Kevin Durant’s Return to OKC Fuels Thunder Fans’ Passion
Thunder lose to Warriors in Kevin Durant’s return, 130-114.
My thoughts as a reporter, fan, and resident of Oklahoma City on a very unique night in this city’s history:
It was as entertaining a game in which the outcome was never really in doubt that I’ve seen the Oklahoma City Thunder play. The night went about as I expected it to for the most part.
Kevin Durant was loudly booed in pregame warmups, starting lineup introductions, and EVERY SINGLE TIME he touched the ball. There were a few “cupcake” chants here and there as well from Thunder fans. On the other side, Russell Westbrook received the loudest cheers I’ve ever heard from Thunder fans, and a few chants of “MVP” during the game.
Thunder fans were creative in their display of dislike for KD, with several fans sporting cupcake shirts or jerseys, and one fan even brought his child, dresssed up as a giant cupcake.
Even when the Thunder fell behind by a large margin, trailing by 23 points at halftime and at one point by 26, Thunder fans never wavered in their enthusiasm for their team, and in showing their dislike for Kevin Durant. It was impressive to see that kind of fan support, and not easy to keep cheering that loudly when you know deep down, you’re team isn’t going to win the game.
The Warriors are loaded for a run at an NBA title. They were loaded last year without Kevin Durant, and are now even more prepared to take the title again. But Oklahoma City has something that maybe no other city has to this extent, a passion for their team that runs deep, that touches nerves and emotions that can’t help but be spilled out.
It’s been a tough last seven months for Thunder fans as they’ve dealt with the decision Kevin Durant made to sign with the Golden State Warriors. Ever since the schedule came out last summer, February 11 was circled on the calendar by fans in OKC, awaiting the return of the once favored son, now considered a traitor and a turncoat. Tonight was something Oklahoma City fans needed. A chance to vent that frustration that sometimes had no outlet. Saturday night was that outlet.
Thunder fans didn’t get the outcome they wanted, but you got the feeling when the game was over, that wasn’t the most important thing on this night. Tonight was about loyalty, about team, about community, and supporting those you cheer for, love, and feel a deep emotion for that sometimes doesn’t even make sense to those feeling the emotion.
As a lifelong resident of Oklahoma City, I never imagined in my wildest dreams OKC would one day become home to an NBA team. Nine seasons in, it’s still hard for me to believe. But it’s become a part of this community like nothing else I’ve ever seen before, and the roots are growing deeper and stronger as the years go by. Kevin Durant left those roots behind, and it’s been painful for Thunder fans to deal with. Russell Westbrook has stayed, and become the embodiment of what Oklahomans love in a sports hero; a player with passion, determination, drive, and an unwavering loyalty to the team he plays for and represents.
Tonight Oklahoma City got to show him and the rest of the Thundre team what that means to them. They needed to show it because it’s who they are, and they also needed to show Kevin Durant those feelings no longer apply to him.
Kevin Durant did wonderful things for the franchise, and for the city, and I don’t think Thunder fans will ever forget that. But the emotional pain of his departure still stings, and that will not be forgotten either.
Durant will make a couple of visits to OKC each season the rest of his career, and he’ll be booed some more, but nothing will top that first night he came back, and Thunder fans first chance to let their emotions speak for them.
Scoreboard results will not always go OKC’s way, but it’s clear the passion and love Thunder fans have for their team has never been higher.
KFOR Sports Director