O’Neil: Reality bites the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Seattle is here to relish it
Winter is coming, Oklahoma City.
Cold and desolate, and this fact warms my bitter little heart. For the past 11 seasons you have been the most sheltered, most privileged fans in the entire league. You have been utterly spoiled, and now that your team is being gutted you’re going to find out how the other half lives.
No wait. That doesn’t sufficiently capture how much I’m relishing this.
That’s more like it.
For more than a decade, Oklahoma City has enjoyed the fruit of our suffering here in Seattle. The city didn’t just get our team. It got our team only after it had acquired two absolutely transcendent players. We endured the losses that made the selection of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook possible, and Oklahoma City didn’t even have the common courtesy to thank us.
In fact, they proceeded to look down on us as a bunch of rubes who didn’t appreciate what we had, which is why I’m so interested to see how their dusty little hamlet handles the hollowing out prompted by Paul George’s request for a trade. He was dealt to the Clippers on Friday for a slew of first-round picks from a team that doesn’t figure to be missing the playoffs any time soon. Forward Jerami Grant was next, traded to Denver for a first-round pick on Monday morning. Now everyone is waiting to see where Russell Westbrook goes, and chances are he’s going to take Steven Adams with him as the Thunder will want to force someone else to pay the rest of the money Adams is owed.
Reality bites, Oklahoma City. Wait. That comma was entirely unnecessary: Reality bites Oklahoma City, which set an unofficial NBA record for getting the least possible return from its ungodly collection of young talent. The Thunder had Westbrook, Durant and James Harden – three future MVPs – on the team simultaneously and parlayed that into exactly one NBA Finals appearance.
Now, they’re going to be bad. On purpose. And I can’t wait to watch especially given the undercurrent from some fans out in that dusty little hamlet who still believe that our city’s fans didn’t appreciate what we had:
For those saying OKC is gonna lose the Thunder…I’m LOLing. The fans are still gonna support this organization. OKC is still a better basketball market than Seattle. Get over it. #ThunderUp
— Billy Locke (@Billy918Locke) July 6, 2019
Yeah, we’ll see about that. Because Seattle supported its team through 10 years of abject mediocrity prior to relocation while Oklahoma City has enjoyed largely unadulterated success with nine playoff berths in the 11 seasons since the Thunder arrived.
That success only added insult to the injury that our city suffered. It was bad enough that Seattle was like the poor sucker who got drugged one night in Vegas and woke up missing a kidney in a bathtub full of ice. To watch the person who received that organ go on to such incredible success made it even worse.
Our pain resulted in their gain.
Durant was chosen after Seattle’s 30-win team won the lottery in 2007.
Westbrook was chosen in 2008 after the Sonics won 20 games in what turned out to be their final season in town.
Oklahoma City got to reap the wins, and all we were left with was the small consolation of being able to relish in their inability to cash in a winning lottery ticket. This team had three future MVPs on its roster, at once, for three successive seasons, and it managed to make the NBA Finals just one time.
Losing to Lebron’s Heat in the Finals in 2012 was as good as it got for the Thunder, who traded away Harden, lost Durant to free agency and now are about to auction off Westbrook.
Winter is coming, Oklahoma City, and we’re about to find out if this fanbase that has known nothing but success and excitement can stomach true suffering.
Heartbreaking losses aren’t the worst part of the NBA. Having no chance to win is, and that’s exactly where the Thunder will be for the next few years.
More from O’Neil: Sonics fans get most satisfying end to Thunder season