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Thunder GM says Russell Westbrook is the most important player in franchise history

Jack Baer
Yahoo Sports Contributor

The trade sending Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul and significant draft capital was officially announced on Tuesday.

With it came proclamations from both sides on the trade and the greatness of their departing point guards, this time legally. Thunder general manager Sam Presti took the biggest step when talking about Westbrook.

In the Thunder's statement announcing the trade, Presti said the team made an effort to accommodate Westbrook’s wishes and called the guard the “most important player” in franchise history:

“We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future. Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this,” Presti said. “Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years.

“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community. Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”

It’s hard to argue against Presti’s point there.

Westbrook was drafted fourth overall in the 2008 NBA draft, the same summer Oklahoma City received the franchise. A member of the inaugural Thunder team, Westbrook’s first All-Star selection coincided with the franchise’s first playoff series win.

Not counting Sonics history, Westbrook is the all-time OKC leader in points, assists, rebounds and steals (also, yes, turnovers). He won the MVP, multiple scoring titles, multiple assists titles, multiple seasons averaging a triple-double and eight All-Star selections in Oklahoma City. And, above all, he will be remembered as the star who wanted to stay in the NBA’s smallest market.

It's the end of an era for the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

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