OKC Thunder return to National TV vs Heat, big step in rebuild

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder have not played on National TV since the NBA Bubble back in September 2020. After two regular seasons of no Major National Network games (ESPN, TNT, ABC), the Thunder were in danger of a third straight season with no spotlight after the league flexed them out of TNT following the Chet Holmgren season-ending injury.

The OKC Thunder are sitting at 15-19, closing in on an NBA Play-in spot, just two games back of the Gold State Warriors, and have seen Shai Gilgeous-Alexander play at an MVP level. Now, the Thunder are finally getting the spotlight they deserve.

The Oklahoma City Thunder return to National TV for the first time since 2020 as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the OKC Thunder take on the Miami Heat on January 10th

Today, the NBA announced the game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat will be moved to TNT on January 10th. That game will tip-off at 6:30 and replace the previous game slated for TNT that night of the Detroit Pistons matching up with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Less than a calendar year ago, the national media spent their days calling the OKC Thunder the “black eye of the league”, now glowing pieces are being written about the 11-23 Spurs who are trying to model themselves after the Thunder. The coverage of this rebuild has been largely unfair by the media, and it is a welcomed sign to see OKC turn the corner in this way.

This is a big step for the Oklahoma City Thunder, to return to the national spotlight and have every basketball fan watching this scrappy young team. Not only is this a sign of OKC getting closer to its winning ways, but it is a step toward becoming a global brand again.

Just take Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Jalen Williams as examples. When a National audience gets exposed to their playstyle, then goes and looks them up and finds their social media accounts, and learns more about them as players and people the younger generation of fans will latch onto the trio just as they did for Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

Make no mistake, I am strictly talking about their cool factor and not holding Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Jalen Williams to that all-time great status of KD and Westbrook. What I am pointing out is how each of them has social media posts, interactions, and lifestyles that younger fans will gravitate to and want to follow up on and root for. That is how a small market team captures a national appeal, through the faces of their franchise.

While it may seem as though it is just one game in the midst of an 82-game schedule and a different channel you have to click on for a Tuesday in January, it is much deeper than that. The NBA is not like the NFL, flexing games does not happen as often. This is the NBA taking notice.

This is the league itself wanting to put this Thunder team on a bigger platform, this is the NBA believing what we all do in Oklahoma City that this young talent in Bricktown is ready to burst onto the scene sooner rather than later, this is the NBA believing that this organization is worth investing its backing into because the return on investment will be worth their wild.

January 10th will be a special date in this rebuild and you should make it an appointment viewing. For a young team, I would expect Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and the rest of the squad to have this game circled and ready to put on a show in their first contest in front of the basketball world.

For Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, this is his first ever National TV game since becoming the face of this franchise, since becoming an All-NBA level player, since signing his max contract, and since becoming the leader of his own team. Safe to say I am betting on SGA to have a little extra juice on January 10th.

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