When the Oklahoma City Thunder came to town, the 30-year-old Oklahoma Christian University graduate thought it would be neat if he and his co-workers could do something similar — “be the voice of the fan,” he said.
That idea morphed into the OKC ThunderCast podcast, which Lightsey and Blayne Cook produce. It focuses solely on the fortunes of the young NBA team now facing the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Western Conference Finals.
“As a podcast, we’ve tried to understand our role,” Lightsey said. “We’re not going to be covering breaking news or scooping stories. We’re not going to offer in-depth analysis, but we’re here truly to represent the fans and say, ‘Here’s what it’s like being a Thunder fan.’ That’s sort of our place, to do that.”
ThunderCast isn’t the only Thunder-related podcast out there. There’s also ThunderGround Radio, started by a couple of former Seattle SuperSonics fans, one of whom moved to Oklahoma shortly after the franchise did in 2008.
In a media world in which hardcore fans’ thirst for information isn’t necessarily satisfied by traditional outlets, the podcasts provide an off-the-beaten-track outlet for expression and discussion.
Thunder spokesman Dan Mahoney, while noting the podcasts weren’t affiliated with the franchise, said team officials are aware of and support the programs.
“Those podcasts tap into the excitement of the Thunder,” Mahoney said. “We welcome the enthusiasm for the team. It’s all a part of the new media. There are all sorts of outlet for fans to express themselves. From what we’ve seen, everyone is in it for the right reasons.”
The ThunderCast producers have a background in information technology, giving them a leg up on production quality. Cook, one of its two primary voices, is a musician who happened to have the recording equipment and wrote all the show’s music.
Both were self-described “hardcore” Vancouver Grizzlies fans until that team moved to Memphis. They adopted the next-closest NBA team, the SuperSonics, before Thomas moved from Canada to north-central Oklahoma.
About a year later, the SuperSonics followed him and became the Thunder. But instead of developing a white-hot hate for the team, they became fans.
“There was a while I was pretty bitter about it, too,” Ashbee said, “but how do you cheer against Kevin Durant or Nick Collison? They’re awesome.”
ThunderGround Radio got a boost from its affiliation with one of the top Thunder-related websites, Royce Young’s Daily Thunder.com. Ashbee and Thomas have interviewed Thunder television broadcasters Brian Davis, Grant Long and Kelly Crull, among others, and were invited to the team’s media day before the 2010-11 season.
While it’s difficult to determine exactly how many listeners they have, Cook noted one recent show reached more than 1,200 pairs of ears. Their podcasts have been accessed as far away as Africa and Australia.
“There was a time we thought this little podcast had a small market, limited to Oklahoma City or to basketball fans who listen to podcasts,” Cook said. “But our audience is growing much wider with the Thunder’s success.”
And it could be growing by one big listener. Told of the podcasts, Durant said he had never listened to them, but “I might have to now, since you said something. A lot of people have got stuff to say.”
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