Russell Westbrook 'Most Important Player' in Thunder History After Rockets Trade

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2019

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook interacts with the crowd during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)
Steve Dipaola/Associated Press

Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti didn't hold back when talking about Russell Westbrook after the Houston Rockets officially announced Tuesday that they acquired him via trade.

Royce Young of ESPN.com shared Presti's statement in which the GM praised the team's relationship with Westbrook and revealed the front office worked with him to facilitate a trade with an eye on his future.

Presti added: "Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the OKC Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state."

Royce Young @royceyoung

Here's Sam Presti's statement on trading Russell Westbrook: https://t.co/t4nEEceTw6

OKC THUNDER @okcthunder

“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the OKC Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state.” -GM Sam Presti https://t.co/53SbwyAIXl

Presti wasn't the only member of the Thunder organization to heap praise on Westbrook on his way out. Thunder chairman Clay Bennett pointed to the UCLA product's legacy both on and off the court in the Oklahoma community:

OKC THUNDER @okcthunder

“I have a great deal of respect for Russell and there is no way to adequately describe our appreciation for what he has meant to Oklahomans. His legacy here is immense, and he will be honored by the team for all he has done. “ -Thunder Chairman Clay Bennett https://t.co/3p0Y9HPrLi

It is a testament to Westbrook's talent and impact that Presti considers him the most important player in franchise history for a team that has also featured Kevin Durant and James Harden, among others.

Westbrook, the No. 4 pick in the 2008 NBA draft, has played in Oklahoma City for his entire 11-year career. 

He won the 2016-17 MVP and is an eight-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, two-time assist champion and eight-time All-NBA selection. He also became just the second player in league history to average a triple-double for an entire season and has done so in each of the last three campaigns.

The Thunder advanced to the Western Conference Finals four times and the NBA Finals once with Westbrook at point guard. They will assuredly hang his number in their rafters one day.

Houston's first trip to Oklahoma City during the 2019-20 season will be appointment viewing for all NBA fans for what figures to be a memorable ceremony for the Thunder legend.