NORMAN — The saying goes “One can judge a man by the company he keeps.” That gem of a quote is credited to Euripides, 480 B.C. Yet, it could just as easily apply to Oklahoma City Thunder chairman Clay Bennett.
Since bringing an NBA franchise to his home town, the Oklahoma City native has stayed pretty much in the shadows, letting general manager Sam Presti be the public face of the organization.
However, the business mogul and civic leader gave Oklahomans a rare glimpse into his personal life when he was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. What stood out to them most about his induction was who he chose to present him. He went with NBA legend Bill Russell.
Bennett didn’t choose the Hall of Fame center just to show off. He did it for the simplest of reasons. Russell is a friend.
“I have had a very nice relationship with Bill,” Bennett said. “I thought it might be fun to bring him to Oklahoma and let others hear and enjoy him as I have. He was very gracious to accept. I am honored he would be here.”
Russell is one of the most respected and admired athletes to ever come through the NBA. He is known as a man who chooses his friends carefully.
“I am proud to say that Clay is a friend of mine,” Russell said. “The friendship is based on the fact that when we think about each other, we never think about what he can do for me, but what I can do for him, and if I am able to do anything for him. That’s the way friendships are built.”
Building friendships and relationships has been key to Bennett’s success since he brought the Thunder to Oklahoma in 2008. They are the same characteristics he asks of his players in dealing with the community that has adopted them.