Days of Thunder: Remembering Russ, Again
Days of Thunder ⚡ Dusting off the heartbreaks, thrills, and mysteries that have made the NBA's youngest franchise one of its most storied. Enjoy the Daily Thunder archives.
On October 28 - November 1, 2019, the fresh-faced new owners of Daily Thunder ran a series of "Westbrook Week" posts, months after Russell Westbrook was abruptly traded away from the Oklahoma City Thunder:
When Oklahoma City meets Houston this season, the once-unthinkable will happen: Russell Westbrook will play against the Thunder. During Westbrook Week, Daily Thunder will be covering the player who means more to the franchise and fanbase than any other: the memories, the joy, the frustrations, and the place he'll continue to hold in Thunderdom. We invite you to process with us.
The implosion of the Westbrook/Paul George era in Oklahoma City felt sudden and dramatic at the time. In retrospect, it was a harbinger of an even swifter carousel in NBA player movement that has picked up speed ever since. We were bracing for a cornerstone-less franchise to feel uncertain and less compelling without Russ, while expecting a long-term reunion with his fellow OKC alum, James Harden, in Houston. In retrospect, almost all of our questions at the time were answered within a calendar year. Chris Paul kept the star throne warm for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to assume. The front office unambiguously pursued talent by shedding short-term, veteran commitments in favor of young, long-term pieces via drafts and trades. And the viability of an aging Westbrook/George roster would not have measured up against the contenders rising around the league.
The Thunder rebuild has been slow and steady, while chaos has reigned for former Thunder stars.
“Whatever you think will complete Russ’s legacy and set him among the all-timers, among the “winners” where he belongs, I think we can all agree on something. Russ was ours. He made us all feel wanted and special for years. He chose us, and he stuck with us as long as he could. He’s an incredible, singular basketball player – an avalanche made of dunks and scowls and barbed wire and chaos. He’s the triple-double king, he’s an MVP, and his statue and his jersey are going up at the Peake the day he retires. He’s the one who stayed.”
- Stephen Dolan, The Saga Continues: The Future of the Russell Westbrook Narrative
It initially felt bizarre to watch and root for Thunder hoops in the post-Westbrook landscape. But while our tone was unsettled, we weren't having trouble reading the writing on the wall. Russ's legacy would remain a conundrum as he ventured away from Oklahoma City. Though his time in OKC ended in disappointment, the amicable breakup occurred before his legend began chipping. His fire would be missed, but the team's flame would not go out.
In the first entry from the Days of Thunder archive at Daily Thunder, please enjoy the happy memories below from our unabashed celebration of "Good Russ" three years ago.
Remembering Good Russ
Forget the bad, forget the ugly. Let's remember Good Russ. There were so many moments from multiple Russ chapters in OKC, it would be impossible to fully capture what it was like to watch him in a Thunder uniform. But Daily Thunder writers and friends below offer some of the more indelible memories that stuck with us the last eleven years. We invite you to pour one out for the Brodie in the comments with your own favorite ZERO⚡OKC memory.
Brandon Rahbar: The beginning.
The night was October 29, 2008. I was an excited, bright eyed and bushy tailed OKC Thunder season ticket holder, and I couldn’t wait to cheer on my new hometown team. And to check out this Rookie of the Year winner named Kevin Durant, primed to overtake Michael Jordan as my new favorite player of all time. But a funny thing happened on the way to Durant enchantment. My eyes kept wandering away from the lanky all-world talent and focusing on the little ball of fury and ferociousness wearing #0. Who was this dude? I literally had to look into the game day program to find out his name.