Published April 26, 2022
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Top Ten Greatest Players
Some things to consider:
– This includes the Oklahoma City Thunder’s former franchise era, the Seattle SuperSonics.
– These rankings are based on greatness to the franchise, not the greatness of their career. For example, Hakeem Olajuwon is the greatest to ever play in a Raptors jersey, but his lack of importance to Toronto would leave him off of this kind of list.
– The main criteria considered include: accomplishments with the franchise, notable franchise records (within top ten range), and talent.
Dale ellis, Ray Allen, Detlef Schrempf
10. Rashard Lewis
6th in minutes played
7th in field goals made
2nd in three-point field goals made
6th in points
10th in steals
10th in blocks
Despite a lack of individual accolades, Rashard Lewis is a common example of a player whose importance to a franchise exceeds their accomplishments.
Following his drafting in the late-90’s, Lewis remained a key player on a slowly declining SuperSonics team. He eventually managed to bring them out of the mud briefly with a solid playoff run in 2005 alongside Ray Allen, although the attempt was shorthanded.
Regardless, his heart is with the franchise, as if the records hadn’t already proven such.
9. Fred Brown
4th in minutes played
3rd in field goals made
4th in assists
4th in steals
Much like Lewis, Fred Brown was not a top-tier talent. He is forever a Sonics legend, though, as he dedicated his entire career to playing there.
He has played the most full seasons for the franchise (all thirteen of his), and was a recognizable member of the underrated ’79 championship team because of his fantastic shooting ability.
Had he been in the league any later, it would have been very likely he found himself in the conversation of the greatest old-school three-point shooters; he hit a whopping 44% of his threes in ’80, which is impressive given the low usage of that shot at the time.
8. Spencer Haywood
2x All-NBA 1st Team, 2x All-NBA 2nd Team
9th in rebounds
It’s a no brainer that Spencer Haywood was well on his way to becoming one of the best players of the 70’s era. If it wasn’t for his devastating cocaine abuse, then he would’ve gotten there; luckily, it had not become a problem for him yet in Seattle.
After averaging thirty points per game and winning an MVP in the ABA league his rookie year, he came to the NBA and maintained his dominance with the SuperSonics for a number of years. The franchise wasn’t too successful yet given its youth at the time, but he represented them nicely year-after-year through the All-Star Game and All-NBA ballots.
7. Gus Williams
1x All-NBA 1st Team, 1x All-NBA 2nd Team
1982 Comeback Player of the Year
6th in field goals made
8th in points
5th in assists
5th in steals
After leaving Golden State to sign with the SuperSonics as a free agent, Gus Williams spent six years with the franchise as a core member of the squad that visited the finals in back-to-back years.
He was their best scorer, even averaging thirty points per game in their series against the Lakers in ’79; he was the most efficient on the team, and followed that trend for the rest of his career there. He was considered one of the league’s premier guards in the early-80’s, before a quick decline after leaving Seattle resulted in a short career.
6. Dennis Johnson
1x Finals MVP
2x All-NBA 1st Team
2x All-Defensive 1st Team
Notable Records: N/A
Not many basketball fans realize that before his memorable time with Boston, Dennis Johnson started his career boosting the SuperSonics to championship level.
He was the leading force behind a team that steamrolled Kareem’s Lakers, the fifty-win Phoenix Suns, and defending champion Washington Bullets, giving fans a chip to brag about. He was all-around excellent for four years there, and if he stuck around any longer, he would find himself primarily associated with Seattle.
5. Shawn Kemp
3x All-NBA 2nd Team
8th in minutes played
8th in field goals made
7th in points
2nd in rebounds
7th in steals
2nd in blocks
Shawn Kemp‘s career was troubled and shorter than it could’ve been, but his prime is forever iconic. Alongside Gary Payton, he fought his way to a near championship against Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Kemp was such an impactful factor that he nearly received a Finals MVP in the series despite losing.
His excellence as a two-way player was a large factor in Seattle’s persistent success throughout the 90’s, especially given that he was the best player on the team for the first half of the decade. We can only imagine how great of an overall career he would’ve had if he had remained disciplined, but the legacy is set in stone.
4. Jack Sikma
1x All-Defensive 2nd Team
1978 All-Rookie 1st Team
3rd in minutes played
5th in field goals made
5th in points
1st in rebounds
8th in assists
9th in steals
3rd in blocks
He may not have been a Finals MVP like Dennis Johnson or prolific scorer like Gus Williams, but Jack Sikma is the member of that 70’s Sonics core that left the strongest impact on the franchise.
He spent nearly a decade in Seattle and was a consistent All-Star for the bulk of it, always providing a double-double on any given night. His combination of productive scoring and defense have put him atop the leaderboards for a lot of the SuperSonics’ records, and rightfully so; beyond his place as a member of the championship team, he was a bright light during an 80’s era that wasn’t always too prosperous.
3. Kevin Durant
5x All-NBA 1st Team, 1x All-NBA 2nd Team
1x All-Star Game MVP
2008 Rookie of the Year
5th in minutes played
5th in field goals made
1st in three-point field goals made
5th in points
5th in rebounds
7th in assists
8th in steals
4th in blocks
Despite a very ugly departure from Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant still remains their all-time best individual talent and one of their greats.
His jump to stardom was quick, immediately winning Rookie of the Year honors and becoming one of the league’s best players and scorers. By the mid-2010s, it was difficult to argue he wasn’t the best scorer, given he had averaged at least twenty-seven points per game since the turn of the decade and was creeping on thirty-two in his MVP year.
This, combined with his offensive versatility and ability to bring a young Thunder core to the finals in his fifth year, locks him into a comfortable top three spot on this list.
2. Gary Payton
2x All-NBA 1st Team, 5x All-NBA 2nd Team, 2x All-NBA 3rd Team
1x Defensive Player of the Year
9x All-Defensive 1st Team
1991 All-Rookie 2nd Team
1st in minutes
1st in field goals made
4th in three-point field goals made
2nd in points
6th in rebounds
1st in assists
1st in steals
Even if Durant was more talented, a combination of loyalty and longevity are what separates these top two spots from him.
Gary Payton is the SuperSonics. He may not have won a championship or MVP with them, but he’s the most common name that comes to mind when mentioning the defunct team, and was their franchise player for well over a decade.
His unbelievable basketball IQ and on-court grittiness set a standard for modern defensive guards, proving that you don’t have to be elite on the stat sheet to contribute to pure winning. That can be proven with his 1996 finals appearance and several other winning records, which are achievements that are enshrined in not only franchise, but league history.
1. Russell Westbrook
2x All-NBA 1st Team, 5x All-NBA 2nd Team, 1x All-NBA 3rd Team
2x All-Star Game MVP
2009 All-Rookie 1st Team
2nd in minutes
2nd in field goals made
3rd in three-point field goals made
1st in points
3rd in rebounds
2nd in assists
3rd in steals
Putting Payton first was tempting, but it’s undeniable that Russell Westbrook has won every Thunder fan’s heart.
He may have not been the best player on the team for a bulk of his time there, but once Kevin Durant jumped ship he took an enormous leap forward. He struggled with deep playoff runs but kept Oklahoma City afloat with his stellar prime, where it was a rarity to see him deliver anything but a triple-double on any given night.
No other player has matched his accomplishments, records, reputation and success with the Thunder, and the 2017 MVP is the cherry on top. It’s fair to say that Westbrook is the face of the modern era of this franchise, and perhaps the entirety of it all.