In some ways, for all Thunder fans, the 2011 deadline deal that sent Jeff Green to Boston was an initiation into the business side of professional sports.
There were minor trades before it. There have been major trades after it (James Harden, anyone). But Green's sudden departure was the first personnel transaction that sent significant shock waves throughout the newest NBA city.
Uncle Jeff, who will play his first game back in OKC on Sunday at noon, was one of the original cornerstones.
He scored 16.5 points per game during that turbulent 23-59 inaugural season, valiantly scrapping for any win the Thunder could get.
The city embraced him, began adoring him once the franchise turned it around. Durant was the star, but Green was the clear right-hand man. The Russell Westbrook before he developed into Russell Westbrook.
Abby Gibson, a 30-year-old Fairview native, fondly remembers the Green days. She's a Thunder fanatic. Hasn't missed a game all season. And now, with Green in Boston, she tries to catch any televised Celtic game, too.
“I thought he brought a lot to the team. He was such a natural scorer,” Gibson said. “It was sad. I remember when he got traded, it was really sad. He was one of my first favorite players. And he still is.”
At the time, Gibson was in the majority.
Thunder fans didn't know much about Kendrick Perkins, didn't analyze the advance metrics of basketball and didn't want to see one of the originals leave town. Even Sam Presti, the guy who made the trade, got teary-eyed when speaking about Green in a farewell news conference.
“I have unbelievable respect for Jeff Green,” Presti said at the time. “I value him greatly.”
But time heals all wounds. And so does winning. Lots of winning.
Perkins proved to be a solid addition, becoming a key defensive cog during two straight deep playoff runs. By most, the trade is now viewed as a win for the Thunder.
Green is still remembered in OKC. He'll likely get a standing ovation when his name is announced on Sunday.
But his on-court impact, while not forgotten, has inadvertently shifted to the back of most fans' memories.
“I hope he's not (been forgotten),” Gibson said. “But I kind of think he somehow is. Because when he was here, I don't think everyone had embraced the Thunder like they do now … I honestly was more upset about that trade than the Harden trade.”
So much has happened since Green last played a basketball game in OKC.
The Thunder franchise, and its fans, have clearly moved on. And so has Green, fully recovered from a scary heart condition (which forced him to miss last season) and finally comfortable in Boston's offense, averaging 11.1 points and 3.5 rebounds.
But for at least a brief moment on Sunday, when his name is called or he showcases his patented athleticism on a smooth dribble-drive, fans and former players alike will briefly remember what he used to mean to this franchise.
“He was really like my brother,” Kevin Durant said earlier this year. “We came in the same year. We've been through everything. The trade was tough for us, but in this league anything can happen and we've moved past it, but he's still one of my best friends. He's a guy that's going to be that way forever.”