The Oklahoma City Thunder have reinvented themselves as of late. The team looks totally new, with a new set of stars to lead the way towards their new future. The franchise isn’t new to change. In fact, change is a part of their history as the team moved from the Emerald City as the Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008.
Let’s look back at the franchise’s best moments over the years, both as the Thunder as well as the original Sonics.
Honorable Mention: Trading for Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (and a million picks)
The Oklahoma City Thunder this season is nearly unrecognizable.
With the trades that sent away Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the Thunder basically pressed the restart button on the team they’d been building and re-tooling for more than a decade.
But now Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul and a young stalwart in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have brought reasons for optimism for the team’s future. They’ve found success as a surprise playoff contender much earlier than people expected. With their mighty haul of first-round picks, developing young talent, and Chris Paul setting the culture, for now, OKC’s hopes may soon become reality once again.
#5: Young Thunder go toe to toe with Kobe Bryant, Lakers
The top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers were only concerned about getting back to the Finals in 2010. But their first-round match up, the 8th seeded Oklahoma City Thunder, gave them a rude awakening.
The Thunder put up a fight for the first two games, losing by single digits. But they came roaring back once they got back in Oklahoma. They took the next two games at home and showed just how talented their young core was. Sophomore star Russell Westbrook put up 20-6-6 while Kevin Durant actually outpaced Kobe in scoring in six games with his series-leading 25 points per game.
Though they eventually did fall 4-2 to the eventual champions, it was the perfect stepping stone they needed for the following years to come.
#4: Dennis Johnson’s game-winning three in 1980 playoffs
Before he was making clutch plays for the Boston Celtics, DJ was doing it for the Seattle SuperSonics.
In Game 1 of the 1980 Western Conference Finals, The Sonics lost the lead with seconds remaining off a live ball turnover. With seconds life to play and no time outs, Dennis Johnson dribbled frantically up the court off the baseline inbound. The 5-time All-Star drained the go-ahead three to lead by one and win the game.
What’s memorable about this play is that it was the first-ever three-point game-winner in NBA history. The three-point line was introduced just at the start of this 1979 – 1980 season. It was so new that the announcer actually said that DJ tied the game when he hit the shot, but they actually took the lead and won.
It would become the first of many clutch playoff three-pointers, but Dennis Johnson made sure Seattle did it first.
#3: Sonics win game 7, trip to the NBA Finals
While the 1995 – 1996 season is remembered for the perfection that was the Chicago Bulls, the Seattle SuperSonics were pretty great that year too.
They had the 2nd best record in the league and ran away with the top seed out west. Despite nearly blowing a 3-1 lead against the Utah Jazz and losing game 6 in deflating fashion by 35 points, they composed themselves to take game 7 and win a date with Michael Jordan.
Although they would fall to MJ (as everyone else did), this team with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp is likely the lasting memory that Seattle fans have for their team.
Here’s to hoping it won’t be the last forever.
#2: SuperSonics win the 1979 title
Seattle did reach the mountain top way back in 1979, and boy what it sweet. They lost the title the previous year to Wes Unseld and the Washington Bullets and got a chance to avenge their loss the year later. They lost the first game on the road, the Sonics would rally to win the next four in a row to eventually take the title.
The team was lifted by Finals MVP Dennis Johnson who led a balanced scoring attack that saw multiple players averaging double figures.
#1: OKC wins game 1 of the NBA Finals
Sonics fans won’t be happy that this moment is number 1, despite the team eventually falling in 5 games. But it’s hard to argue against this point in their franchise’s history
The Thunder were so very young, with Durant, Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka all under the age of 25. Even with their inexperience, here they were stealing game 1 from the heavily favored Miami Heat and threatening the legacy of LeBron James.
In this game 1 victory, you saw a close game in the 4th get absolutely taken over by a 24-year-old Kevin Durant. He outscored LeBron for the game, and out-dueled him late by scoring 17 of his 36 points in the final frame.
It was at this point that Thunder fans felt that they not only could win the title that year but that it was the beginning of a long dynasty for years to come. Just don’t tell them what happens in 2016.