Skip Navigation

Creating Opportunities: Ricky Graham

Published: Thursday, May 5, 2022

OSU-Tulsa class of 2022 student Ricky Graham grew up in a family whose motto was “Make it to the NBA!”

He was an exceptional talent from a young age. In fifth grade, he led the Baby Hornets to victory at Tulsa’s Walt Whitman Elementary. After a move to the St. Louis area, Graham made the varsity team as a high school sophomore; by his senior year he was team captain.

When it came time to plan for college, he faced an obstacle that still fills him with anger and motivation.

He asked his coach for help getting into Missouri State – but the coach refused, despite Graham’s talent and qualifications. A white student was the coach’s choice instead, a point that was made clear to Graham.

“That racism hurt, I was really hurt,” Graham said. “It messed with me for many years.”

Finding a new path

Graham’s dedication to higher education ultimately took him to a couple of community colleges, including Tulsa Community College. New fatherhood caused him to put his education on pause, but when the time was right he picked it up again and kept working toward his goal.

In 2019, Graham transferred from TCC to OSU-Tulsa. The flexibility offered by the class schedules at OSU-Tulsa made it possible for him to pursue and achieve his academic goals at a pace that worked for him.

Graham graduates in May with a Bachelor of Arts degree in multidisciplinary studies. With the recent arrival of twins, he and his wife are now the proud parents of three boys.  

At times, it would have been easier for Graham to forgo higher education to have more time to focus on his family, but Graham finds his academic pursuits rewarding. Now, with a flexible bachelor’s degree under his belt, he’s begun applying to master’s degree programs.

“I want to earn the highest degree in my field. I got tired of being a statistic,” Graham said. Though his graduate plans are still evolving, he is particularly interested in psychology programs. “I want to understand how the mind works.”

NBA hopeful

For the past year, Graham has also served as operations coordinator for the Thunder Fellows, a collaborative project of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Creative Arts Agency (CAA) designed to address the racial opportunity and wealth gaps in Oklahoma communities and unlock new opportunities in sports, entertainment and technology for Black high school and college students in the Tulsa area.

Rooted in the historic Greenwood District, the Thunder Fellows offers a data and analytics curriculum that is uniquely tailored to industry standards and designed to teach the kids programming and other career skills. The 30-week program also leverages a strategic pipeline of local and national corporations to provide exclusive access to mentors, professional coaching and meaningful employment opportunities for young Tulsans.

Graham says in addition to coordinating the operations of the program, he serves as a sort of unofficial big brother to the kids.

“I tell them to come to me with anything and I will help,” he said. “This job is like a dream come true.”

Although it wasn’t the path he imagined as a kid, Graham did end up making to the NBA – and so far his legacy with the Thunder Fellows is one of transformation and hope.

Pictured: Graham working with the Thunder Fellows student cohort in the Paycom Center, the arena where the OKC Thunder play.

Media Contact: Aaron Campbell | 918-594-8046 |