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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's scoop shot is back, and the Thunder is back to .500

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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drove the lane, didn’t quite get to the basket and thus had to improvise. That’s not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to SGA.

The scoop shot was back.

The underhanded, velvety flip shot that Gilgeous-Alexander displayed in his first few Thunder games was back in vogue Friday night. SGA scored a career high 32 points in a 126-108 rout of the Phoenix Suns. He made 13 of his 18 shots, and several of Gilgeous-Alexander’s baskets were those patented scoops; he made eight of nine shots from the restricted area, and he muscled the Suns for none of them.

“Shai was obviously playing downhill and getting to the rim,” Billy Donovan said. “They were trying to switch a lot tonight. He did a really good job at the point of those switches, changing speed, changing direction. He’s got an array of shots in and around the basket, with both hands.”

Donovan is a half-century gym rat. He’s seen a lot of basketball wizardry. And Donovan was impressed with the spins SGA puts on the ball. Think Phil Mickelson with a pitching wedge.

“The English he puts on the ball,” Donovan said of Gilgeous-Alexander. “A lot of times, those aren’t straight layups. He’s got the ball extended. Got a really soft shot around the basket.”

When Gilgeous-Alexander plays like this, the Thunder is a tough out. Four nights earlier, against Chicago, SGA played 34 1/2 minutes and took three shots. That’s basketball malpractice.

Gilgeous-Alexander doesn’t have the ball in his hands a lot – Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder usually quarterback, and deservedly so – but he needs it more.

A scoring SGA makes the Thunder tough to guard and answers the question of whether this Thunder team is better offensively or defensively.

The Thunder entered Friday ranked 13th in the 30-team NBA in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency, but Gilgeous-Alexander’s explosion and the Thunder’s porous third quarter against Phoenix tilts the axis toward offense.

“We’re trying to become good at both,” Donovan said. “You gotta be able to play both to be a good team.”

But Donovan admitted the Thunder offense has “come a long way since those first few games when we couldn’t get to 100.” OKC reached triple digits only twice in its 1-4 start.

Now, OKC has reached .500 – 14-14 – for the first time all season, and defense might be the concern. The Thunder gave up 122 points to Memphis on Wednesday night, winning only with a comeback from 24 points down. And in the third quarter Friday night, the Suns scored 41 points.

Good thing the Thunder scored 44.

In fact, replay review waved off Ty Jerome’s running 3-pointer at the buzzer, else both teams would have scored 44 in the quarter. The Suns have been playing basketball for more than half a century and never had played a quarter when both teams scored at least 43 points in the same period.

The Thunder defense stiffened in the fourth quarter – the Suns scored just nine points the first 8:13 of the period – and OKC kept scoring. Particularly SGA, who scored via drives on three straight trips to blow open the game.

Then Gilgeous-Alexander scored on two more of those beautiful scoop shots, and there went the Suns.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander chases the basketball during Friday night's game against the Phoenix Suns. Alexander scored a career-high 32 points to lead OKC to a 126-108 victory. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander chases the basketball during Friday night's game against the Phoenix Suns. Alexander scored a career-high 32 points to lead OKC to a 126-108 victory. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6549ef6b5265d559adbc09b566f6542d.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander chases the basketball during Friday night's game against the Phoenix Suns. Alexander scored a career-high 32 points to lead OKC to a 126-108 victory. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander chases the basketball during Friday night's game against the Phoenix Suns. Alexander scored a career-high 32 points to lead OKC to a 126-108 victory. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander chases the basketball during Friday night's game against the Phoenix Suns. Alexander scored a career-high 32 points to lead OKC to a 126-108 victory. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-58c481f79b50cc38d4df3411ecfeb28d.jpg" alt="Photo - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, goes to the basket as Phoenix's Ricky Rubio defends during Friday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City won the game to reach .500 for the first time this season. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title=" Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, goes to the basket as Phoenix's Ricky Rubio defends during Friday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City won the game to reach .500 for the first time this season. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, right, goes to the basket as Phoenix's Ricky Rubio defends during Friday night's game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City won the game to reach .500 for the first time this season. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a239aa14cecc7ac6a8591dc0be3fc495.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) celebrates a point during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] " title="Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) celebrates a point during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) celebrates a point during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-95f79f5a2cbaa4ada669891582124ec2.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) shoots a 3-point as he is fouled by Phoenix's Aron Baynes during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) shoots a 3-point as he is fouled by Phoenix's Aron Baynes during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) shoots a 3-point as he is fouled by Phoenix's Aron Baynes during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-036026fb2ea7822da63ef1a30c78fce9.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) looks to get around Phoenix's Aron Baynes (46) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) looks to get around Phoenix's Aron Baynes (46) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) looks to get around Phoenix's Aron Baynes (46) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e8af5788ea2dd6e53be6b9657b892297.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) argues a call during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) argues a call during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) argues a call during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7801d035eaf6ff9c8aba27b94347b583.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) goes up for a lay up as Phoenix's Cameron Johnson (23) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) goes up for a lay up as Phoenix's Cameron Johnson (23) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) goes up for a lay up as Phoenix's Cameron Johnson (23) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7019b41b3ff1e0a522cd42256fde7cd0.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) gets turnover during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) gets turnover during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) gets turnover during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ac5715f3f9082fe50916fcd6261d9292.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) goes up for a lay up in between Phoenix's Elie Okobo (2) and Phoenix's Ty Jerome (10) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) goes up for a lay up in between Phoenix's Elie Okobo (2) and Phoenix's Ty Jerome (10) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) goes up for a lay up in between Phoenix's Elie Okobo (2) and Phoenix's Ty Jerome (10) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e2fe4a910aff52845813e4db9b61e827.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) looks to get around Phoenix's Kelly Oubre Jr. (3) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) looks to get around Phoenix's Kelly Oubre Jr. (3) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Chris Paul (3) looks to get around Phoenix's Kelly Oubre Jr. (3) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7427ff717831c3f5328edd8962a78313.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) goes up for a basket as Phoenix's Ricky Rubio (11) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) goes up for a basket as Phoenix's Ricky Rubio (11) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) goes up for a basket as Phoenix's Ricky Rubio (11) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a215b16480c5a0419666d59eb79c370a.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) celebrates a basket during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) celebrates a basket during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Dennis Schroder (17) celebrates a basket during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8b0a6be97f98c4242ca107f200a6da71.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) shoots the ball over Phoenix's Dario Saric (20) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) shoots the ball over Phoenix's Dario Saric (20) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Steven Adams (12) shoots the ball over Phoenix's Dario Saric (20) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-188e7e576136d7bcbe96081520fdd2b6.jpg" alt="Photo - Steven Adams (12) celebrates with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Steven Adams (12) celebrates with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Steven Adams (12) celebrates with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e9f7607ea49659d5e296a8f38a688c46.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) shoots as Phoenix's Ty Jerome (10) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) shoots as Phoenix's Ty Jerome (10) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Danilo Gallinari (8) shoots as Phoenix's Ty Jerome (10) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9a89832db876dbae605f69777986827f.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) shoots a basket as Phoenix's Aron Baynes (46) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) shoots a basket as Phoenix's Aron Baynes (46) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) shoots a basket as Phoenix's Aron Baynes (46) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f937b18831d97b9987677d1150209178.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Nerlens Noel (9) and Abdel Nader (11) defends against Phoenix's Kelly Oubre Jr. (3) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Nerlens Noel (9) and Abdel Nader (11) defends against Phoenix's Kelly Oubre Jr. (3) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Nerlens Noel (9) and Abdel Nader (11) defends against Phoenix's Kelly Oubre Jr. (3) during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0d60caaf6e3b8ac571f49ad97830186a.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Darius Bazley (7) makes a basket during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Darius Bazley (7) makes a basket during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Darius Bazley (7) makes a basket during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-308a17730a251ab25ed276a1872753bd.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Darius Bazley (7) goes up for a basket as Phoenix's Mikal Bridges (25) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]" title="Oklahoma City's Darius Bazley (7) goes up for a basket as Phoenix's Mikal Bridges (25) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City's Darius Bazley (7) goes up for a basket as Phoenix's Mikal Bridges (25) defends during the NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City , Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. [Sarah Phipps/The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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