Former Jayhawk Nick Collison shown some love by Russell Westbrook, OKC fans
His NBA career may not have matched what people would expect from the No. 12 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, but there's not a person alive who can say that former Jayhawk Nick Collison's pro career has not been a rousing success.
Success, of course, can be defined in a number of different ways. Rings. Wins. Stats. And even fame are the most often talked about measurements when it comes to pinpointing the success of professional athletes.
But Collison has become a star in much different way, one that seemingly will have a lasting impression on those he played with for years to come.
Drafted by the Seattle Supersonics (five years before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City) after a stellar four-year career at Kansas, Collison recently completed his 15th season with the same franchise, though playing more of a bench-coach role on a one-year, minimum-contract salary during the 2017-18 season.
Collison's career with the Sonics/Thunder included 895 appearances — 177 of them starts — and career averages of 6.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 20.7 minutes per game. Collison's career totals include more than 5,300 points and 4,700 rebounds.
But those numbers — including a career year in 2007-08 when he played in 78 games, started 35 and finished the season averaging 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game — pale in comparison to the measure of the impact Collison has had on his teammates throughout the years.
Never was that more obvious than earlier this week, after the final regular season game of the season, when OKC guard Russell Westbrook, who had just completed becoming the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in back-to-back seasons, was on the microphone thanking the fans and took a moment to bring Collison onto the floor with him.
In doing so, Westbrook referred to Collison as his "friend, mentor and brother," and told the roaring Thunder crowd, "He's somebody I always looked up to, it's a real pleasure to have him here. I just wanted to make sure you guys show him some love."
With that, Westbrook lowered the mic and raised his arms, encouraging the crowd to get even louder in their ovation for the former Jayhawk and franchise's favorite son.
"I'm not sure if it's his last season or not," Westbrook continued. "But he's somebody I always looked up to as a brother. He's done so much for this organization, I just wanted to make sure you guys gave him a standing ovation for the things he's done for this city."
As for whether this will be Collison's final season in the NBA, the former KU standout addressed that with reporters prior to the Thunder victory in that regular season finale.
"I still enjoy playing, enjoy being out there," Collison said. "And we've got one regular season game (and then) the playoffs and I'll figure out what I'm doing after that."