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Are your ears still ringing, Thunder fans?

I'm bad at non-sports superlatives.

Talk sports, and I can give you my opinion about who's the best, who's the worst, who's the most skilled, who's the most overrated, who's the most underrated. Even if I didn't get paid for this type of thing as a sports columnist, I'd still be able to rattle of those bests and worst.

But get outside the realm of what's happening on a court or a field, and I struggle.

What's the best movie ever made? Where's the best place to watch the sunset? Who's got the best sushi or burgers or steaks or tacos?

Uh ...

I know what I like, but picking one above all others is always tough for me.

So it goes with loudest crowds at sporting events. 

Fans love to talk about loud crowds, don't they? It's a regular topic of conversation, but I always struggle to say that a really raucous atmosphere was the loudest I've ever heard. I mean, the two that always come to mind are a Kansas basketball game at Allen Field House when I was in college and an Oklahoma State basketball game at Gallagher-Iba in my early years at The Oklahoman.

That Kansas game was against then-defending champ UCLA, and the Bruins built a big early lead. Led by as many as 18 points in the first half. But the Jayhawks slowly, slowly, slowly chipped away, and when they tied the thing early in the second half, I could not distinguish sounds. The person sitting next to me? Couldn't hear a word they said. The noise had melded together into this wall of sound.

Same thing at that OSU game. It was actually against Kansas, a Jayhawk team that included Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden and that bunch. Truthfully, the buildup for the game was as significant as any I remember covering. And the Cowboys came out and ran the Jayhawks off the court. It was a 33-point rout -- and I thought the ceiling might pop off the building. 

But even with those two games, I feel like I've got a new leader in the clubhouse.

I feel it in my ears.

I sit here typing some 15 hours after the Thunder's 113-99 closeout victory over the Spurs, and my ears are still ringing. I'm sure I'm not the only person who was at The Peake on Thursday night who can say that. 

I've been in the arena when it's been loud for Thunder games. Lots of times. But I honestly don't remember the ringing lingering quite this long.

Listen, I know part of the equation is music volume. I'm not sure how high The Peake sound folks can turn up the speakers, but whatever that top level is, they went there and added another 10 or 20 notches. Either that or they chose as much loud and bombastic hard rock stuff as they could find. But what comes out of the speakers is a small part of why my ears are still ringing.

The Thunder fans were simply outstanding.

I suspected they would be. Their team has been playing some inspiring basketball. Winning for a second time at San Antonio in the series on Tuesday pumped up the Thunder faithful even more. Suddenly, their team had a chance to do something that seemed unfathomable a little over a week ago.

Knockout the Spurs?

Whodathunkit after Game 1?

So, yes, I thought the crowd would be spectacular, and it was locked in from the beginning. Loud in the first half. Loud as the Thunder built its lead. Loud as it kicked more dirt on the Spurs' grave. Fans seemed to sense how much they were helping their team.

It was more of the same in the second half. And even when the Spurs charged hard in the fourth quarter, Thunder fans provided a lift. They weren't just cheering when their team did something spectacular. They were proactive, cheering to encourage, cheering to help, cheering to inspire.

It was good stuff.

About the only thing The Peake crowd didn't get to do was send Tim Duncan out with a mighty ovation. The legendary Spur played the entire fourth quarter and was frankly as good as he had been all series. But with the 40-year-old contemplating retirement (or so we have to think), Thursday night could've been his last game. Even with the game well out of reach, Duncan stayed in. I don't know if that was his choice or Gregg Popovich's, but frankly, I suspect Duncan didn't want any part of a big, flowery showing.

Still, The Peake would've treated him right.

As it was, a significant number of the folks sitting in the south end of the arena showered him with applause as he left the court after the post-game handshakes. There was a noticeable uptick in the volume as Duncan made his way toward the tunnel. He even raised a hand to acknowledge the cheers.

Classy moves on both sides.

It was a night lots of folks will remember for a long time -- probably even longer than their ears ring.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›