Collison calls it a career.
Nick Collison has played for one franchise his entire career. The former Kansas Jayhawk turned Seattle Supersonic/Oklahoma City Thunder has been the constant for the entire organization. Now the 14-year NBA veteran has announced that he will be retiring from the NBA.
In a letter written to ESPN’s Royce Young, Collison shared his thanks, memories and love to the career he was able to have.
“I started in cold gyms in small towns in Iowa and ended up playing more than 1,000 games in the best league in the world,” Collison told Young. “But it’s time to go.”
“Mr. Thunder” as he was coined by former Thunder player Kevin Durant was exactly that. The mainstay. The guy you could count on. All the clichés that come along with a player whose heart, hustle and determination measure better than his 40 time or vertical.
Nick has helped define the standards we work by on a day-to-day basis, on and off the court and has become synonymous with the Thunder shield. -Sam Presti
“I’ve been in OKC 10 years now,” Collison added. “And the fans have been incredible. They are there every night; they know the game and appreciate effort. From day one we felt the love, and I want everyone to know I’ve loved playing in Oklahoma City.”
In a press release from the team, owner Clay Bennett expressed appreciation of Collison.
“Our initial interaction is something I will never forget,” Bennet said. “And I thank him for being the same great man today, as authentic as a person you will ever meet. The Thunder will forever be a better organization because he was here.”
Thunder general manager Sam Presti also commented on how Collison helped “express the vision” of the young franchise upon arriving in Oklahoma City.
“For the Thunder, Nick Collison was one of those players,” Presti added. “Nick has helped define the standards we work by on a day-to-day basis, on and off the court and has become synonymous with the Thunder shield.”
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you,” Collison said in the release. “It has been an incredible journey that I’m proud of, and it would not have been possible to do it on my own.”
The second unit during the James Harden/Nick Collison lineups were magical.
“I loved playing with James and our second unit,” Collison told ESPN.
Memories of the backdoor bounce pass to a streaking Harden on the baseline to end in a thunderous dunk was the recipe for a loud roar from the crowd.
Plays like this helped earn Collison 4th in assists with Oklahoma City with 638.
With those plays, Collison’s play was synonymous with the Thunder’s rise to the ranks of the elite in the NBA. After a 3-29 start in the inaugural season, Collison’s play and leadership helped propel the careers of Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden
From the bottom of my heart, thank you. -Nick Collison
“We started getting better,” Collison remembered. “We made the playoffs that second season, then Western Conference finals in our third, then the NBA Finals in our fourth.”
While the sting of Harden being dealt and Durant leaving for Golden State is still there for the fanbase, perhaps now is the time to truly appreciate what the Thunder had instead of thinking “what if?”
In those 10 years with Oklahoma City, the Thunder hold the second best record at 489-315.
One final goodbye was what Russell Westbrook wanted for his basketball brother.
“He’s always someone I’ve looked up to as a brother,” Westbrook said as he addressed the crowd on the final night of the regular season. “He’s done so much for this organization. I just want you guys to show your appreciation for everything he’s done for this city.”
While that was the swan song for Collison’s career with the fans, a month earlier they were treated to one more classic game from their power forward.
While he only scored seven points, the energy in the arena was apparent. Many fans may have understood that may be the last time they would see “Mr. Thunder” make an impact in a big game — San Antonio.
With his retirement, Oklahoma City is left with Westbrook as the only player to have played in the entire 10 year history with the franchise.