After Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors this offseason, one of the biggest fallouts was his break up with Russell Westbrook.
For years, many wondered if the two stars were all that close, due to, at times, a seemingly disharmonious relationship on the court. Throughout their eight years together, their on-court dynamic seemed to be based on a “my-turn, your-turn” philosophy.
Durant’s decision to join the Warriors only reinforced those theories. Reports came out after the decision that Durant had only sent Westbrook a text message to notify him of his departure and that the two had not spoken since. In a fan video, Westbrook sarcastically laughed when asked about Durant’s decision to join the Warriors. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Durant classified their relationship as “work friends.”
However, in an in-depth interview with Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News, Durant expounded on their split and shot down rumors that he and Westbrook are no longer close.
“We were brothers. We are brothers. … Me and Russell grew up together. I was in the phase of finding out who I was outside of basketball. He already knew who he was. He already had a stable life. He had stable parents, a girlfriend through college. I didn’t have none of that stuff. I’m trying to find out who I am, which I didn’t know, which is not a bad thing. He knew who he was. So obviously we’re going to grow toward this way (splits arms). It’s not a bad thing. It’s not at all. We still hung out. We’re boys. My interest went this way, his went that way. He got married, I didn’t. He hung with his wife. What you want me to do?
“I love Russ. I don’t care what nobody say. I don’t care what he say or what the fans say. Like, this is a tough time right now in our relationship. But I love Russ. I love his family. They all know that. I never did anything morally wrong. I never back-stabbed him in real life, never did anything behind his back, never told anyone anything about his character. Never did any of that. I just left teams. I just switched teams. Everyone on the outside is looking at it as, ‘Oh, you must not have liked him.’ Hell no. C’mon man. Nobody understand that part. I’m trying to find out who I am. He knew who he was. He knew what he wanted to do. He got married young. He met his girlfriend in college. I didn’t have none of that. I didn’t have two parents in a home with me. I’m still trying to search and find out who I am. We end up going this way (splits arms again) as far as off-the-court personality wise. And that’s not a bad thing.”
With the Thunder and Warriors set to face off on Thursday, November 3, the NBA world has been looking forward to Durant and Westbrook taking the court as opponents for the first time. However, Durant also down-played the game, saying it’s a media-driven narrative to make the two players dislike one another.
“I don’t have nothing against Russell. As I shouldn’t. And I don’t think he have nothing against me. I don’t think he’s taking shots at me. I don’t think he’s doing anything that everyone is putting out there. It’s for your entertainment, your pleasure, your joy. I see it all the time. They want us to beef because of the game on Thursday. They want more suspense and excitement when they turn the TV on at 7:30 or 10:30 or wherever you are. That’s what they want. But I’m not letting that get between us.”
Durant added that he would happily invite Westbrook to his wedding or his Hall of Fame acceptance, noting that he doesn’t believe in “basketball beef” or holding a grudge.
Durant’s answers are about as honest and upfront as it gets. Though he doesn’t seem to hide the fact that their relationship will need repairs, it does take some air out of their much-anticipated matchup. That Durant still has deep affection for Westbrook (and Oklahoma City, as he said in an interview with USA Today’s Sam Amick) should also put to rest the idea that his decision to join the Warriors was done out of spite or cowardice.