Thunder GM says Russell Westbrook is the most important player in franchise history

The trade sending Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul and significant draft capital was officially announced on Tuesday.

With it came proclamations from both sides on the trade and the greatness of their departing point guards, this time legally. Thunder general manager Sam Presti took the biggest step when talking about Westbrook.

In the Thunder's statement announcing the trade, Presti said the team made an effort to accommodate Westbrook’s wishes and called the guard the “most important player” in franchise history:

“We recently had conversations with Russell about the team, his career, and how he sees the future. Through those conversations we came to the understanding that looking at some alternative situations would be something that made sense for him. As a result, and due to his history with the Thunder, we worked together to accommodate this,” Presti said. “Our ability to have these types of conversations and work so closely with Russell and his agent Thad Foucher is only possible because of the depth of the relationship that has been built over the last 11 years.

“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state. None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community. Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”

It’s hard to argue against Presti’s point there.

Westbrook was drafted fourth overall in the 2008 NBA draft, the same summer Oklahoma City received the franchise. A member of the inaugural Thunder team, Westbrook’s first All-Star selection coincided with the franchise’s first playoff series win.

Not counting Sonics history, Westbrook is the all-time OKC leader in points, assists, rebounds and steals (also, yes, turnovers). He won the MVP, multiple scoring titles, multiple assists titles, multiple seasons averaging a triple-double and eight All-Star selections in Oklahoma City. And, above all, he will be remembered as the star who wanted to stay in the NBA’s smallest market.

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Russell Westbrook through the years
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Russell Westbrook through the years
UCLA's Russell Westbrook, right, is congratulated by NBA commissioner David Stern after being picked fourth overall by the Seattle SuperSonics during the first round of the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 26, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) brings the ball up court in the first half of their NBA basketball game in Houston, Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)
In this Dec. 10, 2008, photo, Oklahoma City Thunder Russell Westbrook dunks against the Memphis Grizzlies in an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City. Westbrook was named the NBA's Western Conference rookie of the month for December. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook poses for a photo during the 2009-2010 Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, September 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook in an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Dec. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) shoots in front of Sacramento Kings forward, Tyreke Evans, right, in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. Oklahoma City won 102-87. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook listens to a question during a news conference at media day in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook celebrates during an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) gestures at the end of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Oklahoma City, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Oklahoma City won 114-96. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Jordan Brand athlete, Russell Westbrook, answers questions at Jordan Brand’s Flight Experience on Saturday, February 16, 2013 in Houston, TX. Westbrook was Jordan Brand’s first athlete to debut the AJXX8s, wearing them for the first time in December of 2012. (Photo by Omar Vega/Invision for Jordan Brand/AP Images)
PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 4: Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (0) is seen during the Portland Trail Blazers 111-104 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Moda Center on December 4, 2013 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Elise/Getty Images)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) cheers in front of Phoenix Suns center Miles Plumlee, right, in the second quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts to a call by referee Gary Zielinski, right, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2015, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook celebrates following a dunk during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, in Oklahoma City. A source with direct knowledge of the situation says the Thunder have reached a new deal with All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. The two sides have agreed on a new three-year contract worth $85.7 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, because the team had not announced the deal. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
FILE - In this June 27, 2015, file photo, Oklahoma City Thunder NBA player Russell Westbrook arrives for the presentation of Dior Homme men's Spring-Summer 2016 fashion collection in Paris, France. When you're Westbrook, the undisputed king of NBA fashion, you don't spend the offseason like typical players do. The five-time All-Star passes his time designing clothes, perched on the front row for shows during New York Fashion Week or talking style and tennis with Vogue magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. (AP Photo/Zacharie Scheurer, File)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 24: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks against the Golden State Warriors in the first half in game four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 24, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after scoring against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016. Oklahoma City won 112-100. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)
MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 29: Seconds before being ejected from the game, Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder questions official Brian Forte #45 about a call during the second half of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on December 29, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks after a steal against the LA Clippers at Staples Center on January 16, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 12: NBA player Russell Westbrook poses with the Best Male Athlete award backstage during The 2017 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 18: Sports Illustrated Fashionable 50 honoree Russell Westbrook at Sports Illustrated 2017 Fashionable 50 Celebration at Avenue on July 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED)
CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 01: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks the ball against the Charlotte Hornets during their game at Spectrum Center on November 1, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 26: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during the game against the Denver Nuggets on February 26, 2019 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
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