoods that sound like whole separate regions (Automobile Alley, Midtown, SoSA) are really just a few blocks apart. You could walk it all easily, if that’s how things were done here. The Plaza District, one of the city’s much-touted hip new neighborhoods, is basically two blocks of Sixteenth Street. Oklahoma City is tiny and huge at the same time, sprawling and compressed. Residents often refer to it as “the biggest small town in America,” and that might be literally true. Although its population ranks only twenty-ninth in the contiguous United States, it is an absolute juggernaut in square mileage--bigger, by far, than Los Angeles or New York or Chicago. Drive for fifteen minutes in any direction and the city will begin to blend with the country. You’ll think you’ve left town, but you haven’t. Not even close. It will take many more miles of driving, much more open country, before you’ll see a sign that says, out of nowhere, leaving oklahoma city.
But let’s not do that. Why would we do that? This is Oklahoma City. Settle in. We’ll be here for a while.
The first time I saw James Harden up close, I was hypnotized by his beard. It was dense and black and shockingly large--a whole second head, practically, hanging under Harden’s regular head: a shadow head. I stared and stared. This was October 2012, during Thunder training camp--a hinge moment, although we didn’t know it yet, on which the future of Oklahoma City was right about to turn. Harden was talking (there was a hole in the middle of his beard for his mouth), but I could hardly pay attention to what he was saying because the beard, up close, was overwhelming, a real ninety-ninth-percentile super-mammalian face bush. A slow-motion testosterone explosion. I had seen it many times before, of course, on screens. Harden was one of the NBA’s rising young stars, and the Thunder was one of the great stories in all of professional sports, and so his beard had become, over the previous months, not only a local folk hero and symbol of the OKC renaissance but a full‑on international brand, one of America’s most famous hair things. (There was a new Foot Locker commercial in which Harden’s teammate Russell Westbrook squirted mustard on it, only for Harden to rip the beard off to reveal, underneath, another equally lush backup beard.) In person, however, the beard was something else entirely, more urgent and commanding and strange. It was wet from practice, and as Harden spoke it shifted and glistened, scattering tiny sparkles in every direction.
Harden was, at that moment, one of the youngest members of one of the youngest basketball teams in NBA history, a team that had improved so much, so quickly, over the previous few seasons that it seemed destined soon to devour the league. The question, in those days, was not if the Thunder would win a championship, only of how many times. The previous season had been almost impossibly glorious: a 16-3 start, two players (the angelic Kevin Durant, the devilish Russell Westbrook) honored with selection to All-NBA Teams, a Sixth Man of the Year Award for Harden, and all of it capped off by an underdog run to the NBA Finals. In July, all three of the Thunder’s young stars were chosen to represent the United States in the Olympics, making OKC the first franchise in NBA history to send three players to the U.S. national team. There was no reason, going forward, for anything other than wild optimism. Unless, of course--unless. Unless James Harden.
Harden and his beard were standing, on that afternoon, in the Thunder’s new and extremely shiny $19 million practice facility. I was part of a large crowd of reporters, local and national, who had assembled to ask him questions. We were hoping to extract some new shred of intel, however small, about what was beginning to be thought of, in OKC and beyond, as the Harden crisis. Would James Harden stay with the Thunder, everyone was asking, or would he go find his own team somewhere else? This threat had become, slowly, the story of the summer--it had begun to overshadow even the euphoric afterglow of that magical trip to the Finals. The citizens of OKC were terrified, suddenly, that Harden was going to leave them. “I wouldn’t take anyone in the league over the Beard,” wrote a fan on the discussion board OKCTalk. “I will trade in all of my Thunder gear and wipe my memory of Thunder games if that happens.”
What we knew, so far, was only this: James Harden was an unorthodox and magnetic young player, far better than anyone had reasonably expected, and his sudden rise toward stardom had elevated the Thunder from a very good team to a potentially great one. But it had also complicated things. Harden came off the bench behind the exotic Swiss defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha. The problem was that Harden was clearly too good to be a backup. He was a precious node of order among the chaos of an NBA game. You could give him the ball and get out of the way and trust him, almost every time, to do something dangerous with it. But the Thunder already had two ball-dominating stars in Westbrook and Durant. Was there really room for a third?
Harden’s rookie contract was set to expire at the end of the coming season, in the summer of 2013, but everyone expected him to solve things much sooner than that, like any second now, in the offseason of 2012, to keep the Thunder’s momentum rolling. The early signs were good. “This team is like a family,” Harden said, right after the Finals ended. “We’re really brothers. We hang out most of the time every single day. You won’t find any other team like this. I love it here.” And yet the weeks passed, and the Thunder took care of all kinds of other business--the draft, a contract extension for their head coach--and still Harden’s new deal did not get signed. The team picked up the seven-foot-three Hasheem Thabeet, the tallest man in the NBA, as their backup center. They extended the contract of their power forward, Serge Ibaka, and filled front-office positions. And yet they could not pin down James Harden.
As the summer churned on, people in OKC remained optimistic. In July, at Team USA training camp, Sports Illustrated asked Harden about his plans. “I’m pretty--a hundred percent--I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be in Oklahoma City,” he said. This was meant to be reassuring, but there was a large difference between “pretty” and “a hundred percent,” and much of OKC’s basketball future now lived in that zone. A Thunder blog, Welcome to Loud City, ran a poll about Harden’s future, and 80 percent of respondents predicted that he would stay--that he either “remains 6th man and keeps the Thunder as the most balanced team in the NBA” or “moves to the starting SG position and continues his ascent.” The two pessimistic options, that Harden would refuse to sign or that OKC would trade him, sank right to the bottom, tied with only thirteen votes apiece.