Spurs and Thunder star in NBA’s Western Conference Finals: 10 extra dimensions

The clash of the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA’s Western Conference finals may fly a bit under the national radar when it opens Sunday – at least for casual sports fans. Played far from the media capitals on either coast, it may seem an intramural regional tussle. But for hard-core fans, this has “must watch” stamped all over it. Here are 10 factors that make this showdown intriguing.

Darren Abate/AP/File
In this file photo, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, left, of France, drives around Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in San Antonio.

1. Texas vs. Oklahoma rivalry

There’s always a McCoys vs. Hatfields flavor whenever these neighboring states hook up in sports. The stakes (i.e. bragging rights) are highest in football, especially in the traditional Red River Rivalry, the annual shootout between the teams of the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma. But things have been heating up collegiately in basketball in recent years, and with the Thunder’s arrival in  Oklahoma City in 2008, the NBA represents a new front for competition between the states.

Ironically, three of Oklahoma City’s players, including its biggest star, Kevin Durant, are Texas products – Durant and Royal Ivey played for the University of Texas, while center Kendrick Perkins entered the NBA directly from Clifton J. Ozzen High School in Beaumont, Texas. The Spurs, meanwhile, have only one Texan on their roster (Cory Joseph) and no Oklahomans.

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