OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – For the first time in his career, Russell Westbrook walked into Chesapeake Energy Arena and went to the visiting team’s locker room.
“I’ve never been in there. Definitely, the whole thing is a little weird coming into the building, going in there, even going through that tunnel, but once I got back on the court, I felt like I was back doing the same thing I’ve always been doing my last 11 years,” Westbrook said.
In July, fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder were stunned when the team parted ways with Westbrook, sending him to the Houston Rockets.
On Thursday, Westbrook went back to the Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time since the trade.
Before he could make it onto the court for the game, Westbrook was met by familiar faces of the support staff he has grown to know over a decade.
“Those are the most important ones because those are the people that show up every night, support, don’t have an attitude, always smiling, always asking how my family is, how my kids are doing, how I’m doing. And to me, that means more than anything because those people; whether it’s the security or it’s the people that work in the back that people don’t see, don’t even come out to the court. For me, those are the relationships I cherish more than anything because those people matter and everybody in this arena matters because they were a part of the Thunder. And I feel like when I was here, everybody was a family,” Westbrook said.
Prior to the game, the Oklahoma City Thunder had another surprise for the former superstar. The Thunder created a tribute video to recognize the 11 years that Westbrook spent with the Thunder and the accomplishments he achieved along the way.
“It was a great, great celebration for him before the game started, and rightfully so. You know, I think he, for 11 years, gave his heart and soul, you know, did everything he could out there between the lines. I think it was a way for people to show their appreciation for what he’s done,” said Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “You know, people I think really respect and appreciate and admire somebody that gives it their all the way he does. I think there’s a connection between the community, the city, the state, the organization with him, and there always will be for forever.”
It was no surprise when Russell Westbrook was announced as a member of Houston’s lineup that the fans would show their appreciation for everything he’s given to the team.
“Some things you can’t put into words just because I’ve been here for so long and so many great memories, great people. Obviously, the best fans in the world because they come with it and tonight, they came with it,” Westbrook said. “The organization, Sam, Mr. Bennett, they do an amazing job of just making you feel home and I feel like I was home.”