Oklahoma City Thunder 30 for 30 Moments
With two words, Michael Jordan sent the World into a frenzy. On March 18, 1995, Michael Jordan released a statement through his attorney and business manager, David Falk. "I'm Back," was Jordan's statement in response to his future career plans. Many inside the Bulls organization knew it was coming for weeks.
Jordan had been stopping by and jumping into Bulls practices. He would stay after practice talking with Scottie and other teammates mapping out his return. The three-time MVP was returning to the NBA. If you're here reading a list-based article for moments in Thunder history, you likely know his return went well.
Michael and the Bulls went on to win the next three titles, and he solidified his name into basketball greatness. As the World prepares to get their missing sports itch scratched with "Last Dance," a 10-part doc series on the 1997-1998 Bulls, let's look back on the Thunder's history and find 10 moments that create the backbone of a future Thunder documentary. Digging into this history finds many incredible accomplishments as well as agonizing losses. Who else out there had a vast KD shoe collection in the summer of 2016?
4/30/2010 Standing Ovation and Kobe's Respect: In 2010, the young Thunder landed in the eight seed and drew the eventual champion Lakers. Kobe, Pau, Odom, and the 57 regular-season winning Lakers proved to be too much for the Thunder. Pau Gasol ended the playoff series with a Game 6 go-ahead tip-in for the win with 0.5 seconds left. But the crowd inside the Ford Center (before the arena's name change) gave the team a standing ovation and cheered them long after they had left the court. Phil Jackson, coach of the Lakers, called the moment "heartwarming."
The Thunder had also earned the respect of the Laker players. "It is going to be an enjoyable matchup for the next several years. We look forward to these types of challenges," Kobe Bryant said. Metta World Peace, too had some advice for the Thunder saying, "Thunder, don't change nothing. Don't do it. I'm mean, I would like for you to change something… but don't be like other teams that go and change their team, you know? Man, don't change it; just keep it going. They've got young players. Don't change anything." Oh, Metta... if you only knew what was coming.
6/19/2012 Thunder Reach the Finals: Back when the Thunder employed three future Hall of Famers on the same lineup as a prime Serge Ibaka and a 26-year-old Kendrick Perkins, they made the Finals against Lebron James and the "Heatles." Lebron James' response to the Big Three in Boston was to form a power trio of his own with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Many around the Thunder thought this was the first appearance of many in the Finals for years to come. Unfortunately, this core never played another game together after being eliminated by the Heat.
10/27/2012 Rockabye Sweet Baby James: Following their first Finals appearance, the Thunder were faced with a decision on what to do with restricted free agent James Harden. By making the trade of last season's sixth man of the year, the Thunder had broken up its young core, and we will never know what might have happened. While James might have needed his own team ultimately to become the league MVP and one of its top scorers, we will always be left to wonder what could have happened if James, Russell, and Kevin were able to fulfill their potential together in OKC.
4/26/2013 Russell and Beverley Collide: The Thunder were a top 5 team along with the Spurs, Nuggets, Clippers, and Grizzlies in 2013 and appeared to head into the playoffs with a great chance to return to the Finals. During Game 2 of the opening series against the Rockets, Russell brought up the ball and signaled to call a timeout when he collided with Patrick Beverley. Instantly furious and appearing in significant pain, Russell banged his fists on the scorer's table. It was later found that Russ had torn his right meniscus in his knee. While Reggie Jackson stepped in and helped the Thunder escape Houston, they were eliminated in the next round 4-1 by the Grizzlies.
5/14/2014 KD Can't Watch: With seconds remaining in Game 5 of the West Semifinals, Kevin Durant was on the floor at Chesapeake Arena, facing away from the basket. He wasn't injured or chasing a loose ball; he just couldn't bear to watch. Russell was on the free-throw line with three shots and a chance to take the lead; he sunk all three free throws. The Clippers blew a seven-point lead with less than 50 seconds to play and found themselves facing elimination after losing Game 5, 105-104. The Thunder went on to win the series and advance to the Conference Finals.
The clutch win in the Conference Semi-Finals felt like a turning point for the Thunder, and the iconic photos of KD facing away from the charity stripe shots by Russell are now iconic.
5/28/2016 The Klay Thompson Game: Russell and Kevin couldn't hold in their laughter or reduce their smiles in the post-game press conference after taking a 3–1 lead in the Western Conference finals over the Golden State Warriors.
Even after the Thunder lost the fifth game, Thunder fans were not too flustered as a turning point Game 6 was headed back to the Peake. This was their chance to end the series and advance to the organization's second Finals. The fans felt the Finals return was almost inevitable. Steph Curry had dropped from his unhuman like efficiencies, and the Thunder had the lead the first 44 minutes of Game 6. With 5:48 left on the clock, the Thunder were up 94–87.
Then Klay Thompson stepped in and changed the Thunder's future. Klay exploded for 41 points, 33 of which came from the three-point line. To seal the Thunder's fate, 19 of Thompson's points came in the 4th quarter, and Golden State pulled away late to win 108-101. The Warriors clinched the series in Game 7 at home.
They played one of the NBA's most memorable Finals in recent history but eventually lost to Lebron, Kyrie and the Cavaliers. Five weeks later was the 4th of July Thunder fans will never forget.
7/4/2016 Kevin Signs With Golden State: After pushing the Warriors to a seven-game series, Kevin Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors in the summer after the Finals. Saying he has experienced "by far the most challenging few weeks in my professional life," Durant announced his decision to leave OKC on the Players Tribune. This was the biggest loss for the Thunder since arriving in Oklahoma City and the first experience with true NBA heartbreak.
8/4/2016 Russell Re-signs: One month to the day after Kevin left for Golden State Russell, let Oklahoma City know he wasn't following him out of town by signing a max extension with the Thunder. On the day he signed, Russell said, "There's nowhere else I would rather be than Oklahoma City. You guys have basically raised me. I've been here since I was 18, 19 years old. You guys did nothing but great things for me. Through the good and the bad, you guys supported me through it all, and I appreciate it. Definitely, when I had the opportunity to be able to be loyal to you guys, that's the No. 1 option. Loyalty is something that I stand by."
7/6/2017 PG to OKC: Hours before the start of the free-agency moratorium period at 12:01 a.m., the Thunder shook the NBA landscape by trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana for Paul George. The move gave Westbrook a new All-Star teammate and sent excitement through the fan base. When asked about the move, Presti said, "I'm a big A Tribe Called Quest fan. There is a line that says, 'Scared money don't make none.' I think that's the case [here]. We wouldn't have traded for Paul George if we didn't believe in our community, our organizational values, our ownership … if you expect Paul George or any player to have any confidence in you as an organization, you have to demonstrate it yourself. Scared money doesn't make none."
4/9/2017 Russ Goes for 50/16/10: Russ first made triple-double history then eliminated the Nuggets from playoff contention. But what might have stood out the most in this incredible 50 points, 16 rebounds and ten assists performance was that the Denver crowd was cheering for Westbrook all the way.
With this stat line, he set a new single-season NBA record with his 42nd triple-double. Westbrook passed Oscar Robertson's mark of 41 that was once thought to be unsurpassable. There are so many other moments that have a case to be on this list. History may age this list when SGA, Steven, Gallo, and CP3 shock the World and win the Championship if the season resumes.
What moments do you remember most in these last 12 seasons? Write your best memories in the comments below.