It’s finally here. The game that NBA fans have been thinking about since the moment Twitter exploded on the 4th of July. Tonight will be the first time that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will step back on the same court and square off for their respective teams. While this may pail in comparison to when Durant makes his return to OKC, this day has been circled on every NBA calendar for months.
When Westbrook arrived in OKC back in 2008, the two quickly connected and became almost inseperable. It seemed that this would be a tandem that was destined to grow and, someday, bring the city a championship. As time went on, you could see that each player had the ability to be the number one guy and the potential to be the one to close out a game. Some teams would see this as a blessing, but with their two different styles of play, this looked to be an eventual problem for the Thunder. Each player spent some time on the bench due to injury, allowing the other to run the team in their absence. While neither was truly successful on their own, you could see the potential was their for either to be the number one guy. But when both were back and healthy, it was still KD’s team. He was the original guy, he was the MVP. Westbrook showed some flashes of his ability to take over a game, but everyone, Westbrook included, understood that OKC was Durant’s team.
These two had come so close to the promise land. They went to a NBA Finals in just their fourth season together and last year were within a game of going back. Before the playoffs started it seemed that the eventual outcome would be a one year deal for Durant to come back to OCK, allowing him to max out the year after wherever he chooses. As the Thunder went deeper into the playoffs, this outcome seemed that much more likely.
Who would have expected that after coming so close to the Finals with such a young and talented team that KD would take his talents elsewhere? Definitely not Westbrook, especially to the team that not only just bounced them both from the playoffs, but also one that had just come off of a record-setting 73-win season.
In the weeks following the decision, it seemed each player had their own way of going about the situation. Durant decided to stick with the “We’re still brothers” approach, while Westbrook decided to use wit and sarcasm to glide over the questions from the media.
Going into this season, most basketball fans were excited to see how Westbrook would play now that the team had been handed over to him, not to mention how he would take out his offseason anger on the court. Just four games into the season, the guy is averaging a triple-double. He has willed the Thunder to a 4-0 record, albeit against some subpar competition, but tonight will be his toughest test so far in the early season.
While Durant has tried to quiet the noise of a friendship-ruinign rift between the himself and Westbrook over the past week, there is no denying the fact that this is a huge game for both of them. The emotions will be through the roof, and it wouldn’t be surprising if both of them got off to shaky starts. But these are two of the top-five players in the league, and they are on a spectacular collision course that will, hopefully, live up to all of our fanboy expectations.
Westbrook is out to prove that he can lead a team to success by himself while putting up other-worldy stats and Durant is looking to cement the fact that he made the right choice leaving OKC and heading to Golden State. This could be the most highly anticipated first week of November game in the history of the league, and for good reason. So sit back, grab your popcorn and enjoy the spectacle that is Westbrook vs. Durant: Act 1.