The season is officially over. While the 23-59 record was less than stellar, there sure were some lasting memories made during this maiden season in Oklahoma City. So let’s count ’em down!
10. Russell Westbrook up, up and over Mario Chalmers
Why do I love that dunk so much? Because one thing Russell became very popular for in college was his soaring dunks over people. And to watch him do it in the NBA on a fast break makes my face tingle. All over. Even my eyeballs.
9. Nick Collison out-hustles Chris Bosh to seal a Thunder win
Maybe it wasn’t the most glamorous play and maybe it didn’t make SportsCenter as a top play, but without Collison’s grit and effort, OKC probably doesn’t win this game. And that can be said for a lot of games this year. Collison did the dirty work that needed be done and this play was a perfect example of exactly what he brings. (Video: Go to the 4:58 mark)
8. Earl Watson dishes off the backboard to Jet Zero for the flush
This was one of those “HOLY CRAP!” plays. And the coolest thing is about at half court, you could see it coming. Russell filled in behind Earl and it just set up perfectly. Nobody better to lay it off to than Westbrook because he always finishes with a little flavor.
7. Westbrook with a two-handed finish from Durant against the Spurs
Why is this play here? Didn’t Russell have about 50 of these? Yes, yes he did but this one was in arguably OKC’s biggest and best win of the season – a 78-76 thriller over the mighty Spurs. Plus it was a sweet pick by Durant and a better bounce pass to set it up.
6. Jeff Green flies over the Birdman and drops one on him
I love this dunk because any time you put it in the face of a guy like Chris Andersen, it’s a little sweeter. The Birdman poses, struts and wags his finger after his blocks. Good for him. But he wasn’t strutting after Uncle Jeff crammed one right down his throat. The best part is that he went up with his left and switched to his right in mid-air. It was like the dunking version of Jordan’s famous up-and-under.
5. Thabo Sefolosha swats Kobe
That just doesn’t happen to Kobe very often. And it’s a great example of what Thabo brought to this team – great defensive effort and a mindset that you’re not going to score on me and if you do, I’m going to make you work for it.
4. Kevin Durant sets the Rookie/Sophomore game on fire with 46 points
He seriously exploded. One second he had 18 and then you went and refilled your sweet tea and he had 37. But the flash KD did it with was what made it awesome. He literally scored from everywhere. He got the attention of the basketball world with this performance and kick-started him on his best offensive stretch of the season. The best part is the three straight threes where Kenny Smith says, “If he hits this one…” And of course, he did.
3. David Stern welcomes Oklahoma City Thunder, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Oklahoma to the NBA
Without this night, none of this would have happened. Mayor Mick put it perfectly: “I sense you know how I feel, because you feel it too.” I remember when he said that, I had to do the hard swallow. And when David Stern said, “Oklahoma City… welcome to the National Basketball Association,” I felt maybe the most pride I’ve ever felt for my home state. Opening Night’s final score was ugly, but that night was a beautiful thing.
2. Kevin Durant beats Denver at the buzzer – at least we thought he did
You know you didn’t have the best of seasons when one of your team ended up losing 2.7 seconds after your top play. But KD’s rise and fire against Denver was incredible. The Ford Center absolutely erupted and there for a second, after being 3-29 just days earlier, the Thunder almost had a two-game streak and a win over a Western Conference contender. But Carmelo Anthony blah blah blah. If stupid Melo wouldn’t have been such a buzzkill this would easily be No. 1. Shame.
1. Uncle Jeff’s goes to the bank at the buzzer against Golden State
The reason this is No. 1 over KD’s sweet three against Denver? Because OKC actually won this one. Durant’s three was unreal – just too bad it was all for not. But this game I remember watching and thinking, “Dadgumit, good game but there’s not a chance we win this one at the buzzer. That just never happens to us.” But wouldn’t you know it, Uncle Jeff took it to the bank and gave OKC win. No. 9. Probably the biggest burst of happiness I had this year. My favorite part was watching Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and KD jump all over each other. Hopefully we see a lot more of that the years to come.