The Return of Russ

Last night was incredible. It was special. It was something I have never experienced before in my life. Last night, Russell Westbrook returned to Chesapeake Arena for the first time as a visiting player, in a blowout win for Oklahoma City.

I could spend time here talking about the game, but I don’t want to do that, because last night was about more than one game. To be precise, it was about 821 games, and a million more moments. It would have been so easy for him to leave OKC earlier than he did, with star after star leaving until he became the last man standing.

The love was apparent from well before the video (I’ll get there), as this video has made me drop into a puddle of pure emotion on 7 separate occasions today.

The night officially started with the first video tribute in the history of the Thunder organization, and oh buddy was it something.

The waterworks began for me at about the 0:01 mark. This was followed by an ovation so loud it shook the foundation of the very organization Westbrook has known and loved for over a decade. Then, an intro that made even the hardest hearts turn to butter.

And then, something very special happened. Maybe nobody understands the significance of what happens here, but don’t you dare tell that to any Thunder fan, because it happened. He did the thing.

He’s done this for a long time now, but the way that this resonates with a crowd that prides itself on the Loud City reputation it got during those early 2010’s playoff runs is incredible. It pumps them up, giving them the assurance that no matter what, 0 was going to show up and bring the energy.

Last night was unforgettable. It had me and damn near everybody in their feelings, and rightly so. This was not a regular homecoming. As is par for the course with Russell Westbrook, it was vibrant, it was emotional, it was so uniquely Russ.

Russell was a flawed player on some flawed teams and the 30 for 30 on that OKC Dynasty That Never Was will probably punch me in the chest with the force of a thousand Westbrook dunks. None of that is being disputed.

There have been better players in history, there will be better players to come. But last night was about the love between a man and a city, and a bond that will never be broken. All of the defending we did on Twitter about his triple doubles never felt like a chore, because it wasn’t. He’s your favorite player’s favorite player for a reason.

To my New York friends who just don’t get it, or those of you who will make the RANGZ argument, the stat padding arguments, we don’t care. Does that stop you from celebrating players like Henrik Lundqvist or David Wright? Of course not. Philly has Allen Iverson, Utah has Stockton and Malone, the Knicks have Ewing. They are and will forever be adored where they are, and beyond.

The worst thing in sports has become Ring Culture. If you don’t win a championship you’re a failure. You need a ring to have a legacy. Last night was the ultimate showing of resistance against that.

I will tell my kids about Russell Westbrook, and the utterly unique joy he brought me during my time rooting for him on the Thunder. I will make damn sure my kids tell their kids about him. And that’s a damn legacy.

Russell Wesbrook, forever and ever.


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