There has been something of an unspoken tension between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant since Durant left town to join the Golden State Warriors this summer. That tension is no longer unspoken.
Durant recently said he joined the Warriors in part because of their “selfless” players and pure style of basketball. Watch Westbrook’s response in the video below.
Both guys play with an incredible fire and drive, so it’s understandable there may be no love lost between the two. Throw in the fact that Durant left an Oklahoma City team that just blew a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals to the Warriors, the team he joined this offseason, and the tension between the two makes even more sense.
Westbrook is one of the most talented players in the league and it’s difficult to predict whether he will be better or worse without Durant. On one hand, he is now “the guy” in Oklahoma City and won’t have to share shots as much. On the other hand, teams can now zone in on him more often.
Friends to Enemies:
Durant and Westbrook were teammates in Oklahoma City for the last eight seasons, and over that time, they formed a pretty special bond. Not only were the Thunder perennial contenders, but they were routinely two of the top 15 players in basketball as well.
As Tim Cato of SB Nation wrote just a few months ago, the two had a bond even when they knew there could be an end in sight for their partnership with Durant’s free agency summer looming.
“He’s always going to have my back and I’m always going to have his,” Westbrook said at the time.
But that no longer appears to be the case. Betrayal, or perceived betrayal, can burn deep. Just look at LeBron James and the entire city of Cleveland. It could take a while for the wound of Durant’s departure to heal for Westbrook. Given Westbrook’s competitive drive, the departure might just leave a permanent scar.
When Serge Ibaka was asked about the relationship of the two stars by SB Nation, he said it was their reliance on each other that made their bond special.
“They understand they need each other. So, that’s why it works,” Ibaka said.
Durant decided he no longer needed Westbrook this offseason, and that departure is what convinced the Oklahoma City point guard that he no longer needed his long-time partner in crime either.
In many ways, Durant is the Anakin Skywalker to Westbrook’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. Although Durant was the teacher in many ways in this relationship, he is perceived to have crossed over to the dark side by joining the powerhouse Golden State Warriors. Now, it’s up to his friend-turned-enemy, Westbrook, to take him down.
The Stage is Set:
Now that the tension between the two is more spoken than unspoken, the stage is set for a budding rivalry in the NBA, one between the Thunder and the Warriors, between Westbrook and Durant.
The two will play each other for the first time on November 3 at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Durant doesn’t return to the place he called home for the first nine years of his NBA career until February 11, 2017.
Much like Anakin once he became Darth Vader, Durant is now clearly on the better team, but will Westbrook’s increased drive be enough to help the Thunder get over the top? We all know how Star Wars ends for the character Durant is portraying in this ongoing drama known as the NBA.
But that was made for Hollywood. The rest of this story will be played out on the court. If Westbrook’s latest comments are any indication, like at the movies, on November 3, everyone should have their popcorn ready.
[Featured Image by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Images]