OKC ranked 79th in a national list of the best sports cities 

jor-league sports " the Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers and Stars.

For many years, Oklahoma City strived to develop its sports potential, a move started by the MAPS sales tax in 1993 that is responsible for the dramatic changes in Bricktown today. But it was a gamble, said Norick, known as the "Father of MAPS." Building the Ford Center wouldn't guarantee a major franchise, or even interest from one.

"They had to see it, so we took our chance and built our arena," he said. But the first chance to get a big-league team in 1997, an NHL franchise, failed. Shortly thereafter, a study was published that was titled: "Will Major League Sports Ever Come to Oklahoma?"

The answer seemed grim. Norick had faith in Clay Bennett, a self-admitted longtime lover of sports who had represented The Oklahoma Publishing Company's share in the San Antonio Spurs in the mid-'90s.

But the city's reputation still held it back. Witness the scene in a small convenience store in Bricktown today where a rack held 30 different kinds of postcards about Oklahoma: Just one was about sports " it showed two cowboys in a team roping event.

FAST BREAK
Tragic as it was, some say the most opportunistic thing that happened to Oklahoma City sports was Hurricane Katrina.

"We wouldn't have had the opportunity," said Rick Horrow, a sports consultant who worked with Norick on the MAPS one-cent sales tax in the early '90s. "Those opportunities wouldn't have come up, and I don't think the NBA would have even considered relocating from Seattle " or any other franchise down here " without it."

New Orleans Hornets owner George Shinn wasn't initially enthusiastic about coming to Oklahoma City. ("I said,

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