There’s more to the Thunder’s barking than postgame interview fun

There’s more to the Thunder’s barking than postgame interview fun

The woofing began as something silly, but now, the players see it — and their interview crashing — as a symbol of what they are as a team.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Apr 18, 2024, 6:00am CDT

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Apr 18, 2024, 6:00am CDT

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Moments before the Thunder’s final regular season game, Jalen Williams walked to midcourt with a microphone in his hand. He had been tasked, as Thunder players sometimes have been over the years, to say a few words to the fans. Thank them for being there. Tell them how much they mean to the team.

But when the second-year standout from Santa Clara was introduced to the Paycom Center crowd, something interesting happened.

The fans serenaded him with barking.

Yes, the sound dogs make.

If you’ve watched the Thunder on TV and stuck around for the on-court interviews after wins, you know why the fans barked. But as the Thunder returns to the playoffs for the first time in four years, plenty of folks will be paying attention to Oklahoma City for the first time in a long time. Some things will look familiar. The packed arena. The fans standing until the first Thunder points are scored. The Thunder Girls and Rumble.

But the barking is new.

It has grown out of postgame TV interviews that have become part team activity, part sketch comedy. The sessions are punctuated by the players barking and woofing.

Why barking?

“I honestly don’t know,” said Jaylin Williams, who is credited with starting it along with Jalen Williams. “I know me and Dub, we just do a lot of random stuff, and I think one day, it was just barking.”

The origin story may be shrouded in a bit of mystery, but Nick Gallo, the sideline reporter for Thunder TV broadcasts, remembers the two Williamses crashing his postgame interview with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander after a come-from-behind win at Minnesota in mid-January. They put their arms around SGA and mugged for the camera. 

A few nights later after a blowout victory in San Antonio, the Williamses joined the postgame interview again, but this time, there was barking.

Over the next few weeks, the Williamses would bark as the interview came to a close and encourage the player being interviewed to do the same. Slowly but surely, they got their teammates to join in the canine chorus.

“We got Bis (Biyombo) to bark, and we got someone else to bark,” Jaylin Williams said. “We just kept adding people, and it’s kind of just become a thing.”

That, it has.

Now, the Williamses aren’t the only ones to crash the postgame parties. There will often be four or five players or more crowding around whoever is being interviewed, and yes, all of them bark at the end.

So, why barking? Is it about being a dawg, having a mentality of putting every bit of effort into helping your team win?

Jaylin Williams admitted that’s part of it.

“But I also feel like it’s like we’re a pack,” he said. “We’re a pack of dogs. We’re together. We’re going at the moment all together, five on five. Everybody against the other team.”

Defensive doberman Lu Dort said, “We’re going out there to compete and be tough, and that’s just a reminder to go out there and be strong.”

That togetherness is represented in the pack that gathers for postgame interviews, too. 

“They always pick one or two guys (to be interviewed), but you know, the whole team was playing,” Dort said. “It’s always nice to see a couple more guys come together and joke around.

“It’s just how we are. It’s just our funny side of things.”

That fun and joy is what Thunder coach Mark Daigneault loves most about the postgame barking and the interview crashing. Even though he doesn’t linger on the floor after the final buzzer — he heads immediately to the locker room — he is aware of what happens.

He has no intention of stopping it.

“The thing I’ll say about an NBA season is, there’s a grueling nature of it where it’s fatiguing with the travel and the redundancy of every single day,” he said.

He chuckled.

“At least five times a year, I go to the wrong room in the hotel. I take my hotel key, I go to room 417, I put it there, and then I go and I yell at the hotel staff that I have the wrong key, the keys don’t work and I’m really in room 600. So it’s a redundant experience. 

“And it’s also a highly emotional experience. You’re dealing with the ups and the downs and a lot of noise and all this, and these guys are ambitious individuals that are trying to build their careers no matter where they are. 

“We want to have a group of people in an environment where we can enjoy it, and they enjoy it. They enjoy each other. They enjoy the experiences they’re going through together. I would never try to blunt that.”

Daigneault acknowledges the fun and games have a time and place.

“Like postgame interview after a win? Have at it,” he said. “Two-point game in the fourth quarter? Let’s focus on the possession. But they do a great job at that and they enjoy the wins, and I have absolutely no problem with that.”

Not that he’s ready to take part.

“Do not suggest that,” he deadpanned.

There may be no Mark bark, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing the fun. “Who Let the Dogs Out” gets played in the arena occasionally, and fans have been serenading the players with barks as they enter the court.

Who knows what’s next? Take Your Dog to the Game Day? The Olate Dogs performing at halftime? A Dog Pound section during the playoffs?

All of that seems far-fetched, but fans showering Jalen Williams with barks before a pregame speech would’ve seemed just as unlikely when the whole thing started. 

“They enjoy watching us have fun,” Jaylin Williams said of Thunder fans. “That’s the best part about basketball is going out there, having fun, enjoying what we’re doing, and on the side …  we can have fun with our teammates.

“It’s fun seeing that everybody loves watching us have fun.”

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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