The nickname for New York’s old Yankee Stadium is “The House That Ruth Built.” That’s how much Babe Ruth mattered in the Bronx during the 1920s. Today, Oklahoma City has that feeling about its star basketball player Kevin Durant.
The look of the downtown area has dramatically changed since the Oklahoma City Thunder — with Durant — moved from Seattle eight years ago. The city is bracing itself for a decision by Durant that could shake things up. As of Friday he’s a free agent — although the city is praying he’ll choose to stay.
Bricktown lies on the eastern edge of downtown Oklahoma City, and at one time it was an abandoned warehouse district. But not now.
“It’s such a thriving area,” said Charles Stout, one of just a couple of bar owners in Bricktown in 1992.
Reno Ave. is closed on game days for pre-game festivities outside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But now they’re all over the place. Kevin Durant lives nearby. He’s a four-time NBA scoring champion. Around Oklahoma City, he’s just KD.
Lately, Stout said all the talk is about KD.
“We all talk about it. That’s your bar talk,” Stout said. “That’s the hot topic for the Thunder right now: ‘What do we do to keep KD?’
On Friday, Durant can sign with any NBA team as a free agent. All season long, there’s been speculation about his future. Even among his own family.
The entrance to Bricktown Brewery, which has been owned by Charles Stout since 1992.
“Everybody’s wanting to know what I’m going to do and all this stuff. It’s different and new for me, but I’m learning along the way,” Durant said after the Thunder’s elimination in the NBA’s Western Conference finals against Golden State.
Plenty of Oklahoma red clay has been tossed around since Durant’s arrival. Interstate 40 was re-routed, the 50-story Devon Energy skyscraper was built and construction continues. At the same time, Durant developed into one of the NBA’s premier players.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett wouldn’t speculate on the impact of Durant’s possible departure.
But based on the last few years, it could stall the influx of young techs who’ve energized the city.
Oklahoma City Thunder fans wear blue on closed Reno Ave. before heading inside the arena to support their team.
“That’s a whole new generation that sometimes we’re trying to deal with,” Cornett said.
Durant’s multi-million dollar contract may be too pricey for Thunder general manager Sam Presti, who sometimes eats in Bricktown — and runs into Stout.
“I always make sure he understands how important Kevin Durant is,” Stout said. “He gives me all the attention I deserve, I’m sure, but I’m sure he’s quite aware. I’m sure he’s doing what he can. We’ll just hope for the best in that situation.”
Along with Oklahoma City, the Thunder might be in for some rebuilding.
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