Westbrook & Durant: Rising Above The Criticism

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    Updated: May 15, 2014
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    Playing sports teaches a lot of things to young men and women. It teaches camaraderie, respect for your coaches and fellow athlete, and appreciation for working as a team with someone you normally wouldn’t be working with. It also teaches humility.

    One-thing sports can’t teach a person is loyalty. Loyalty is a trait that is learned from an early age and is instilled in a person through a number of different situations.

    Players are loyal to one another not because the sport taught them to be, but because their teammates have earned their respect and trust, and being loyal just comes with the territory.

    Two of the most loyal teammates that are always in the public eye are Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

    This Dynamic duo is on the verge of doing great things together if they can continue on an upward trend.

    But there are people who seem hell-bent on making them hate each other, or at least hoping that they do, and it’s sad. But both players continually rise above it and always have each other’s back, and it’s something to be admired.


    Drafted Into This Brotherhood 

    Kevin Durant came into the league in the 2007 NBA Draft to the Seattle Super Sonics.

    He was going to be the face of the franchise and the corner-stone that set the foundation for what the Sonics/Thunder were building.

    The very next season Sam Presti went out and drafted a dynamic point guard from UCLA in order to get their new star a running mate and point guard to help guide traffic on the court.

    From that point forward the Super Sonics (who moved to Oklahoma to become the Thunder) kept adding pieces to this team to build a contender around their young tandem.

    This was not a situation where the two players had played in the league for years and met at all-star games and plotted this union.

    The partnership was bred purely on coincidence.

    They virtually began at the same time in this league, and had to have each other’s back from day one because only those two knew the expectations placed on the other to be great. That was the root of partnership.


    The Rise, The Criticism, The Let Down 

    Once the team moved to Oklahoma City they started their ascent to what they hoped would be the pinnacle of any team new or old, getting to an NBA Finals and hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.

    The Thunder started their assault on the West by getting to the playoffs and losing in the 1st round of the 2010 playoffs to the eventual Champions of that season the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Kobe Bryant was even quoted as saying the Thunder were going to be a force to be reckoned with.

    Rumor had it the Bryant quote made Durant and Westbrook ecstatic, and was a confidence boost that a legend like Bryant said they were on their way up.

    The next season the Thunder advanced to the conference Semi-Final where they eventually lost to the team that would be the NBA Champions that season, the Dallas Mavericks.

    Two seasons in a row the young duo of Westbrook and Durant with their running mate lost in the playoffs to the eventual champions.

    Nothing to be ashamed of. Finally in their 3rd appearance in the playoffs, the Thunder got over the Western Conference hump and made it to an NBA Finals by beating the great San Antonio Spurs led by Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan.

    The Thunder came up against a far superior duo at the peak of their powers in LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.

    The Thunder lost that Finals series 4-1. As heart breaking as it was, they were only 23 years old and nowhere near achieving anything great yet.

    They had time, but with reaching an NBA Finals so early, higher expectations and criticism comes with it.

    After the Finals lost to the Heat, James Harden was shipped to the Houston Rockets.

    Not many people were sure if that was the right move or not but the deal was done.

    Then questions started to arise about the chemistry between Westbrook and Durant on the court.

    Not chemistry as far as working together, but chemistry about Westbrook and his role on the team.

    There were constant complaints from the media that Westbrook didn’t play his role as wingman and tried to do too much by himself when it wasn’t necessary.

    Russell was called a ball-hog, selfish, pig-headed, and everything else possible.

    The Thunders shortcomings were all blamed on him. And in every interview, every press conference, every mic’ed up session, Durant vehemently defended his partner.

    As much as the media and public would try to take Westbrook down, KD wouldn’t allow it without having his say.

    The talk around the league was Durant might be better without Westbrook, then the unexpected happened.

    Westbrook got hurt during the 2012-2013 playoffs against the Houston Rockets.

    Now the Westbrook detractors would prove that Durant could do this without Westbrook.

    The anti-Westbrook crowd was wrong, very wrong. Durant struggled in the second round against a tough Memphis Grizzlies team.

    Durant came up small in multiple 4th quarters in that series and the Grizzlies advanced at the Thunder’s expense.

    Durant needed help, and now the world knew it. But then the narrative began to switch.

    More questions were being asked about KD as opposed to Westbrook.

    People wondered why KD was not getting the same criticism as other stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony? And when those questions start being raised, the floodgates are about to open.

    It was now Russell’s turn to save his friend and tell people their criticism was unfound.

    People should have known that for KD and Westbrook, this was bigger than basketball. This was a brotherhood.


    The MVP Season/Speech, Game 6, And Why They Don’t Care What We Think 

    Kevin Durant won his first MVP during the 2013-2014 NBA season. And for a large stretch of the season he had to do it without Westbrook who was out injured.

    Durant carried the Thunder on his back, and although their were some people who thought he could continue to do this through the playoffs, Durant and the Thunder knew they would only succeed with Westbrook by Durant’s side.

    At season’s end, everyone knew the MVP’s was Durant’s. Now it was time to get to another NBA Finals and for Durant to lift the ultimate team trophy.

    In the first round the Thunder met the same Grizzlies team that gave Durant so much trouble the season before.

    And the series started off rocky for the Duo. Tony Allen was giving Durant fits, Westbrook wasn’t play up to his capabilities, and the Grizz jumped to a 3-2 series lead. Again the Knives were out.

    People who hate Durant wanted to see him fail just so they could say I told you so.

    But before Game 6, Durant accepted his MVP trophy with an acceptance speech that will go down in history. In that speech he made sure to single out his friend and teammate Westbrook.

    He said things like, “Russell would run through a wall for me” and “A lot of people put unfair criticism on you, and I’m the first to have your back…stay the player you are.” And that was that.

    I told everyone that would listen that Game 6 against the Grizzlies would be a blow out, and Russy would make sure Durant would go crazy in that game. And I was correct.

    Durant’s numbers in Game 6: 36 points, 10 rebounds on 48% shooting. Russy made sure Durant had an MVP performance while also leading the team to a 20-point victory. 

    Westbrook did exactly what I knew he would, lifted his brother above all the criticism and made sure Durant was in the position to do what he did. The Thunder closed out game 7 and moved on to where we are now; the series against the Los Angeles Clippers. The series against the Clippers has turned out to be far more exciting and competitive than I figured it would be.

    And in game 5, Westbrook carried the Thunder for the first 46 minutes while Durant struggled. And in the last 2 minutes, Durant took the baton from Westbrook and went “MVP” on the Clippers.

    Durant scored 10 points in that final 2 minutes to help the Thunder go up 3-2 in the series. The duo once again did what they had been doing for each other their entire young careers, being there for each other.

    And as much as the world wanted to tear down Durant for his performance in Game 5 against the Clippers, he was gracious at the podium. Durant said, “Russell carried us tonight. I had a bad game but Russell was there when we needed him.” To which Westbrook responded, “ KD told me to stay hungry, to keep attacking, to carry us.” And that was that.

    I know their bond drives people angry. I know there are those miserable people who want to see them turn on each other or not make it to the top as a duo. But they’re only 25 years old and not even in their peak years yet.

    Their time is coming. And it’s going to come as a tandem.

    For now, it’s KD and Russ against the world, and they don’t give a damn what you, me, or anyone else for that matter thinks about them. And for that, I hope they shine for a long time.  

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    1. Darnell

      May 15, 2014 at 8:36 PM

      Love this article. People want to see them crumble as a duo so bad just to say they were right. They are only 25 and have achieved great things so far in the NBA. Success other duos can only dream about. Blake/CP3 have been together for 4 seasons now and haven’t made it pass the 2nd round. Yet they get no criticism as a duo and no one talks about them not being able to play together. KD/Westbrook have went to the finals in their 4th year together. Yet get so much criticism. Why because they haven’t won a title at 25 years old yet with Wade/Lebron standing in their way. Not even a Thunder fan but it’s ridiculous the criticism they take. Could you imagine if they were Dwight and Harden going out in the first round what people would be saying about them.

      • Frantz Paul

        Frantz Paul

        May 19, 2014 at 10:50 AM

        Hey mate thanks for the read and the comment. For all the reasons you said that is why I felt compelled to write this piece. They get so much flak and I think it’s absolutely absurd. They’re only 25 and not even in their prime yet. People have to come to terms with it. They’ll be amazing for a long time.

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