Six years later, Durant shook the NBA by leaving the Thunder for the star-studded Warriors and turning himself into a basketball villain.
What changed, and did Russell Westbrook contribute to a Durant transformation?
Westbrook apparently thought so.
Fans, media and team officials weren’t the only ones taken aback by Durant’s abnormal behavior. Privately, Westbrook was so stunned by his buddy’s behavior he called his teammate to ask what was going on. The mercurial point guard felt his personality had begun rubbing off on Durant. He told his co-star that’s not him and went out of his way to apologizing to team officials for the role he might have played in Durant reveling in an edgier dark side.
Did Westbrook rub off on Durant? Probably. We’re influenced by the people around us, and NBA teammates spend a lot of time together.
Maybe that was Westbrook changing him. Maybe that was just Durant growing up. Or maybe that was Durant all along, and he just became less afraid to show his true self.
Durant has been psychoanalyzed many times since he left Oklahoma City. Does he run too quickly from a challenge? Is he too impulsive? Do others hold too much sway in his choices?
I saw someone secure in his decision, one he knew would be unpopular. Returning to the Thunder would have been safe and drawn little criticism. Where did Durant get the confidence to do what he wanted?
Perhaps, at least a little bit, from the ultra-confident and ultra-brash Westbrook.