We all need to move on from Kevin Durant's days with the Thunder and his decision to join the Warriors, but before we do that we do need to take a moment. Just a second, to pause and understand this. Because while Durant has already faced Westbrook twice, he hasn't done it in OKC. Saturday is the last moment with a real tangible connection to Durant's time with the Thunder. The second matchup there will be their fourth of the season, and both teams might be resting players by then. So let us say it, and be done.
The Westbrook-Durant Thunder were a killer starship of a basketball team.
(This is maybe the corniest video ever made about basketball and simultaneously the greatest.)
Durant and Westbrook grew up together in the NBA spotlight. They went from "they could be good someday" to "you should check out that Thunder team, the young guys are for real" to "the Thunder have arrived," and fans got to see all of it, on the court at least.
For all the talk about how Durant and Westbrook didn't fit together, the pedestrian offense, the battle over who should shoot, the two won a ton of games and were insane in transition. They had so much speed, so much athleticism, such explosiveness bound in two players. Every possession was loaded with potential. If the Golden State Durant is somehow the optimized version, perfectly tuned and acclimated to peak conditions with zero waste, and the modern-day Westbrook is a super-charged version that is constantly exploding, the Thunder when they were together was a race car that could overheat at times, but also could beat anyone else to the line on any given night.
The conversations about those Thunder teams now are about what went wrong, about the offense being flawed, the James Harden trade, the coaching questions, the ways it didn't work. Those things ignore the fact that this team won tons of games and made the conference finals four times in six years. You can say you are "supposed" to win a title when you have two top-10 players, but you can't say this team wasn't successful.
But even that misses the point. The Thunder were fun. The Warriors are so loaded that every time they score 140 it seems like a rote occurrence and each time they don't it feels like a failure. There have been a large number of columns written about how, no matter how well the Warriors play (and they are, essentially, flawless), it just doesn't have the same magic as last season.
The Thunder were never magical. They were speed punk guitarists slamming into one another on-stage. They were the Hadron collider, smashing particles together to try and uncover the mysteries of the universe. It was a chef's kitchen: chaotic, imperfect and occasionally brilliant.
They were never meant to last.
Those Thunder teams are never coming back, but they are worth remembering. They gave the fans of the NBA something electric that never felt inevitable or predictable. It wasn't the Warriors' surgical precision or this season's Thunder's sloppy aggression.
The NBA futures of Westbrook and Durant continue to shine brilliantly. But watching them apart will never quite be like the thrill of seeing them figure out NBA puzzles together, with Durant's lock pick, or Westbrook's hammer.
Durant can't go home again, but we should remember the house they built all the same.