OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (TNN) - It was a big night at the Chesapeake Energy Arena Thursday as former Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook made his first trip back to OKC since being traded.
Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets last summer and since then, this game had been circled on the schedules of many Thunder fans. The night started with a tribute video to Westbrook. It was the first such video the Oklahoma City Thunder has ever made for a returning player.
"It was a bunch of emotion. You saw people tearing up, I took that moment to just look at the video and look at the appreciation the organization had for Westbrook. You can tell they put a lot into this,” said Alex Roig, Lawton resident and co-host of the Topic: Thunder podcast.
After that video, things felt very familiar.
"Introducing him like he was still with the Thunder, the number zero, from UCLA, 6 foot 3, Russell Westbrook. Then him running out and trying to get the crowd hyped up like he used it. It felt like nothing had changed,” Roig said.
But as soon as the game tipped off, it was back to reality with fans cheering for their team. "It’s always very weird to see your guy in another jersey. But when that ball tipped off, he’s an opponent and he wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Roig said.
In his post-game press conference, Westbrook talked about how the love from the fans was mutual.
"Some things you just can’t put into words just because I’ve been here for so long. So many great memories, great people. The best fans in the world because they come with it. Tonight, they came with it. They do an amazing job of just making you feel like you’re at home and I felt like I was at home,” Westbrook said.
Westbrook wore a shirt and shoes honoring Oklahoma to the game, featuring some of his accomplishments as well as the words zero regrets and thank you Oklahoma.
"As an Oklahoman you just kind of swell with pride. Because this is our guy, this is the guy that Durant was supposed to be our guy but in reality, it became Westbrook. Just the sense of appreciation he has for the city and the state, it is reciprocated by us as Oklahomans,” Roig said.
Westbrook himself had a big night scoring 34 points but it was not enough. The Thunder ended up winning in a blowout 113 to 92.