Thunder Grateful to Be a Part of 75th NBA Season

By Nick Gallo | Broadcast Reporter & Digital Reporter |

For the 75th anniversary of the NBA, the league is rolling out fresh elements across various aspects of the game – a new logo for this season, a new game ball partner in Wilson, a tone-setting short film called “NBA Lane” and the announcement of the 75 greatest players in league history on Tuesday through Thursday of this week on TNT and ESPN.

For the Thunder, which is entering its 14th season as an NBA franchise, a span that encompasses 19 percent of the total league years, the occasion is an opportunity to reflect on the pioneers who helped establish the game. It’s also the chance to add to the legacy that has been built in the United States, Canada and around the globe.

“It's a beautiful game,” said Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

“As soon as I heard that (it was the 75th season), I thought about all the great players I watched growing up. It just feels pretty special to be a part of this,” added fellow guard Ty Jerome.

The Thunder began its NBA journey in Oklahoma City in the fall of 2008, soaring with an unheard-of, meteoric rise from a 23-win team in that first season to an incredible 50 wins the very next year. Since then, the Thunder has been one of the most formidable franchises in the entire league. Since New Year’s Eve 2008, the first season in Oklahoma City, the Thunder has the second-best regular season winning percentage in the NBA and the seventh-best winning percentage in all of sports from the start of 2010 to the start of 2020.

The Thunder has also finished with a winning percentage of .610 (equivalent to 50 wins) seven times dating back to the 2009-10 season, with only San Antonio (eight seasons) reaching that benchmark more during the same period. That first era of Thunder basketball in Oklahoma City also produced ten-straight seasons with a .500 or better record, one of just three teams to maintain such a record across those years (Houston, San Antonio).

During the first week of training camp this year, the Thunder front office and coaching staff elected for the team to work out of the original practice facility that the team used during the first three seasons in Oklahoma City. As the next generation of Thunder players embark on the 2021-22 campaign, they’ll be armed with not just the history of the team’s milestones, but the stories of the work ethic, perseverance and resilience that it took to achieve success in the world’s most competitive basketball league.

“The group of players we have now are certainly standing on the shoulders of the last ten years and the people that have been here and the traditions that have been established,” said Thunder General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti. “The beauty of where we are right now is that we're really in an opportunity to craft our own future and start to write our own history, knowing that it's going to take time.”

All season long, while the league celebrates the greatest players to wear NBA jerseys, the Thunder will be trying to embody the same commitment to craft that the game’s standard bearers have demonstrated over the last seven and a half decades. From the racial integration of the league, advancements in style of play and the proliferation of the NBA across the globe, these young Thunder players can look back on the league’s path with respect.

“You get to see how far the league has come, where we are now and where we're going. You think of all the players in the past,” said forward Darius Bazley, who pointed to Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller as some of the greats he admires but singled out Penny Hardaway as his favorite player. “There's a lot of history and a lot of moments that just bring joy to a lot of people within basketball.”

“All of the guys all wanted one thing, and it was to be the best version of themselves, to be out there to compete,” added French guard Théo Maledon, one of seven international players on the Thunder’s roster.

Attacking the organization’s development program every day and making those small ticks forward in games this season, the Thunder will be emulating the greats by trying to be their best selves, both on and off the floor. That can only be accomplished with a sense of duty to the logo and a level of gratitude for those who set the bar before. Equipped with both of those qualities, the Thunder will feel a sense of meaning every time it touches the court this year, both inside Paycom Center with its loyal fans and while it represents Oklahomans when on the road.

“To put on an NBA jersey, for me, it's a dream come true. With the amount of people who play basketball and the small amount of people who have been able to put on an NBA jersey in the 75 years of its existence, I feel honored to do it,” said forward Isaiah Roby. “That's something that coming out each night, I always remind myself no matter how we're doing – winning streak, losing streak, I'm playing poorly – it's always a privilege and an honor to be able to put that NBA jersey on.”

“I'm so grateful for the game of basketball in my life,” added veteran Mike Muscala, who will follow in the footsteps of Thunder players who led by example. “Hopefully it's around for another 75.”


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