MIAMI, Fla. — As the Miami Heat's long painful lesson in championship basketball neared its conclusion Thursday night, Oklahoma City's team proved it still had something to offer.
The Thunder showed us all a sermon.
On class, on gratitude and on all the things this organization said it wanted to be about since the day it arrived in town.
What transpired on the court at American Airlines Arena in Game 5 was nothing for the Thunder to be proud of. It's possible that was Oklahoma City's worst performance of the year. But what transpired behind and on the OKC bench toward the end of the Heat's NBA title-clinching 121-106 victory is the kind of thing you don't see every day in a championship setting.
Maybe not ever.
It started, as all things Thunder do, with Kevin Durant, hugging and thanking his family for everything they had done for him. For their love and support. As Durant's family cleared out, making way for the Miami mayhem, Russell Westbrook followed suit in embracing his parents.
Then the Thunder's leaders gathered around James Harden in what for them is an unfamiliar place — at the far, far end of the Thunder bench. They hugged, leaned against each other and took it all in. The way they stared at the Heat and all the revelry, you half expected one of them to ask for a pen and pencil to start taking notes.
What were they thinking?
“Just we've got to get better,” Westbrook said.
“We hugged each other to embrace this feeling and remember this feeling. We kind of looked around and just, we've got to get better. We've got to be the guys that come back and push everybody next season and just got to get better man, before we can find a way to get back here.”
The three of them then worked their way down the bench, thanking the guy who arranges their travel, the assistant coaches who sweat along side them to help develop their games, the security guy who makes sure they and their families get where they're going safely. And of course, they thanked their teammates.