The Thunder have been the Thunder for almost five years now. Can you believe that? I mean seriously, five years! In August 2008, the Thunder didn’t exist but the SuperSonics were moving to Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant was that guy that played at Texas, Russell Westbrook was only a name and James Harden was still at Arizona State. Five years ago, the only thing major about Oklahoma City was its weather.
And now look what’s happened. The NBA playoffs in OKC. The NBA Finals in OKC. All-Stars wearing jerseys that say “Oklahoma City” on them. Oklahoma City mentioned on SportsCenter almost nightly.
All in five years.
I still can’t believe it. Genuinely, I can’t. As someone that’s grown up and lived in Oklahoma my entire life, to think about having the NBA in this city really seems surreal. I remember sitting in the upper deck for a Thunder preseason game with my buddy Andy back in 2008 and wishfully thinking of what we thought was the most unrealistic scenario ever. Man, could you imagine what a Western Conference Finals in OKC would be like? What if the Thunder had a seven-game series with the Lakers? What if the Thunder were ever just in the playoffs?
Started from the bottom, now we here.
So with it being five years since the Thunder were born, I figured this would be a good time for nostalgia. Over the next couple weeks, let’s reminiscence and such, alright? To kick it off, let’s look back on the full (or as full as my memory allows) timeline of how this team as we know it came to exist.
July 18, 2006: Clay Bennett and a group of 12 investors buy the Seattle SuperSonics for $350 million. At his introductory press conference, Bennett says, “It’s not our intention to move or relocate the teams as long, of course, as we are able to negotiate a successor venue to the current basketball arena.”
February 12, 2007: Bennett proposes a $500 million publicly funded arena ($400 million of that in taxpayer money). Bennett sets a deadline of October 31 to reach a deal or the team will look at relocation.
April, 2007: Bennett withdraws his attempt after the arena fails to find a deal by the end of the legislative session.
June 7, 2007: Bennett hires Sam Presti as his general manager.
June 28, 2007: The Sonics select Kevin Durant with the No. 2 overall pick.
June 29, 2007: Presti’s first move is trading Ray Allen and the 35th pick, Glen Davis, to the Celtics for Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and the fifth overall pick, Jeff Green.
July 12, 2007: The Sonics complete a sign-and-trade with the Magic sending Rashard Lewis to Orlando and creating a $9 million trade exception.
July 20, 2007: Using their new trade exception, Presti sends a future second round pick to the Suns for Kurt Thomas and two first round picks. Remember this trade.
August 13, 2007: Minority owner Aubrey McClendon tells the Oklahoma City Journal Record, “We didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle, we hoped to come here. We know it’s a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it’s great for the community and if we could break even we’d be thrilled.” Bennett put out a statement saying McClendon was “not speaking on behalf of the ownership group.” For those comments, McClendon is fined $250,000.
September 21, 2007: Bennett applies for arbitration on the issue of if the team can break its lease with KeyArena (set through 2010) in 2008.
September 23, 2007: The city of Seattle files a lawsuit in an attempt to keep the Sonics from leaving before their lease expires in 2010. A trial is set for June 16, 2008.
November 2, 2007: After the October 31 deadline passes, Bennett and the organization announce it will file for relocation to Oklahoma City and will move there as soon as legally possible.
* * *
February 21, 2008: Presti trades Kurt Thomas to the Spurs for a 2009 first round pick (and the expiring contracts of Fransisco Elson and Brent Barry).
March 3, 2008: Oklahoma City voters approve a $120 million renovation of the Ford Center to make it an NBA compatible arena, along with the construction of an NBA practice facility.
April 10, 2008: Emails leak in which Bennett told his investment group, “I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can. Thanks for hanging with me boys, the game is getting started” when asked about having another “lame duck season” in Seattle.
April 15, 2008: The Sonics finish a franchise-worst 20-62.
April 18, 2008: In a 28-2 vote (Mark Cuban and Paul Allen being the no votes), NBA owners approved the relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma City.
June 16, 2008: The trial between the Professional Basketball Club LLC and the city of Seattle begins.
June 26, 2008: Closing arguments are made.
June 26, 2008: The NBA Draft is held and the Sonics select Russell Westbrook with the fourth overall pick and Serge Ibaka with the 24th overall pick, a pick acquired from the Spurs in the Kurt Thomas deal.
July 2, 2008: Hours before a judge announced her ruling for the trial, the city of Seattle reaches a settlement with Bennett’s ownership group. Bennett’s group would pay Seattle $45 million in exchange for breaking the lease and an additional $30 million if Seattle didn’t have a team within five years, but had approved the construction of a new arena by the end of 2010. Seattle never approved an arena deal and Bennett never had to pay that extra $30 million.
July 3, 2008: The Sonics officially begin their move to Oklahoma City. “We made it,” Bennett says. “The NBA will be in Oklahoma City next season.”
July 11, 2008: NBA Summer League begins and a nameless team wearing black and white jerseys that simply say “Oklahoma City” on them take the floor.
August 13, 2008: The nameless organization trades Luke Ridnour and Adrian Griffin to the Bucks for Desmond Mason. And within that deal also completed a three-way trade that acquired Joe Smith.
September 3, 2008: The “Thunder” are born as Bennett announces the team’s nickname and unveils colors and logos as “Thunderstruck” plays at a press conference.
September 4, 2008: Everyone in the world spends the day making fun of the name Thunder.
September 9, 2008: I start writing about the Thunder. The first thing I ever wrote, in fact, was a post titled “The name doesn’t totally Thundersuck” which was about how the name and logo kind of sucked.
September 29, 2008: Jerseys are unveiled as Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Earl Watson model them for everyone. I didn’t like them all that much either, but talked myself into them.
October 8, 2008: The team takes the floor for the first time ever in an 88-82 preseason loss to the Timberwolves in Billings, Montana. Montana!
October 29, 2008: The Thunder play their first ever regular season game, kicking off NBA basketball in Oklahoma City (holy crap!). The Bucks smoke the Thunder 98-87, and it wasn’t that close. Kevin Durant finishes with 12 points on 5-14 shooting.
November 2, 2008: The Thunder win their first game ever, 88-85, over the Timberwolves behind 18 from Durant and 14 from this insane person called Russell Westbrook.
November 21, 2008: The Thunder get absolutely blasted in their first ever national TV game (on ESPN), 105-80 by the then-Hornets, dropping OKC to 1-12.
Novemeber 22, 2008: Coach P.J. Carlesimo is fired and replaced on an interim basis by assistant Scott Brooks. The Thunder played the then-Hornets again that night and were much more competitive, losing 109-97 on the road. Brooks made a key change though as Damien Wilkins started at shooting guard, moving Durant to small forward and out of his previous 2-guard role.
November 29, 2008: The Thunder snap a franchise record 14-game losing streak with a 111-103 win over the Grizzlies. Notable thing about this game other than the win: It’s Russell Westbrook’s first career start.
December 22, 2008: The Thunder sign Nenad Krstic.
December 29, 2008: The Thunder fall to 3-29.
December 31, 2008: The Thunder win on New Year’s Eve, beating the Warriors 107-100. That win really started a modest turnaround in which the Thunder finished the season 20-30.
* * *
January 22, 2009: With a lot of talk that the Thunder could be the worst team ever in NBA history, Jeff Green hits a banked game-winner against the Warriors to give the Thunder their ninth win of the season, guaranteeing they’ll at least tie the fewest wins in NBA history.
February 14, 2009: Fresh off winning the first ever All-Star H.O.R.S.E. competition, Kevin Durant drops a record 46 points in the Rookie/Sophomore game.
February 18, 2009: The Thunder trade Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox and the rights to DeVon Hardin to the then-Hornets for Tyson Chandler.
February 19, 2009: The Thunder rescind the Chandler trade, citing an issue with Chandler’s surgically repaired left big toe discovered by Dr. Carlan Yates during his physical. Yates was the one that performed the surgery on Chandler’s toe in 2007 when the Hornets were still in OKC. Said Chandler of Yates, “He said he doesn’t know how long I’ll last … He told me, ‘I have no doubt you can play on it. I’m just saying it could take a turn for the worse if you come down on somebody’s foot or hyperextend it or something.’” Chandler of course anchored the Mavericks in their 2011 championship and won Defensive Player of the Year with the Knicks in 2012.
February 19, 2009: After the rescinded deal, the Thunder trade Wilcox to the Knicks for Malik Rose, and a first round pick to the Bulls — one acquired from the Suns in the Kurt Thomas deal — for Thabo Sefolosha.
April 15, 2009: Scott Brooks is named full time head coach, and the Thunder close their season with a 126-85 pasting of the Clippers to finish their inaugural season in OKC 23-59.
June 25, 2009: With the third pick in the draft, the Thunder select James Harden. They also take Byron Mullens with the 24th pick, after swapping with the Mavericks at 25.
July 6, 2009: After playing a season in Spain, Serge Ibaka signs a multi-year deal with the Thunder and joins the team for the 2009-10 season.
July 27, 2009: The Thunder trade Chucky Atkins (remember him?) and Damien Wilkins to the Wolves for Etan Thomas.
August 1, 2009: The Thunder sign Kevin Ollie and Kevin Ollie’s mustache.
October 28, 2009: The Thunder start the season 1-0, beating the Kings 102-89.
October 29, 2009: Thabo Sefolosha agrees to a four-year extension with the Thunder.
November 11, 2009: The Thunder win their fourth game of the season, something that took 48 more days the season before.
December 22, 2009: The Thunder acquire Eric Maynor (and Matt Harpring) in a trade with the Jazz for some guy named Peter Frahse, a move made by Utah to save some cash.
* * *
January 20, 2010: The Thunder surpass their previous season’s win total with a 94-92 win over the Wolves.
January 28, 2010: Kevin Durant is named to his first All-Star team.
February 24, 2010: Durant scores only 21 points in a loss to the Spurs, snapping a streak of 29 consecutive games with at least 25 points.
April 3, 2010: The Thunder clinch a playoff spot with a 121-116 win over the Mavericks.
April 14, 2010: The Thunder win their 50th game of the season, capping a 27-win improvement from the season before, and the eighth-seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
April 14, 2010: Durant wins his first scoring title, becoming the youngest player in history to do so, averaging 30.1 points per game. He finishes runner-up for MVP to LeBron James.
April 15, 2010: Scott Brooks wins NBA Coach of the Year.
April 22, 2010: Oklahoma City hosts its first ever NBA playoff game, beating the Lakers 101-96.
April 30, 2010: The Thunder lose to the Lakers in six games on a Pau Gasol putback.
June 23, 2010: The Thunder acquire Daequan Cook in a trade with the Heat.
June 24, 2010: The Thunder make a draft day deal sending Quincy Pondexter and Craig Brackins to the Hornets for Cole Aldrich and Morris Peterson. OKC trades the 18th pick to the Clippers (Eric Bledsoe) and gets an early second round pick too and uses it on Tibor Pleiss.
July 7, 2010: Kevin Durant signs a five-year max extension with the Thunder an announces it with a simple tweet.
Exstension for 5 more years wit the #thunder….God Is Great, me and my family came a long way…I love yall man forreal, this a blessing!
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) July 7, 2010
July 21, 2010: Royal Ivey signs with the Thunder.
August 19, 2010: Durant and Westbrook win gold medals for Team USA at the World Championships in Turkey as Durant is named MVP of the tournament.
November 23, 2010: Nick Collison signs a long-term extension with the Thunder.
* * *
January 27, 2011: Kevin Durant is named an All-Star starter.
February 13, 2011: Russell Westbrook is named an All-Star reserve.
February 24, 2011: The Thunder trade Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a first round pick to the Celtics for Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. They also sent D.J. White and Morris Peterson to the Bobcats for Nazr Mohammed.
February 28, 2011: Perkins signs a four-year, $35 million extension.
April 6, 2011: The Thunder clinch the Northwest Division with a 112-108 win over the Clippers.
April 13, 2011: Durant wins a second straight scoring title and the Thunder finish 55-27, good for the fourth-seed in the Western Conference playoffs and a matchup with the Nuggets.
April 25, 2011: After taking a 3-0 series lead against the Nuggets, the Thunder fall 104-101 in Game 4. The storyline that emerges from the game though is that Westbrook attempted 30 shots to Durant’s 18, something that becomes a theme for the remainder of the postseason and essentially kicks off a completely media manifested “feud” between Westbrook and Durant.
April 27, 2011: The Thunder finish off the Nuggets in five games as Durant leads a magical nine-point comeback in the final three minutes, scoring 16 straight fourth quarter points.
May 9, 2011: The Thunder win a triple-overtime classic against the Grizzlies 133-123 to tie the series 2-2.
May 15, 2011: With noise about his shot selection reaching a fever pitch, Westbrook records a triple-double in Game 7 against the Grizzlies as OKC moves on to the Western Conference finals with a 105-90 victory.
May 19, 2011: In Game 2 against the Mavs, Scott Brooks sits Westbrook for nearly the entire fourth quarter in favor of Eric Maynor, and the Thunder win 106-100 to even the series. Controversy firestorm controversy.
May 23, 2011: The Thunder hold a 15-point lead with five minutes to play in Game 4 against the Mavericks, but collapse and lose in overtime 112-105.
May 25, 2011: The Mavericks eliminate the Thunder in five games, and go on to win an NBA championship.
June 23, 2011: The Thunder take Reggie Jackson with the 24th overall pick.
July 1, 2011: As the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires, the owners vote to lock out the players, which causes a 161-day work stoppage.
August 2, 2011: KD scores 66 at Rucker Park.
October 24, 2011: Durant hosts a charity game in OKC with stars like LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Westbrook, Harden and LaMarcus Aldridge. Probably the closest thing Oklahoma City will ever come to hosting an All-Star Game.
November 1, 2011: Bored at home, Durant sends out a tweet trying to find some flag football. He finds a game at Oklahoma State and seals the deal: He is the king of the lockout.
December 8, 2011: The owners and players reach an agreement which ends the lockout and puts a 66-game schedule in place, set to stat on Christmas Day. Within the new CBA is a much more punitive luxury tax, something done in an effort to level the playing field for small market teams.
December 9, 2011: Daequan Cook re-signs with the Thunder.
December 13, 2011: The Thunder trade Robert Vaden to the Wolves for Lazar Hayward in what is probably the biggest trade in NBA history.
December 19, 2011: The Thunder trade Byron Mullens to the Bobcats for a future second round pick, somehow upping the monumental deal made six days before.
December 28, 2011: After going 0-13 in a 98-95 Thunder win at Memphis, word comes out that Westbrook and Durant had an “altercation” on the bench at some point during the game, only increasing the chatter about a rift between the two.
December 29, 2011: With Westbrook struggling a night after his alleged dust-up with Durant, Oklahoma City’s crowd chants his name at the free throw line after a big and-1 against the Mavs, and Durant then hits a game-winning 3.
* * *
January 7, 2012: Eric Maynor suffers a season-ending torn ACL against the Rockets.
January 19, 2012: Russell Westbrook signs a five-year extension with the Thunder. Chatter over.
January 27, 2012: Durant is named an All-Star starter a second straight season and an All-Star for the third straight season.
February 5, 2012: Westbrook is named an All-Star reserve a second straight season.
February 27, 2012: Durant wins All-Star Game MVP with 36 points.
March 21, 2012: Derek Fisher signs a deal through the end of the season with the Thunder.
April 12, 2012: The Thunder clinch a second straight Northwest Division title.
April 22, 2012: Metta World Peace tries to decapitate James Harden with a vicious elbow, and is suspended seven games for it.
April 25, 2012: The Thunder finish 47-19 in the 66-game schedule, good for the No. 2 seed in the West. Durant is runner-up for MVP and wins his third straight scoring title.
April 28, 2012: Durant hits a game-winner in Game 1 against the Mavs, rescuing OKC from a disastrous start to the postseason.
May 5, 2012: The Thunder sweep the defending champion Mavericks led by a fourth quarter eruption from James Harden.
May 21, 2012: The Thunder finish the Lakers off in five games to advance to a second straight Western Conference finals.
May 31, 2012: The Thunder win Game 3 against the Spurs, 102-82, snapping a streak in which San Antonio hadn’t lost in some 60 days.
June 4, 2012: On a dagger Harden 3, the Thunder take a 3-2 series lead against the Spurs.
June 6, 2012: The Thunder beat the Spurs in six games and advance to the NBA Finals.
June 12, 2012: The NBA Finals tip off in Oklahoma City. THE NBA FINALS TIP OFF IN OKLAHOMA CITY.
June 14, 2012: After winning Game 1, the Thunder lose Game 2 100-96 to the Heat, relinquishing home court advantage. Also, Durant was fouled.
June 19, 2012: Russell Westbrook scores 43 in Game 4 in one of the most inspiring games you’ll ever see from an individual player, but the Thunder lose and fall behind three games to one.
June 21, 2012: The Heat beat the Thunder in five games thanks to a ridiculous, random 3-point barrage from Mike Miller and Shane Battier.
June 26, 2012: Because of Jeff Green’s later-discovered heart issue, the Thunder are forced to send a 2013 second round pick to the Celtics.
June 28, 2012: The Thunder select Perry Jones III with the 28th pick.
July 4, 2012: Scott Brooks agrees to a four-year extension with the Thunder.
July 7, 2012: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are all named as part of Team USA’s, 12-man roster headed to London for the Olympics.
July 11, 2012: Hasheem Thabeet signs with the Thunder.
August 5, 2012: Durant, Westbrook and Harden all receive gold medals as Team USA tops Spain in the final.
August 18, 2012: Serge Ibaka signs a four-year, $48 million deal with the Thunder.
August 24, 2012: “Thunderstruck” is released to, um, acclaim.
October 27, 2012: Four days before the start of the season, the Thunder trade James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to the Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, a 2013 protected first round pick and a future protected first round round pick.
October 28, 2012: Thunder nation weeps.
October 29, 2012: Thunder nation tries to talk itself into Kevin Martin.
November 1, 2012: The Thunder start the season 0-1 with a 86-84 loss to the Spurs, playing their first game without James Harden.
January 17, 2013: Kevin Durant is named an All-Star starter for a third straight season, and an All-Star for the fourth straight.
January 24, 2013: Russell Westbrook is named an All-Star reserve for the third time.
November 28, 2012: In his first return to OKC, Harden scores 17 points on 3-16 shooting and the Thunder beat the Rockets by 22.
November 29, 2012: The Thunder assign Jeremy Lamb to the Tulsa 66ers.
* * *
February 8, 2013: Kendrick Perkins scores 17 points in a professional basketball game.
February 20, 2013: James Harden scores a career-high 46 against the Thunder as the Rockets beat OKC 122-119.
February 21, 2013: The Thunder trade Eric Maynor to the Trail Blazers for a trade exception and acquire Ronnie Brewer from the Knicks for a second round pick.
February 25, 2013: Derek Fisher signs with the Thunder. Again.
April 12, 2013: The Thunder clinch their third straight Northwest Division title with a 106-90 win over Portland.
April 15, 2013: The Thunder clinch the West’s top seed by winning their 60th game of the season.
April 24, 2013: Patrick Beverley.
April 28, 2013: Russell Westbrook undergoes knee surgery for a torn meniscus.
May 3, 2013: The Thunder finish the Rockets off in six games, 103-94.
May 15, 2013: After winning Game 1, the Grizzlies win four straight against the Thunder to eliminate them from the postseason in five games.
May 20, 2013: A tornado rips through central Oklahoma, decimating the city of Moore.
May 21, 2013: Durant donates $1 million to the Oklahoma Red Cross.
May 22, 2013: The Thunder donate $1 million to the Oklahoma Red Cross.
June 24, 2013: Durant leaves agent Rob Pelinka and signs with Jay Z.
June 27, 2013: The Thunder select Steven Adams with the 12th overall pick and Andre Roberson with the 26th overall pick.
July 7, 2013: Kevin Durant proposes to WNBA player Monica Wright.
July 11, 2013: Kevin Martin signs with the Timberwolves and the Thunder acquire a $7 million trade exception in a sign-and-trade.
July 18, 2013: The league votes to reimburse the Thunder several million dollars for Durant’s max contract.
July 24, 2013: Derek Fisher signs with the Thunder. Again, again.
August 7, 2013: Ryan Gomes signs with the Thunder.
August 10, 2013: Thunder nation tries to talk itself into Jeremy Lamb.
August 19, 2013: I wrote this post. I wonder what will the one August 19, 2018 look like?