In the last few years of the kit deal with Adidas, Oklahoma City introduced a new alternate jersey. The Thunder designed a Sunset Orange jersey, which was divisive among fans when it was launched.
Some fans thought that the orange was flashy, and the strength of the base color made it difficult to read the players’ names on the back of the jersey. However, I love the orange jersey. It is a simple design, but the color scheme popped off the television screen.
For me, I always associate this jersey with Russell Westbrook. It is the jersey that he wore when he broke Oscar Robertson’s triple-double record against the Denver Nuggets.
An image that will always stick in my mind will be of Westbrook jumping into his teammates’ arms after a come-from-behind victory.
The closing moments of the game are core pieces of the Thunder’s history.
I get chills watching the last five minutes of that game.
Westbrook was an orange blur as he dragged Oklahoma City back from the brink. Russell achieved the triple-double by swinging the ball to Semaj Christon in the corner.
Christon has not played another NBA game since that season, but he was able to knock down an uncontested three to achieve history. Once the statistical feat had been made, Westbrook went to work.
The man changed gears and attacked at full force as he knifed his way to the rim for a natural basket.
He got the shot working as Westbrook slashed the deficit.
The final play of the game was the game-winner for Westbrook. Adams was meant to inbound the ball directly to Westbrook, but the Nuggets swarmed Russell, he was forced to inbound to Singler instead. Singler dished to a smothered Westbrook who tossed up a 35- foot game-winning shot.
This one moment has meant that the Sunset Orange jersey and Russell Westbrook are associated in my mind. The jersey represents a happy time for Thunder fans, such as myself. Over the last three years, the season has been dependent on Oklahoma City meeting expectations.
When the Thunder was a one-person show, there was no real expectation that Oklahoma City would make a deep playoff run. The lack of expectations meant it was gratifying to watch Russell Westbrook do brilliant things on a nightly basis.
There was not a thought in the back of your head wondering if Westbrook’s triple-doubles were conducive to playoff success.
The acquisition of George and Anthony in the summer of 2017 placed the Thunder into the contender tier, anything less than a Western Conference Finals was a failure. The importance of the playoffs meant that Westbrook’s feats during the regular season were less appreciated, I would appreciate playoff advancement more than the triple-doubles.
I have enjoyed aspects of the last three seasons, but each season has ended in disappointment with three consecutive first-round exits.
2016-17 was the last time which I truly enjoyed watching regular-season games to see what Russell would do. I feel the same way about this current season. I am more than happy to tune in and view the Thunder over-achieve with Chris Paul leading the charge.
The jersey received a mixed response from fans when the Thunder and Adidas launched it. The reason for the reaction is due to the college rivalry which exists within Oklahoma: Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma.
The intra-state rivalry between the two schools goes back 70 years, and the competition has a unique name: Bedlam. It is a football rivalry at heart, and OU has edged their counterparts in recent history. Lincoln Riley’s teams have won the last five contests in a row behind playmakers like Heiman Trophy-winning Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts.
The rivalry divides the state between the two schools. Sooners fans proudly wear crimson and cream in support of their players while OSU wears black and sunset orange.
The Thunder picking orange as the base color meant that some OU fans could not reconcile themselves to wearing their rival college’s colors.
Despite the Marmite reaction to these jerseys, the sunset orange jerseys are an essential part of the Thunder’s history.
The jersey was fresh and vibrant at a time where Thunder jerseys were uninspiring, the uniform fitted nicely with the new start that the Thunder embraced with Westbrook as the cornerstone.