So the first season of the Tulsa Shock is now over. The team finished the year at a dismal 6-28, which was sufficient enough to dominate the cellar of the WNBA.
Funny enough though, this has happened before, not far from here.
Another relocated professional basketball team had a dismal year and turned it around the next season to make the playoffs and beat the eventual champions of the league during those same playoffs. I am talking about the Oklahoma City Thunder who could only win 23 games in their 2008-2009 inaugural season after moving from Seattle, then turning that around in 2010 to win 50 games and make the playoffs and deny the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers the first round sweep by posting two wins only to lose in game 6.
Will that happen with the Shock? It remains to be seen of course but after a less than 10-win season there’s nowhere to go but up. They too are a relocated team…in this case from Detroit…and in terms of wins and losses the first season in Oklahoma is comparative to the Thunder’s first season. Before the "purists" give the apples and oranges/night and day argument the WNBA plays a shorter season and while winning only six games is a dubious record the Thunder only won 23 games in an 82 game schedule in 2008-2009.
One thing that cannot be denied is fan support. While at the box office it’s nowhere close to the Thunder’s sellout record as a losing franchise in it’s first season the fan support for the Shock is there. Loud and proud the fans seemed to take the rocky first season in stride. Even when the Shock were being bested by last season’s champion they stayed to the end and supported them. That point was not lost upon coach Nolan Richardson, who had commented after a game this season, "In most cities you see the fans headed for the exits with two or three minutes left when your behind like we were but our fans stay to the end." Richardson said, "That shows a lot of character on the part of our fans."
True enough, the WNBA has a few naysayers in this country. The subject of late night talk show monologues and YouTube spoof videos, it will always be a "little sister" to the NBA. That will not likely change. You won’t see any of their players becoming a free agent and spending an hour of prime time to tell the nation where she’ll be playing next season like LeBron did, for example. Indeed, players in the WNBA don’t have the shelf life that NBA players have in terms of star power.
Regardless of that, the WNBA has been in existence since 1997 and it’s not going away. And neither are the Tulsa Shock.
Shock team president Steve Swetoha is already working on the Shock’s 2011 season. "The staff has Monday off and we’ll be back to work on Tuesday, "Swetoha quipped after the Shock’s 84-71 victory over the Chicago Sky that closed out the 2010 season. "The first season is in the books and we are already looking forward to next season. We’ll have our mascot Volt out in the community in the off season and while most of our players will be overseas in the off season if we can steal a few of them to make some appearances over the holidays that will be good too."
The Shock are here to stay, Tulsa, and while they weren’t as electrifying as they should have been this season they put together an entertaining first season. Hopefully the second season of the Tulsa Shock will be even better.
photo by Kevin Pyle.