Trading Russell Westbrook to Rockets Ends Thunder Era Warriors Shaped

Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant stood 2012 NBA Finals as the final seconds ticked away - cementing a championship for the Miami Heat - with the world assumed to be at their fingertips. 

With all players under the age of 23, the general presumption was that the trio - along with the rest of Oklahoma City Thunder - would own the NBA for the next decade. 1,600 miles later, the Warriors were building up a dynasty of its own, led by young sharp-shooters Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, guided by basketball savant Draymond Green. 

Despite Harden - the reigning Sixth Man of The Year - getting traded away three months later, the Thunder remained one of Golden State's watermarks for the next decade, pushing the Warriors to the brink in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. 

By late Thursday afternoon, all remnants of that image in Miami vanished when the Thunder traded Westbrook to the Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul and two first-round picks and two pick swaps, marking the end of a run by the Warriors former foe. 

As Golden ascended from a fun team under coach Mark Jackson to a champion under Steve Kerr, the Thunder always seemed to play their way into Golden State lore. Over a five year period, they won at least 65 percent of their games. It was Oklahoma City who provided the site of Stephen Curry's most iconic regular-season shot, when he hit a 3-pointer with .6 seconds to go to put Golden State up 121-118, helping preserve the Warriors 73-win season. It was the Thunder who went up 3-1 three months later in the Western Conference Finals, threatening to undermine the Warriors' historic season, before Golden State roared back to win the series. And it was the Thunder who mourned when Durant tweeted out a link in the Player's Tribune announcing his departure to the Warriors in 2016. 

When Durant left, Westbrook - the last piece of the trio - became the symbol for player loyalty in a league that's anything but. Over his last three seasons, he averaged a triple-double as the Thunder attempted to maintain a championship team, acquiring and re-signing Paul George, taking a flier on Carmelo Anthony and rounding out the roster with solid role pieces in Jeremi Grant, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson. Oklahoma even still had time to save their deafening boos whenever the Warriors came to town, However, the unit wasn't enough to get out of the first round in each of the first seasons. 

The first inclination of a rebuild came last week when the team traded away George to the LA Clippers for a record-setting amount of round picks, leaving Westbrook as the only all-star left on the roster. Now, Westbrook heads to Houston, reuniting with Harden in a quest to get the pair's first ring while the rest of the NBA wonders what could've been from young that trio that stood in Miami eight years ago. 

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