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NBA Player Heated Rivalries: Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant

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The beef between Westbrook and Durant started like all good superhero movies. They were great friends and began their careers on the same team. Everything was going swimmingly until a catalyst of change tested their friendship.

It Started As Friendship

Kevin Durant started his NBA career with the Seattle SuperSonics. A year later they related and called themselves the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Durant was a star on the team, and even as a rookie, he was making a name for himself. His first year ended with 80 points scored and the Rookie of the Year award.

One year later in 2008, Russell Westbrook made his debut joining Oklahoma City. His start in professional basketball was just as great as Durant’s, scoring 82 points in his Rookie season and leading the league from the start. 

Although Westbrook didn’t win the Rookie of the Year award, he was entered into the Rookie First Team.

This was the start of a star-studded friendship as the Guard and Forward players used each other to their advantage and created a powerful team. When both players were in the line-up, the sports betting spreads would be in Thunder’s favor.

The friendship they had was powerful. When Durant picked up his Most Valuable Player award, he spoke to Westbrook directly saying “I love you. I thank you so much, man. You make me better.”

Then Durant Switched Teams

But the honeymoon phase was over when Kevin Durant switched to the Golden State Warriors in 2016.

For Westbrooks, it would have felt like foreshadowing. Their final game together was against the Golden State Warriors during a climatic Conference final. Thunder lost dramatically, in a 73 to 9 landslide. This loss wasn’t just going to haunt their dreams, it was going to stay in the record books as the best-ever regular season for the Warriors.

In fact, the Warriors broke 25 NBA records that season, meaning no one will forget the Thunder’s embarrassing defeat.

To make matters worse, as the teammate licked their wounds, Durant announced he was leaving the losing team to join the players who destroyed them.

This move was a shock to the fans and Westbrook. Durant didn’t tell his best friend about his plans and instead told the public first. Although Durant didn’t have to make his buddy aware, their 8-year friendship should have been worth a “heads-up”.

Westbrook

Next Things Turned Sour

When someone breaks your heart, whether a friend or a lover, there is a time of mourning. To some this mourning presents itself as anger. 

This is when the Westbrook and Durant rivalry really began.

Westbrook was hurt by Durant’s apparent betrayal, and as soon as the announcement was made fans and teammates alike were waiting for Westbrook’s reaction.

The first thing he posted on social media was a picture of cupcakes. However, the caption gave a sly mention to Durant, starting the passive-aggressive rivalry.

Durant stayed quiet during the change, but Westbrook became a little louder. He had just signed with the shoe brand Jordan, and created the tagline “Some run, some make runways.” 

Although this may have been an innocent connection between sport and fashion, others believed it had a hidden meaning – calling Durant a runaway player.

Westbrook continued this passive-aggressive journey by putting down an official photographer bid in his next game. To the unassuming fan, this was odd but nothing else. To Durant fans, this was an instant slap in the face. Durant was an amateur photographer and extremely proud of his photoshoot for the Super Bowl.

The first game after this incident confirmed everyone’s suspicions. This wasn’t just a stream of unfortunate events, Westbrook was mad. As the camera panned over the teams at the end of the Thunder vs Warriors match, you can see Westbrook cursing Durrant.

Read Also: How To Read NFL Super Bowl Lines Odds

Respect Returned

In 2017, both Westbrook and Durant were included in the All-Star games. They were on the same team once more.

No one was sure how the games were going to pan out, as the rivalry was a year old at this point. But when Durant threw the ball to Westbrook the crowd went wild.

The players were laughing, chatting, and playing like they used to back in Oklahoma City Thunder. It seemed as though a healthy game of basketball remedied the broken friendship.

In 2019, Westbrook followed Durant’s journey and separated from Oklahoma City Thunder, to join the Houston Rockets. 

Now in a completely new team, Westbrook’s attitude towards Durant has changed again. The respect he once had for his old teammate had returned, and after a friendly match between the two teams, the camera caught a natural hug between friends.

Summary

The rift between these two phenomenal players was short-lived. It began as a friendship, which transformed to hurt as Durant carried on his career without his best friend. A year of passive-aggressive and open public shouting, soon changed when they played on the same team for the All-Stars. 

Back on the same side, the NBA healed their broken hearts, and now Westbrook and Durant are friends once more.

 

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