When I started to write this piece it started off as a piece about basketball and the business it really is. It turned out to be something completely different; it became a story about friendship. I think friendship is the purest thing on this planet, besides my jumper, of course. But seriously, there is nothing in it for your friends when you really break it all down; all they want is a bit of your time and to kick it with you. Pretty dope when you sit down and really think about it.
I have a handful of friends who I know deep down inside NOTHING on this planet can get between us. Maury (@maury4twenty), Vic (@here4savagery), Topher (@Chris93Soto), Ali, my brother (@Hi_MyNameIsAli), and Twitterless Derek. We’re like brothers, some of us work together, we hang out together, and we frequent the bar together. And if you know anything about 6th street in Austin, well, you know we make our faces visible on the weekends ‘round those parts.
Those kinds of relationships don’t form very often; I’ve come to learn. They are something that should be deeply treasured. I couldn’t imagine my life without them; I know exactly what I’m going to do the day I make it. I’m going to hit them up in a group message with, “WE MADE IT, TURN UP!” Then call them before any of them got the chance to hit me back. Notice I said we, because there is something’s that wouldn’t be the same without certain people.
I can say for a fact that if we got the call saying we had to decide whether to make millions together in the same city for a bit less money, compared to each one of us splitting up and going our separate ways and make a bit more money, we would all look at each other and say, “Make sure we all sit next to each other on the plane and that our car service when we get picked up can fit all of us.” Now, I say that now when millions and everything under the sun aren’t being promised to us. But I think were smart enough to know that all the money in the world can’t buy you true friends, if anything they buy the people you tried to stay away from your whole life.
There are two guys in the NBA right now that from everything they exhibit, on and off the court, seem to have that kind of bond. Two guys who are the same age. They’ve been through hell and back, all while in the limelight and the boom of the true social media was happening. And while everyone in the world bashed them saying they don’t compliment each other well, they remained faithful to each other and never said an ill word about the other. Actually, they always had something positive to say about each other, which is rare from everything I’ve experienced in this world.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of my favorite players in the NBA, for many of reasons. Durant attended The University of Texas for one season. Even though I wasn’t born in Austin, this is home for me. Naturally, I grew up a huge Longhorns fan and was more than excited when I found out the long-wiry kid ranked #2 in the nation was coming to rep that burnt orange. And when he got here he did not disappoint, becoming the first freshman ever to win National Player of the Year.
Russell Westbrook’s skills and athletic ability have always amazed me. Ever since I saw him as a raw freshman at UCLA, I knew from the get go that he was going to be special. More than anything, I love the way he plays the game. You can almost feel his intensity, his passion for the game oozes out of him. I love it. The way he gets up of the floor when he gets fouled and hits the and one, beating his chest and yelling like he just won the lottery. We need more players like that in the league.
When the Seattle Supersonics drafted Westbrook in 2008 after Durant’s rookie year, I immediately fell in love with the idea of these guys becoming teammates. I knew that they were talented enough to make this work. Even though I don’t know them, they seem like genuinely good people as well. From day one both guys fed off each other’s energy and they genuinely looked like they liked each other, on and off the court. During that inaugural season as teammates they didn’t win much, finishing the season at 23-59. Even though the season ended with no real tangible results, the duo seemed to begin to gel. They started to learn each others habits, started to learn what the other likes to do in certain situations, they played tough games together. You can’t beat being out there with your brother, and going to battle. Blood, sweat, tears. Those kinds of bonds are hard to break, especially with both of these guys being so young, remember they weren’t old enough to drink yet.
After the Thunder added James Harden and made the finals a couple years after, Durant and Westbrook’s relationship always seemed to be more than a business one. After all the scrutiny they endured after losing the finals to the Heat, the departure of Harden, both guy’s countless injuries. Both these guys have had each others backs, it’s beautiful and refreshing to see. Durant was recently quoted as saying Westbrook, not himself, the former MVP, was the best basketball player on their team. C’mon guys, when’s the last time you heard someone say that at the pro level? Even though KD is a great person, you’re not going to say that about just anybody.
Which ultimately leads me to my biggest question. How big of a factor will their friendship be this summer when Kevin Durant becomes a free agent? He’s going to make his money regardless; the cake will always be there. But does what Durant and Westbrook built; yes they are the corner stones and foundation to the Oklahoma City Thunder, going to come into play? I know we have all heard the rumor about Durant wanting to go back home and play for the Washington Wizards, and truthfully speaking, can you blame him? He’ll be back in front of his family and friends, John Wall, and Bradley Beal will be there for years to come. It’s really a tempting and simple decision if you ask me, simple if he wouldn’t have built a perennial contender along side his right hand man.
Both those guys will have to sit down and have a long conversation. Are they willing to start over? They can both get max contact money in OKC. In today’s day and age I don’t think playing in a larger market matters, with the social media and the Internet you can be branded from anywhere.
I’m sure they are both tired of defending each other to everyone when they know deep down they don’t have to. But I also understand that no matter how nice of a person you are, a person can only take so much. Who knows, man? But if I had to take my guess I’m thinking KD signs this summer, followed by Westbrook the following year. I think they’re going to realize that friendship has gotten them through everything since 2008, and many more years to come. Blood doesn’t make you family, loyalty does.