Dear fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Russell Westbrook super-fanatics, and eccentric worshipers of Steven Adams’ peculiar yet gorgeous mustache, it’s about time we let go of our heart-rending grudges over the loss of Kevin Durant. It’s time we forgive him for leaving us, thank him for his contributions to our Thunder, and congratulate him for his success among arguably the best basketball team of all time (I’m not starting a war over this).
I was just like many of you throughout the greater portion of this season, mourning over the loss of my once hero, shackled down by anger, rage, and bitterness. Though I would consistently attempt to look at the positive aspects of our Durant-less organization, reminding myself of Westbrook’s historical season, rising young talent among the roster, and a gigantic free-agency period only months away, I still couldn’t get over the fact that Kevin left us for the most pre-defined and effortless path to an NBA Championship. But watching the latter minutes of last night’s NBA Finals, and the way Kevin’s mom looked at him post-game (I didn't tear up, I just suffer from horrible allergies), I’ve come to the full realization that Kevin Durant earned every right to be named an NBA Champion, and the Finals MVP.
The Seattle Sonics
My history being a fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder derives from my long-time love for the Seattle SuperSonics. The 80’s and 90’s era was prime, providing the most fascinating and entertaining Sonics basketball you could watch. Gary Payton, Eddie Johnson, and the unforgiving Shawn Kemp were no doubt holy figures to me. Effortlessly dominating the west coast, the Sonics would thrive from division and conference success, but could never make it past the likes of Bird’s Celtics or Jordan’s Bulls. While this was undeniably the best times for fans of the SuperSonics, the early 2000’s brought dark struggles, with occasions of light under the reigns of Rashard Lewis and the magnificent Ray Allen.
It wasn’t until the arrival of the overall Number 2 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft that fans would begin to see signs of life again for the Sonics, hoping their fresh off-the-block franchise baller would bring years of success. That baller came from the University of Texas and his name was Kevin Durant. Providing some of the most talent the draft has ever seen, I immediately fell in love with Durant’s game and I quickly regained hope for the future of the Sonics. Though Durant undoubtedly lived up to fans and pundits expectations, leading that year’s rookies in scoring at an incredible 20.3 PPG (and would later go on to win Rookie of the Year), the Sonics suffered substantially from a franchise worst record of 20-62. It was during that next offseason that the fate of the Sonics organization loomed closely over the heads of players and long-time fans.
The Duo Of The Ages
Most of us know how the story continued from here. The Sonics organization would go through a summer of legal issues, and struggles with the attempt to relocate, eventually leading to the emergence of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Though many look at that dreadful last season for the Sonics as the darkest most dreadful way to go out, the 2008 NBA Draft (the last official draft the SuperSonics ever participated in) gave us the birth of a historical era that still lives on in glory to this day, the Westbrook age. Despite being drafted by the Sonics, Brodie never played a game in a Seattle jersey, only to be relocated to the state of Oklahoma mere days after the draft.
Paired together as what I thought could turnout to be the best duo to ever play the game of basketball together, Durant and Westbrook were shining stars on the court, creating a passionate-bond that us fans would fall in love with, praying in which would never leave the likes of our franchise.
Through sickness and through health, the duo’s dedication to the team seemed endless, providing some of the best basketball the present NBA era has seen. From 2009 to 2012, the once fading Sonics, were now thunderous contenders. Durant played a seamless leadership role above the Thunder’s rising stars, Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka. Without no time at all, Durant’s power-squad were fighting for championship contentions against the leader of the free NBA world, LeBron James.
A World Without Harden
The post Harden era played a strenuous role on Durant, and provided an emotional rollercoaster for fans of the once overly-prominent squads in the west. Though Durant’s team role grew substantially as both a leader and scorer once Harden left, Kevin rose to the occasion, winning the 2013-2014 KIA MVP award, completing his year long campaign, proving his overall league dominance.
The following season, the tides turned for Durant and his city, and it wasn’t for the good. Bogged down by season-long injuries, Durant physically wasn’t capable of leading the team, therefore for the first time leaving the leadership role to Westbrook, whom already had suffered from early-season injuries. Failing to make the playoffs due to a season ending tie-breaker loss with the Pelicans, the Thunder were coming to the possibility of front office overhauls, and a new coaching staff.
The last season with Durant at reign of my beloved squad will surely be one I will remember forever. Under the coaching control of NBA coaching virgin Billy Donovan, the Thunder won the Northwest Division and clinched the third seed in the Western Conference. The team rolled past the Spurs, with Durant posting multiple 35+ point games, reaching the Conference Finals for the fourth time in six seasons. Facing up against the record setting Golden State Warriors, Durant and the boys went up 3-1 in the series, proving the historical 73-win team was nothing short of slight bump in the road.
From there on forward, every achievement my team flaunted throughout the season and into the playoffs disintegrated right in front of my very eyes. They choked, and let the Warriors do what they do best—belittling teams into a state of distress, and punishing you for the incapability of finishing a series. The following days were chaos for me, and surely for other fans alike. I was stuck in some unfamiliar, parallel universe that made no sense, and provided not a clue of context of what was going on in the real world. The only thing on my mind was ignoring the Finals, and praying to some superior being, that Kevin Durant would re-sign with the Thunder over free agency and not take the easy path with our former playoff nemesis, the Warriors.
Sure enough, the nightmare that looms over the heads of every NBA fan out there, happened to me. On Monday July 4th, my hero, role-model, and franchise player left the city that I adored, signing with the Golden State Warriors. A new era had begun that morning, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
Fast forward a year later, and Durant got what he set out to do, a NBA championship , and the title of Finals MVP. Though I’ll still never get over the act of Durant leaving us in such an arrogant manner just to take a path to a ring that was basically pre-guaranteed, I do forgive the man. He provided us with years of victory, superiority and endless entertainment. Using his God-given talents and athleticism, he filled a leadership void that had been previously missing throughout the latter stages of Sonics’ life, and truly made us championship contenders in the NBA. He is in my mind, and many others, a top-three player in the association, and has already created a legacy that he will no doubt be remembered for generations down the road.
That being said, thank you Kevin Durant for everything you did for the community of Oklahoma City, our beloved Thunder franchise, and the endless hours of entertainment you gave to us.