We are a spoiled fan base…
In Honor of its 75th season, the NBA has recently released a list of the top 75 players to play the game of basketball. The rollout was done over the course of three days starting on the opening night of the NBA season and contains players from all eras of the game ranked in no particular order.
Five of the announced players had spent at least one season with the Oklahoma City Thunder in their (still active) storied careers. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony have all gone to war in the orange and blue both in the regular season and the playoffs. Let’s take a closer look into what all of these players were able to accomplish in Oklahoma City and what they meant to the Thunder.
The Brodie, King of the triple double, the GOAT of the Thunder. Whatever you want to call him, the impact that Russell Westbrook had on the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise is undeniable. Westbrook grew up with the Thunder, as his rookie season was also the inaugural season in Oklahoma City. Many questioned the pick at the time, but he quickly exceeded expectations. In his time in Oklahoma City, Westbrook would average 23ppg, 8.5apg, and 7rpg. He would also go on to win an MVP, make 8 All-Star teams, break the triple double record, win the scoring title twice, be selected to eight All-NBA teams, and help lead the Thunder to many deep playoff runs including one to the 2012 NBA Finals during his time in OKC.
In a time before he left to the Warriors, Kevin Durant was viewed as a superhero during his time in Oklahoma City. Durant initially played one season on the Supersonics before they were moved into Oklahoma City. Once he arrived in Oklahoma City, he was already one of the better players in the league. Durant went on to average 28.4ppg, 4apg, and 7.5rpg in his time in the Thunder. He would also lead the league in scoring in four of his eight seasons with the team. Durant would be named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player during the 2013-2014 season. Despite his departure rubbing many Thunder fans the wrong way, it is undeniable that Kevin Durant was toe-to-toe with anyone for the title of best player in the league during his time here.
Before he was the scoring machine that we all know today, James Harden was the sixth man for an up and coming OKC team. In his three seasons with the team he would average 12.7ppg, 2.5apg, and 3.4 rpg. Harden would also win the Sixth Man of the Year award and help the Thunder reach the NBA finals in 2012. Though the Thunder had to eventually trade Harden to the Rockets due to salary cap issues, his current status as a player makes many wonder if he could still become the player he is today despite having less opportunity on the Thunder.
Chris Paul is a cult hero of sorts in Thunder history. He arrived in OKC from the Russell Westbrook trade, signaling the beginning of a rebuild for the team. At least that’s what everyone thought. The narrative of Paul at the time was that he was over the hill and couldn’t be effective anymore. CP3 was quick to dispel that narrative, as he would lead the Thunder to the fifth seed while averaging 17.6ppg, 6.7apg, and 5rpg and make the all star team. Despite the team losing in the first round, the legend of Chris Paul is a fond one among the Thunder community.
Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Thunder for the 2017-18 season to form a big three with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Though defense, health, and consistency issues ultimately plagued that year’s team it was a fun season. Melo would average 16.2ppg, 5.8reb, and 1.3apg and the Thunder would go on to lose in the first round of the playoffs.
Though it never amounted to a ring, the Thunder having five players on this list is certainly a testament to the team’s management. Many small market teams only have one player on this list which contextualizes the great mind of GM Sam Presti. Accumulating five of the top seventy five players to ever play the game without being able to rely on free agent acquisitions is a massive feat especially considering the team has only been around since 2008. Though the Thunder are currently in a rebuilding state and will not be on the hunt for superstars for the foreseeable future, going through this rebuild with a GM like Presti who has already done it once is certainly reassuring.
Maybe the Thunder will have even more players in 2046 on the NBA100 list…. 👀