On May 27, 2014, there was still hope for a championship in Oklahoma City.
Though the Thunder had dropped their first two games to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, a Game 3 win and marvelous performance by Russel Westbrook in Game 4 had evened things out.
Westbrook notched 40 points, 10 assists and five steals in guiding OKC to victory. Only one other person—Michael Jordan on May 3, 1989—had ever matched that, according to Basketball Reference.
Westbrook was efficient too, shooting 52.6 percent from two, 40.0 percent from three and 100 percent at the stripe, making all 14 of his freebies. His true shooting percentage on the night was 66.3.
Kevin Durant added 31 points of his own.
If you could freeze that moment in time, you could still believe the Thunder were on their way to a championship. With Durant and Westbrook leading the way, it seemed like they could get over the great LeBron James-sized hurdle this time,
Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there. The Spurs won the next two games and then went to win the 2014 title against the Miami Heat.
The Thunder kept the pairing of Westbrook and Durant together one more season and went up 3-1 on the Golden State Warriors before watching that lead evaporate as well.
Frustrated, Durant left the Thunder to join the Dubs in 2015.
Westbrook valiantly hung around for a couple more years, even winning an MVP, but the Thunder didn’t win another playoff series. He was traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul in 2019.
History is a funny thing. You can look at it in terms of whether teams made the right decision or not, but sometimes you can capture a singular moment that changes your perspective.
In that moment, when Westbrook was elevating the Thunder over the Spurs, it was easy to believe that this was OKC’s year. But it should serve as a reminder to never think that things are over until they are, in fact, over.
Kelly is a TBW co-Founder and frequent contributor. He spent 4.5 years in the USAF before attending University of Minnesota, Bible college in Anaheim and 15 years in youth ministry. Basketball blogger-turned-NBA Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report, BBallBreakdown, Fansided, The Step Back, Hoops Habit, SportsNet, Vantage Sports, Dime and FanRag, among others, his work has been read over 25 million times. The former NBA Assistant Editor at FanRag (2016-18), he is an NBA Twitter staple who is well-connected and respected among today’s finest basketball writers.