It was a sea of blue across the Oklahoma City Arena Wednesday night as the the city’s already beloved, two-season old franchise, the Thunder, heralded the team’s pull-away victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, placing them a win away from playing for the NBA Western Conference Championship against the Dallas Mavericks.
Perhaps as much as the win, though, what solidified fan unity may have been simply wearing the team color itself, a growing trend among basketball fans who have seemingly borrowed the habit from college football, and have been doing it for at least 10 years.
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“We find the earliest record of this around 2000 or 2001 with the Sacramento Kings, so it’s clearly been going on for a decade,” says Chris Granger, the NBA’s executive vice president of team marketing and business operations. “Sacramento has a fantastically passionate fan base and the Kings’ marketing staff lets their fans drive the direction of their brand.”
Granger said fans may dress themselves in say, Los Angeles Lakers gold or Miami Heat white, as part of the marketing effort of a particular franchise, which may be handing out T-shirts or towels in traditional colors. But other times, fans can be urged by the stadium or other fans to don a certain color — and spread the word with blog posts.
“There are scenarios where it’s organic, and fans know today is the day they wear red, so it’s certainly been growing over the years,” Granger explained. “I think it’s just fun for the fans and it demonstrates their connection with the team and pride in the community. It certainly highlights the connection between teams and the in-arena environment.”
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