Boomtown [boom·town] n
a town enjoying a business and population boom
I (Weston Shepherd) founded Boomtown Hoops (formerly Up The Thunder) in the summer of 2014 — leaving Thunder Obsessed after two seasons as an unpaid contributor. Official NBA team Twitter accounts were blossoming with personality at the time, but the local ball club had yet to discover the Internet. There were some blogs taking themselves a little too seriously, a few great beat reporters, like two podcasts (can you imagine?), and Royce Young — all tethered to reality by at least a shred of professional commitment to objectivity.
My strategy was to take it in the other direction. Point blank — the Thunder needed an Internet hype man. As a digital marketing professional that grew up with sports-writing dreams, I went for it. Why not?
My next move was the smartest decision I’ve made yet — I asked Dillon Young to take on the project with me.
Dillon and I became friends in high school journalism class a decade prior (2004), even earning lukewarm acclaim for our monthly contribution to the El Reno Tribune. We had kept in touch through fantasy football over the years (I eventually rage-quit his league and he knows why), but serendipitously found our interest in Thunder blogging/social media at the same time. It was like Karl Malone going to a party, knowing nobody, then spotting John Stockton across the crowded room.
It’s just a matter of time before they’re running pick-n-rolls near the refreshment table.
By most metrics, the first season on our own (2014-15) was a disaster. The Thunder were coming off a four-year stretch in which they reached the Finals once, and the Western Conference Finals three times — so, we had every reason to think we were getting in while the gettin’ was good.
Instead, Kevin Durant broke his foot and ended up playing just 27 games.
Russell Westbrook broke his hand, and later, his face.
I mean, there was a stretch where we were tweeting things like “maybe Perry Jones III can be the guy,” and Lance Thomas was a big part of our content strategy.
The Thunder missed the playoffs and sort of killed the whole “this finna be easy” vibe we had going. We settled in for the long haul.
Adam McLaughlin found us before our second season (2015-16), offering his graphic design assistance from somewhere weird and remote called Nebraska. Dillon and I had picked up a few thousand followers by then, but Adam immediately legitimized our content and provided a shot of adrenaline I’m not certain has worn off yet. We had been trying to establish something different, something we thought was missing — our first season showed promise, but all signs pointed toward a slow build. Adam’s arrival was like when little Mario finds the mushroom that turns him into Big Mario. His graphics were a total game-changer for us.
In Dillon and I’s maiden voyage — in which everyone got hurt and the Thunder missed the playoffs — we generated a little more than 9-million total impressions on our tweets during the season (October-March).
Blessed with Adam’s graphics and a wild playoff run that ended one game short of the Finals, we exploded to reach just under 30-million people on Twitter in our second season. We even got ourselves a sponsorship from a local fried chicken restaurant.
Durant’s future dominated the summer of 2016, so we teamed up with Koch Communications in OKC to launch a #StayKD campaign on social media. We went into our bag (so to speak) and came out with a videographer named Steven Lutsky, who would later work with Kobe Bryant on Detail. The final product might be my favorite piece of content we’ve ever produced.
Let the record show the song suggestion was mine. Steve went Beethoven on the rest.
…KD left anyway. Honeymoon over for us, right?
Not necessarily. It was like mom moved out and dad started acting way more awesome.
Riding the wave of KD-fueled fan anger and a fully-unleashed/loyal Westbrook, we exploded for 50-million Twitter impressions during the 2016-17 campaign — nearly doubling our reach from the season before.
We’ve been out here doing numbers from the couch ever since.
We have watched our Twitter following surpass 30,000 — and gone on to launch accounts across all social platforms. We’ve launched a website (three times), sold t-shirts with our logo on them, and even “merged” with DailyThunder.com from 2017-19, as I became Editor-in-Chief after Royce asked if I’d like to grab a cup of coffee.
We’ve been featured in ESPN, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and a host of other publications we read and enjoy. I think we’ve done everyone’s podcast, including internationally, and my stepdad once thought he was having a stroke when he randomly heard my voice on The Sports Animal. I was even invited to appear on Channel 8 in Tulsa to talk hoops and spent the entire show wondering why I was the only one not wearing a jacket.
Enes Kanter has stolen at least 15 different pieces of our content and passed it off as his own. I think we supplied roughly 65% of the material he used on the Twitter “trolling tour” he went on after KD left.
Getting our #content yanked by the Thunder’s backup center wasn’t on our list of eventualities, but that’s how this story has gone. Exciting, bizarre, and totally unexpected.
All the while, the three of us have balanced this passion project with engagements, weddings, the birth of children, and basically every other life event that arises while becoming an adult. We’ve picked each other up when we’ve lost our confidence, our jobs, or even someone close to us. Nothing is more valuable than time, and we’ve spent a lot of ours working on this together.
Ultimately, that’s what this project is about now.
We changed our name in June of 2020 — leaving Up The Thunder in the past, and moving toward our future as Boomtown Hoops. We’re doing this for each other, and for everyone that has shown us support us along the way.
We hope you find something here you enjoy.