I’m sitting here, trying to think of something to write about Thabo Sefolosha. He started 377 games for the Thunder from 2009 to 2014, played in more games than Serge Ibaka and was part of the Great Turnaround.
But I can’t think of anything to really say about him. He played defense really well, was awesome at pump-faking and then missing after pump-faking, took roughly six seconds to go from catch to wind-up to actually shooting, loved the hog the ball in transition, was the center of the supposed Durant-Westbrook meltdown in Memphis, had weirdly incredible passing skills sometimes, could dunk out of nowhere, had the cheesiest tattoo in NBA history, would make you think one night he had this shooting thing figured out and then would miss his next 12 3-pointers.
He relentlessly patrolled passing lanes, couldn’t do anything with his left hand, understood his role better than maybe any other player on the team not named Nick Collison, could airball the hell out of an open 3, liked throwing no-look passes any time he could, defended Kobe maybe better than anybody ever, and did I say he was good at pump-faking?
The thing about Thabo, is that he never really found anywhere near the appreciation he should’ve. That’s the plight of a defensive focused player that can’t shoot. Even when Thabo would make 3s, it felt like it was kind of an accident. His release was slower than dial-up internet and he needed roughly 10 open feet of airspace to even attempt a shot.
But I’ll always think of that Game 3 against the Spurs. It was the Night of Thabo, a game where all that defensive wizardry and all that weird discombobulated offense came together for an explosion of near perfect two-way basketball. He saved the Thunder that night. He harassed and hounded Tony Parker, picking at every dribble, at every pass. Nothing was easy for Parker, because he was basically wearing a 6-foot-7 Swiss suit.
Thabo joined the Thunder from Chicago on Feb. 19, 2009, and that day the Thunder were 13-41. After it, they went 281-109. No, not because of Thabo Freaking Sefolosha. But his addition filled a gap in the team that was glaring, and adding a defensive mentality to a team that really seemed to only care about how much shots and points they could get.
The Thunder didn’t really need Thabo anymore. He had a bad season in 2013-14 and obviously found himself a contract that the Thunder weren’t ever going to offer. It’s sort of the end of an era, officially opening a position that he’s had on lockdown the last five and a half seasons. It closes the book on the longest running starting five in the league, a group that’s been introduced together for some 350 games. Time to move on, time to part ways. But Thabo Sefolosha was part of something in Oklahoma City, part of an uprising, part of a change. He has his fingerprints all over the cultural transformation of the Thunder, from the way he approached his job to how he professionally accepted his place. Every team needs a Thabo. Hell, the Thunder are trying to clone him in a lab and name him Andre Roberson.
It’s not exactly sad that Thabo’s gone. Because it was indeed time. But it does feel weird that people are fist-pumping his departure. Maybe that’s fitting. Thabo was frustrating, he was annoying, he was aggravating. But he was always honest, always candid and always professional. He did his part and didn’t ask for you to appreciate it. I don’t know what to say about him, which really, seems kind of like the perfect way to say everything about him.