A video tribute plays. The crowd rises from their seats. The fans erupt into cheers as their former All-Star is announced in the starting line-up.
This was what happened when Paul George returned to OKC after demanding over the summer to be traded to the LA Clippers to join forces with 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. spending only two years with the franchise.
Of course he is on better terms with Oklahoma than Kevin Durant. It also helps that the Clippers trade landed them impressive young guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who could be the new face of the franchise, and that the Thunder beat the Clippers on the night of Paul George’s return. OKC is having a lot of fun right now.
Paul George spent the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons in OKC after being traded by the Indiana Pacers.
On January 9th, Russell Westbrook will make his first appearance at Chesapeake Energy Arena as an opposing player. If Paul George got the positive reception that he did, imagine the response that the Thunder faithful will give to the best player in their history since the team relocated from Seattle.
Here’s an insight into how much Russell Westbrook has done for OKC and what he accomplished there:
- He leads the franchise in total minutes played, points, rebounds, assists, and steals
- His career high 58 point outing during his MVP season tops Kevin Durant’s career high of 54 that he set in his own MVP season
- Was a two-time scoring champ and two-time assists leader
- Became the only player besides Bob Pettit to win back-to-back All-Star MVP awards (2015, 2016)
- Won the NBA Community Assist award in 2015
- Beat Oscar Robertson’s single-season record with 42 triple-doubles
- Only player besides Big O to average a triple-double for an entire season, and only to do so for three consecutive seasons
If you get into the nitty-gritty this list gets even longer. Oklahoma loves Russ. They were sad to see him go, but embrace the change as his departure for Houston helped accelerate the rebuilding process by adding upon their endless amounts of picks and benefiting from the leadership of a revived Chris Paul. Spirits are high and cheers will be loud.
That is how PG13 expects to Russ to be received in his return. As he told the Washington Post, “Russell means way more than I did in Oklahoma and I got a standing O. So I expect nonstop cheering, nonstop appreciation for what he did. Not only was he an amazing basketball player for them and embraced their community, but he just did so much stuff in that community outside of basketball.”
General Manager Sam Presti, who helped orchestrate the impromptu Paul George and Russell Westbrook trades over the summer, had this to say regarding the latter’s return to OKC: “Russell Westbrook gave the Thunder and the Oklahoma community everything he had for over a decade. He arrived when his career and the organization were literally starting from zero. Russell was a catalyst for a lot of incredible moments and memories for our fans, but it is his relentlessness, longevity and commitment that define his legacy in Oklahoma City.”
Number 0 will be hanging from the rafters in OKC in the future. You can bet that the reception of Russell Westbrook will be very positive and he will be revered by the city for years to come.
Photo credit: The Oklahoman, The Athletic
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