);
Houston Rockets

Russell Westbrook's return to Oklahoma City adds to list of uniquely emotional return games

Historic numbers. Indelible impact.

Russell Westbrook's tenure as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder is perhaps the most important in the grand scheme of the franchise's 12-year history. Over 11 seasons, he made eight All-Star appearances, earned eight All-NBA selections and won two scoring titles, as well as two assists titles.

And in 2017, he was named the league's MVP.

So when he takes the floor at Chesapeake Energy Arena as a visitor for the first time in his career on Thursday, it will be… different.

Factoring in the emotion, appreciation and adulation of the Thunder faithful, this won't be your typical return game of a star.

Russell Westbrook was their everything.

A post shared by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on

We've seen it a few times this year already, with Kemba Walker, Mike Conley and Kawhi Leonard returning to places where their respective impact was immeasurable, and there was no shortage of love felt.

It was a different kind of return, but this season has also seen Anthony Davis make his return to a place where he established himself as one of the league's best.

While it's hard to predict the ways in which appreciation will be shown, it's fair to expect to see levels of love we haven't seen before in a return game.

It's a return game unlike any we've seen before.

And what can we expect from Russ? It's obvious he'll be receptive to the fans of a city that he is "eternally grateful" for and once the ball tips, it will be all business as usual.

He's averaging 24.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists this season and has the precedent of these return games to follow…


Kawhi Leonard

Dec. 11, 2019 - Clippers 112, Raptors 92

Leonard - 23 PTS (8-14 FG), 6 AST, 5 REB

Kawhi Leonard's return is one-of-a-kind in that it included a ring ceremony after the unprecedented decision to leave the Raptors just weeks after leading them to their first-ever NBA title.

Sights and sounds: Kawhi returns to Toronto

Although he spent just one season in Toronto, Kawhi made himself into a Candian icon.

In his return to Scotiabank Arena, he was treated as such.

Mike Conley

Nov. 15, 2019 - Grizzlies 107, Jazz 106

Conley - 15 PTS (5-19 FG), 4 REB, 3 AST

Mike Conley spent 12 seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, including the most successful stretch of the franchise's history.

Sights and sounds: Conley returns to Memphis

Over 12 years, his impact was much greater than basketball, as he became one with the community by bettering Memphis both on and off the court. As a result, there was an outpouring of love when Conley made his first trip to FedEx Forum as a member of the opposing team.

Kemba Walker

Nov. 7, 2019 - Celtics 108, Hornets 87

Walker - 14 PTS (4-12 FG), 6 AST, 2 REB

Similar to Westbrook, Kemba Walker was everything for the Charlotte Hornets for a long period of time. So when he opted to join the Boston Celtics via free agency, there was a mutual understanding between him and the Hornets fanbase, especially when he admitted it wasn't an easy decision to leave.

Sights and sounds: Kemba returns to Charlotte

It was an extremely emotional return for Walker, who received a moving tribute and warm ovation from the Spectrum Center crowd when he was announced and throughout the game.

DeMar DeRozan

Feb. 22, 2019 - Raptors 120, Spurs 117

DeRozan - 23 PTS (7-12 FG), 8 AST, 4 REB, 2 STL

Of all the returns, this is by far one of the most emotional.

DeMar DeRozan was drafted by Toronto, he became a star in Toronto and he had an integral role in the franchise's growth into a perennial legitimate contender.

Business is business, but when DeRozan was traded to San Antonio, it was tough for both he and the city alike. Upon his first return, the fans at Scotiabank Arena were quick to express their love and appreciation to a player that will forever be linked to their adored franchise.

LeBron James

Nov. 21, 2018 - Lakers 109, Cavaliers 105

James - 32 PTS (11-20 FG), 14 REB, 7 AST

LeBron James knows a thing or two, or three about return games.

In 2018, James made his return to his home of Northeast Ohio to take on the Cavs as a visitor, only this time as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

It was much different from his first return to play the Cavs. Much different.

After leading Cleveland to four straight Finals and a title in 2016, the Quicken Loans Arena crowd showed "The Kid from Akron" nothing but love.

Dwyane Wade

Nov. 11, 2016 - Bulls 98, Heat 95

Wade - 13 PTS (5-17 FG), 4 AST

This one might be the weirdest of them all.

After winning three titles over 13 seasons with the Heat, Dwyane Wade left to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls as a free agent in 2016. Seeing him in a different shade of red just didn't seem right.

Miami-"Wade" County welcomed D-Wade back with open arms as a visitor in his first return but ultimately, the story ended as it was supposed to, as he would eventually return to the Heat to finish out the final 93 games of his career.

Steve Nash

Jan. 30, 2013 - Suns 92, Lakers 86

Nash - 11 PTS (3-8 FG), 4 REB, 2 AST

With the Suns, Steve Nash became a Hall of Famer, winning MVPs in back-to-back years and establishing himself as one of the greatest point guards of all time.

When he returned to the Valley of the Sun as a member of the Lakers, he was welcomed back by the fans.

Phoenix ultimately earned the win as Nash scored just 11 points (on 37.5% shooting), grabbed four boards and dished out two assists.

Chauncey Billups

Mar. 3, 2009 - Pistons 100, Nuggets 95

Billups - 34 PTS (11-19 FG), 4 AST, 1 REB

Chauncey Billups helped lead the Detroit Pistons to an NBA title in 2004, earning the honours of Finals MVP.

An early-season trade saw him join his hometown Denver Nuggets in the 2008-09 season, where he would make his return to the Palace of Auburn Hills in early March. In the same arena where he hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy, Billups received a uniquely-Detroit warm welcome from the PA announcer and put forth an impressive 34-point performance.

Allen Iverson

Mar. 19, 2008 - 76ers 115, Nuggets 113

Iverson - 32 PTS (13-24 FG), 8 AST, 3 STL

Night in and night out, Allen Iverson emptied his heart and soul for the Philadelphia 76ers franchise.

He and The City of Brotherly Love were a match made in heaven.

After being traded to the Denver Nuggets midway through the 2006-07 season, Iverson didn't make his return to Philly until the next full season. In front of a sold-out crowd at the Wachovia Center, Iverson put forth an impressive 32-point performance but the Nuggets ultimately came up short.

Similar to Wade, Iverson's career came to a close the way it was supposed to, as he returned to Philadelphia for 25 games in the 2009-10 season.

Michael Jordan

Jan. 19, 2002 - Wizards 77, Bulls 69

Jordan - 16 PTS (7-21 FG), 12 REB, 4 AST, 9 TO

The name Michael Jordan is synonymous with the Chicago Bulls, and however weird it was to see him don the Wizards uniform during the twilight of his career, it happened.

When you win six titles, six Finals MVPs and five league MVPs for a franchise, there's nothing but love to be shown.

The United Center crowd welcomed His Airness back in the most appropriate way possible, cheering him on, expressing gratitude and showing appreciation for the simple fact he was back playing in the world's best league.

More from NBA.com

Siya Deodhar
Siya Deodhar talks NBA Academy, BWB camps & more
Yash Matange
Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.
Most NBA championships won by a franchise
Yash Matange
Bill Russell with his first and last championship banner.
Which NBA players have the most titles?
Yash Matange
Victor Oladipo
Oladipo reportedly opts out of restart
NBA.com Staff
Bertans, Ariza, Lee
NBA players opting out of Orlando restart
NBA.com Staff
basketball-rack.jpg
NBA's COVID-19 test results announced
Official Release
More News