In 2010, Lebron James changed the entire landscape of the National Basketball Association. After toiling away in Cleveland for seven seasons, “King James” got with friends Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and formed the league’s first artificial super team; a collection of stars, each in their prime. Sure, people might rebut that Boston’s Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce was in its own right a super team, but such an argument overlooks the nuance and, frankly, reality.

Kevin Garnett spent twelve seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he was acquired by Boston by means of trade in 2007. Ray Allen was thirteen years into his career before he, too, was traded to the Celtics. Finally, Paul Pierce was nine years into his career, having been drafted by Boston in the ‘98 NBA Draft. These three stars were all comfortably into their thirties -just scratching the far-end of their respective primes. This was not the case with Lebron’s Miami Heat.

As stated above, Lebron spent seven years in Cleveland. However, despite regular-season success, a championship always seemed to elude basketball’s “Chosen One.” In the midst of his prime, Lebron planned behind closed doors with Wade and Bosh several years in advance to align their extensions so that they may unite in Miami. The goal was simple. James and Co. sought to win “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six…” You get the idea. In the end, the Heat went to four straight NBA Finals and won in their second and third trips respectively. From there, the trio more or less separated again.

What exactly does Lebron’s decision have to do with Russell Westbrook and him being a “dying breed?” Everything.

You see, since Lebron set the precedence of stars abandoning their respective cities to form super teams, the league’s face has drastically shifted. The most seismic and questionable of these moves came from Westbrook’s former teammate, Kevin Durant, who left the only franchise he’d ever known after nine seasons to sign with the Golden State Warriors. The problem? Not only were the Warriors coming off a record-breaking 73 win season, but they, in all honesty, should have been the two-time reigning champions. Oh yeah, and Durant’s Thunder had just blown a 3-1 lead over them in the Western Conference Finals. Rather than strive to better himself and his team, Durant took the easy out and opted to join his foe. Having now won a title and Finals MVP, he and the rest of the Warriors look to be penciled into the Finals picture for the next several years.

When Durant left OKC, the talking heads all turned to Russell Westbrook. After all, Russ was an eight-year vet who had known ever ounce of the same frustrations Durant had felt. Instead, he signed a three-year extension worth $85 million with a player option in year three. Even still, being a So Cal native, the media was all but ready to put him in purple and gold after this coming season.

After Durant’s departure, Westbrook put an understandably mediocre Oklahoma City team on his back and led the Thunder to 47 wins, becoming just the second man in NBA history to average a triple-double. For his trouble, he was named league MVP. To many outside OKC, this was just Russ’s way of giving the fans who had cheered him everything one last time. But a funny thing happened.

The night before the 2017 NBA Draft, Thunder GM Sam Presti shocked the NBA world when he acquired Indiana Pacers star forward Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. No matter, the media chimed. George held those same times to LA. More than likely, the two would leave together following a season in OKC. Westbrook, despite being vocal in his approval of the move, continued to ignore his 5 year $205 million contract offer. For nearly three months the offer sat untouched. And with training camp fast approaching, Sam Presti somehow stole the headlines again.

New York Knicks star, Carmelo Anthony, had grown tired of wasting away on a perennial lottery team. Having never made it to the NBA Finals, and having spent just one year in the past seven in a relative notoriety, Melo was at last ready to force his way out of New York. For months the Houston Rockets, Anthony’s preferred choice, had exclusive negotiating rights with the Knicks. However, when a deal could not be reached, Russell Westbrook and Paul George stepped in and sealed the deal on what had been a months-long recruiting pitch to the Knicks star. Possessing a rare No-Trade clause in his contract, Anthony would have to add the Thunder to his list of acceptable destinations. Once he agreed, Presti swooped in and sealed the deal. In exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a second-round draft pick, Carmelo Anthony was shipped to Oklahoma City to form the league’s latest Big 3.

The unique thing about this trio is the balance among them. There’s no question Anthony is the elder-statesmen of the group, being 33 years old, but Russell Westbrook will turn 28 this year, placing him well within his prime. Paul George, meanwhile, is even younger, clocking in at a spry 27.

Whether or not the moves pay dividends remains to be seen, but the message to Russell Westbrook was clear: so long as he was there, the Thunder would do everything in their power to remain a serious contender. In short, what they had failed to convince Durant of approximately fifteen months prior, they were hellbent to prove to Westbrook. A week passed. Nothing from Westbrook.

In fact, at Media Day, the reigning MVP went out of his way to avoid questions pertaining to his future. Then, seemingly out of the blue on a Friday afternoon, Russell Westbrook did something seemingly no superstar in today’s NBA would ever do: he committed to ensuring he plays his entire career with one franchise. Signing the 5 year, $205 million contract extension, when paired with this upcoming season’s $28 million, and he’s essentially looking at six years for $238 million -the largest contract in the history of the league. And what was significant about signing such a deal on September 29th? It was his former teammate, Kevin Durant’s 29th birthday. The subtext was clear. Loyalty mattered to Westbrook.

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There’s no place I would rather be than Oklahoma City,” Westbrook said in a statement on his Instagram account after the deal was announced. “I am so honored to have the opportunity to continue my career here with the Thunder. From day one, the support that Mr. Bennett, Sam, Troy and the entire organization have given me and my family has been incredible, and we are so grateful. When you play in Oklahoma City, you play in front of the best fans in the world. I’m looking forward to bringing everything I’ve got for them, this city, and for this organization. WHY NOT?”

Russell Westbrook is a dying breed in today’s NBA. Even in an era where super teams rise and fall every few years and loyalty is considered archaic, he remains committed to the fans and franchise that, as he put it, “raised him.” Gone are is the era of Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Reggie Miller. Dirk may still play, but his time is growing short, and it’s clear that in almost every way that he’s a throwback with seemingly none like him. None, that is, except for Russell Westbrook.

Darreck W. Kirby

Founder of The Dallas Prospect, Darreck took a love for writing, analysis, and sports and brought them together in one site. Whether tracking the latest Cowboys stats and trends or breaking down film analysis for the latest flick, Darreck does it all.