On Thursday morning, two-time NBA champion David West announced his retirement from the NBA. West retires from the game as a two-time All Star, with per game averages of 13.6 points and 6.4 rebounds. His ability to step out and hit the mid-range jumper, while also being a banger in the post became the archetype for big men in this pace and space era of today’s NBA.
West will likely be remembered for his time with the Indiana Pacers or the Golden State Warriors. But it’s where he started his career that has the most impact for Oklahomans. While Chris Paul was Oklahoma City’s first superstar, West was OKC’s first cult hero. Take the first eight seasons of Russell Westbrook (the ultimate sidekick) and merge those with the no-nonsense play of Nick Collison, and you had David West to a tee.
The gritty style of play West exhibited spoke to Oklahoma City fans. They related to his lunch pail mentality and his tough demeanor. Okies weren’t surprised by Westbrook’s style of play because they had already seen it in West. Plus, West gave OKC fans their first tradition: hearing the gunslinger music every time he scored. In addition, West’s “ice water in the veins” ability to hit game-winners in the Hornets’ first season in Oklahoma City was tantamount to their success in the market.
In addition to being a good player, West was an even better teammate. When West left the Indiana Pacers to sign with the San Antonio Spurs in 2015, he left a void in the Pacers’ locker room that was difficult to replace. Paul George explained the vacuum left by West’s departure, “I called him Uncle West,” George said, “just (his) knowledge of the game and the conversations we would have away from the game. For me being 21, 22 years old, that was stuff that stuck with me and has helped me with this unit having younger guys. A lot of stuff that I’m going through now … I was able to vent to David about. About officiating, about play calls, what’s going on out in the court. That was my person I vented to and he was the one who set me straight.”
And, yeah, he did eventually make it out to Golden State and win two championships with the Thunder’s most hated rival. But for all the disdain there is for some of the players on the Warriors, I never felt that way about West. Instead, I hearkened back to where it all started for Oklahoma City Thunder (Hornets) fans. And West, was one of the main drivers of that vehicle. So, as he rides off into the sunset, I say, “Thank you, Mr. West for everything you’ve done for Oklahoma basketball. It is greatly appreciated.”