Durant had just led the NBA in scoring. Durant’s and Westbrook’s Thunder beat Bryant’s Lakers in the second round en route to the NBA Finals and were clearly a rising power. But Los Angeles added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash and still planned to compete.
In 2012, what I remember with Kobe was he spent a lot of the – or he spent some of that – Olympics with Russell Westbrook telling Russ, “You know, you should be winning scoring titles. I don’t know why you’re letting Kevin win scoring titles. You should be the one winning them.” Anything he could do to plant a little seed of dissent with two teammates, it was pretty funny.
The Lakers didn’t hold up. Nash was washed up. Howard struggled through injury then left after only one year. Bryant’s health soon deteriorated.
But Oklahoma City never fulfilled its promise, either. Westbrook grew into a bigger role – which created many awkward moments when he dominated the ball as the more-efficient Durant stood off to the side.
In 2016, Durant – reportedly frustrated with Westbrook hogging the ball and clogging spacing – left the Thunder for the Warriors. Durant said he was tired of being the team’s only player who could reliably shoot jumpers.
What a classic Kobe story.