Sam Anderson arrived in Oklahoma City with a simple magazine assignment: to cover the city’s new (stolen) basketball team, the Thunder. This turned, very quickly, into an obsession. It wasn’t just the team that grabbed him. As Anderson wandered the city’s streets, talking to its citizens, and uncovering its wild history, he became convinced that Oklahoma City was unlike any other place in America—“one of the great weirdo cities of the world,” as he puts it in the book’s prologue, “as strange, in its way, as Venice or Dubai or Versailles or Pyongyang.”
The basketball team, including its star players and its brilliant General Manager Sam Presti, had become intertwined with powerful historical forces at the city’s core: its desperation to be a world-class metropolis, and its constant tug-of-war between order and chaos. The 2012-2013 basketball season was a hinge moment—in trading young superstar James Harden, Presti was gambling that he could harness the city’s chaotic energy through a meticulous Process that would yield a generation of championship teams. But he was betting against the very nature of OKC: the city’s long and idiosyncratic history of hubris, explosive growth, sudden busts, and self-sabotage.
BOOM TOWN: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding, its Apocalyptic Weather, its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis (Crown; August 21, 2018) is the product of Anderson’s remarkable journalistic instinct and five years delving deep into Oklahoma City in all of its idiosyncratic charm. In its exploration of a singular place, BOOM TOWN shows us a city as a microcosm of the American experiment, where the question of how people live together, come together, and make a collective life refuses an easy answer.