Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant stood together during Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals as the final seconds ticked away -- cementing a championship for the LeBron James-led Miami Heat -- with the world assumed to be at the trio's fingertips.
With each player yet to turn 24, the general presumption was that the three would lead the Oklahoma City Thunder and dominate the NBA for the next decade. Meanwhile, the Warriors were building up a dynasty of their own 1,600 miles away, led by young sharpshooters Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry. Draymond Green was drafted just eight days after the Thunder's Finals loss.
Despite Harden -- who had just won Sixth Man of The Year -- getting traded away three months after the aforementioned Finals, the Thunder remained one of the Warriors' benchmarks for the remainder of the decade. Oklahoma City even pushed Golden State to the brink of elimination in the 2016 Western Conference finals.
By late Thursday afternoon, all remnants of that image in Miami vanished when the Thunder reportedly traded Westbrook to the Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two more pick swaps, marking the end of an era for the Warriors' former foe.
As Golden State ascended from a fun team under coach Mark Jackson to a champion under Steve Kerr, the Thunder always seemed to play their way into Golden State lore.
It was Oklahoma City that provided the site of Curry's most iconic regular-season shot, when he hit a 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left to give Golden State a 121-118 victory, helping preserve the Warriors' eventual 73-win season.
It was the Thunder who went up three-games-to-one in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals three months later, threatening to undermine the Warriors' historic season, before Golden State roared back to win the series.
And it was the Thunder who mourned when Durant tweeted out a link to The Players' Tribune announcing his departure to the Warriors on July 4, 2016.
When Durant left, Westbrook -- as the last Thunder star remaining -- became the symbol for player loyalty in a league increasingly centered around free agency. Over his last three seasons, he averaged a triple-double while the Thunder attempted to maintain a championship team around him.
General manager Sam Presti acquired and eventually re-signed Paul George, took a flier on Carmelo Anthony and rounded out the roster with solid role players in Jerami Grant, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson. Fans in Oklahoma still had time to save their deafening boos whenever the Warriors came to town, However, the Thunder's roster wasn't enough to get out of the first round in each of the last three seasons.
The first inclination of a rebuild came last week when the team traded away George to the Los Angeles Clippers for a record-setting amount of first-round picks, leaving Westbrook as the only All-Star left on the roster. Now, Westbrook reportedly heads to Houston, reuniting with Harden in a quest to win the pair's first ring while the rest of the NBA wonders what could've been from the young trio who stood together in Miami seven years ago.
Russell Westbrook trade to Rockets ends Thunder era Warriors shaped originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area