Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder began their journey as an NBA team in the 08-09 NBA season, when the Seattle Supersonics ceased being an NBA team after the owners were unable to fund their new stadium lease. Since 2008, they have been one of the most successful NBA franchises in the league, missing the playoffs in only two out of their twelve seasons as a team. The Thunder have been in serious championship contention in many of their seasons, and have one NBA Finals appearance in 2012 and two Western Conference Finals appearances in 2012 and 2016.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are very well known for the wide variety of Hall of Fame level players that the franchise has seen in their short time in the league. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul have all played in the blue and white, defining the star-power that the franchise has built around. While playing for Oklahoma City, two different players have won the scoring title and the Most Valuable Player award. Kevin Durant won the MVP in the 2013-14 season and the scoring title in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 seasons and Russell Westbrook won the MVP in the 2016-17 season after Kevin Durant infamously left for the Golden State Warriors and won scoring titles in both the 2015 and 2017 NBA seasons.
Behind the stars, however, OKC has seen a great number of quality role players to backup their stars in playoff runs. Players like Serge Ibaka, who led the league in blocks with his time in OKC, Nick Collison, who is properly nicknamed Mr Thunder for his great locker room and overall team presence, have been vital to Oklahoma City’s success over the years.
The Thunder’s time as an NBA team can be divided into four renditions. The first was the conception of the team, as the Oklahoma City Thunder entered the limelight as an inexperienced, yet vastly talented and very exciting NBA team with a bright future. This team was lead by a young Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant tandem, with sixth man of the year James Harden coming off the bench for them. They would eventually go on to upset many teams in the playoffs, such as Kobe Bryant’s Lakers, en route to their first finals appearance vs the Miami Heat in 2012. They would go on to lose these finals 4-1 to LeBron James and the Heat superteam, but this run put OKC on the map as a serious contender.
This era of OKC basketball was ended after this finals run, as the team would go on to trade James Harden due to luxury tax concerns. This has always been considered one of the great “what-ifs” of NBA history, as James Harden would go on to win an MVP for the Houston Rockets and become a perennial scoring champion. After the trade, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant would make many more playoff runs, surrounded by solid role players though always having a lack of shooting. The closest they got to returning to the finals would be in the 2015-2016 seasons, where the Thunder infamously blew a 3-1 lead to the record winning Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. After this playoff meltdown, Kevin Durant would leave the Thunder for the Warriors and Russell Westbrook gained the reins to the franchise.
As the Russell Westbrook era of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball began, there were many doubts on the team. Westbrook seemingly had no help going into the 2016-17 season, but he would go on to lead the league in scoring and average a triple double, putting up one of the most historic MVP seasons of all time. This would all culminate in a first round exit at the hands of former Thunder James Harden and the Houston Rockets, however. That offseason, GM Sam Presti would be very busy, as he brought in All Star Paul George and future hall of famer Carmelo Anthony to create a Big 3. This team would have its ups and downs, but at the end of the day also lost in the first round to the Utah Jazz. The season after, the Thunder would trade Carmelo Anthony and re-sign Paul George, but would suffer the same fate this time at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers. As the Thunder team had clearly hit a dead end, Sam Presti would go on to trade both Russell Westbrook and Paul George for sophomore Shai Gilgeous Alexander and Hall of Famer Chris Paul along with a record number of draft compensation, beginning the rebuild for Oklahoma City.
This current era of Oklahoma City was supposed to be one lined with rebuilding, but great team play resulted in the Thunder getting the fifth seed, shocking the NBA world. Led by veteran Chris Paul and young guard Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, this Thunder team has a promising future, due to their young talent and draft compensation, as well as a great team in the present.
The Oklahoma City thunder are owned by Clay Bennett.