Thunder has joined a small, elite group of teams in Western Conference

Between 1998 and Wednesday night, only three franchises had won the Western Conference championship.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 7, 2012

But the Lakers, Spurs and Mavs have remained solid with marquee talent and the core around it. Systems remain in place. A culture is established, be it the dogged professionalism in San Antone or the showtime feel in LA.

Such stability and sustainability closes the door to worthy teams. The Rasheed Wallace Blazers. The Chris Webber Kings. The Kevin Garnett Timberwolves. The Steve Nash Suns. The Deron Williams Jazz. The Carmelo Nuggets.

All reached the West finals. None advanced.

Until the Kevin Durant Thunder. Which is why Presti and Bennett weren't the only emotional members of the franchise.

Durant was particularly moved, and the end-of-series embraces between the Spurs and Thunder seemed more than the standard pleasantries. Durant and Duncan shared a moment together in what appeared to be a ceremonial bequeathing of the crown.

“He just told me congrats and good luck,” Durant said. “I respect Tim Duncan and the whole organization so much. You know, just their professionalism. They do things the right way. They play the game the right way. They're a family, and that's something that we kind of try to model here, as well.

“It just felt good for somebody of that stature with that many championship rings to recognize us that way, and it also felt good to come out there and get a win against them.”

Of course, the expected course is for the Thunder to get many more. Presti's caution is well-noted, but the Thunder's youth appears to signal a new era in the NBA West.

“They've got a very bright future, really,” said Spurs statesman Manu Ginobili. “When your best three players are 22 and 23, it's hard not to be optimistic about the future of this franchise.

“They are great. They have so much talent, and they are so athletic, and they've got a great front office. I mean, we know Sam Presti. He's a really sharp guy, and he pulled this basically out of nothing.”

From nothing to West supremacy, which as history shows, is not easy to do.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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