For 11 years, Russell Westbrook called Oklahoma City his home as a player. For one more night this season, as a member of the Houston Rockets, the city was home again for the All-Star point guard.
Westbrook received a hero’s welcome in his return to Oklahoma City, nearly six months after the Thunder made the fateful decision to trade him to the Rockets for Chris Paul and a litany of draft picks.
The biggest moment came when the Thunder aired one heck of a tribute video honoring its former MVP.
Russ returns to OKC. Here's our tribute video he watched in the arena tonight. pic.twitter.com/tNsf3J8nGe— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 10, 2020
Westbrook’s reception from the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd was similarly resounding. He received a standing ovation and deafening cheers from the entire arena.
Westbrook will always hold a special place in the hearts of Thunder fans, as the only All-Star to stay with the team until he was pulled away. Kevin Durant left for the Golden State Warriors, and hasn’t exactly endeared himself since. Paul George was great in his two years with the team, then demanded a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers.
As for Westbrook, he stayed until it became clear the Thunder had more use for the draft capital he’d return in a trade, following George’s exit.
He obviously knew the significance of the night coming in, as evidenced by his fashion choice.
For context, the back of the shirt has this on it, listing his accomplishments in OKC. If you misinterpreted it, it’s nothing but a positive fashion choice for Westbrook. pic.twitter.com/Uyf7jLnoHp— Royce Young (@royceyoung) January 10, 2020
Westbrook ended up giving the fans what they wanted, leading all players with 34 points in a losing effort against the Thunder.
The whole production was enough to impress even a losing locker room, as Rockets star James Harden, also a former member of the Thunder, had some very good things to say about OKC after the game.
James Harden: "That was dope. Obviously we got smacked, but it was a dope environment. Oklahoma City, as usual, showed mad love to Russell and everything he’s done for those 11 years he was here. Obviously, an unbelievable fan base, and it was just a beautiful thing to see."— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 10, 2020
Westbrook’s return sparks KD Twitter beef
The event of Westbrook’s return also triggered some online clashing between two of his former teammates. Ex-Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins took to Twitter to tease a SportsCenter segment in which he called Westbrook the best player to put on a Thunder uniform.
In about 30 minutes I’m going to give my opinion on @SportsCenter on why Believe that Russell Westbrook is the best player to have ever put on a Oklahoma City Thunder Jersey!!! He is MR. THUNDER!!!— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 9, 2020
That predictably triggered some lively debate in Perkins’ replies, and Durant wasn’t going to just let a conversation about him happen without going for some throats.
Yea and our starting center @KendrickPerkins averaged a whopping 2 and 3 during that series. U played hard tho champ lol— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) January 10, 2020
The two continued to go at it throughout the game, because there is no better way to honor Westbrook’s legacy than to get into internet screaming matches about Westbrook and Durant.
Boy stop you did the weakest move in NBA History!!! Up on a team 3-1 in the western conference finals and then go join them the following season?! Heart of Champion right there— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 10, 2020
That’s fine!!! You worked that hard and still had to go join a 73-9 team. Truth be told you don’t even feel like a real Champ, you have hard time sleeping at night huh knowing that you took the coward way out!!!— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 10, 2020
More from Yahoo Sports: