The 2017 NBA All-Star Game: how one pass changed the course of a friendship

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant used to be best friends, and then they hated each other. The All-Star Game may have just changed all of that, if only for a moment.

Keith Allison, CreativeCommons.org: https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/

Long before tipoff, the 2017 NBA All-Star game had plenty of controversy surrounding it. The summer of 2016 featured the announcement of the removal of the All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans because of the HB2 Bill, also known as the “Bathroom Bill,” that was passed in North Carolina.

Just minutes before tipoff, the controversy remained—but it had an entirely different source.

Ever since Kevin Durant announced his decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors, every single person on this spherical planet (or flat planet, if you’re Kyrie Irving) was anticipating every word, every action and every matchup that had anything to do with either Durant or his now-former teammate, Russell Westbrook.

Round 1

Date: Nov. 3, 2016

Location: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California

Result: Warriors win, 122-96

Westbrook’s stats: 20 points, six rebounds, 10 assists, six turnovers

Durant’s stats: 39 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one turnover

Analysis: The Warriors got the win and Durant scored 19 more points than Westbrook.

Advantage: Durant, 1-0.

Round 2

Date: Jan. 18, 2017

Location: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California

Result: Warriors win, 121-100

Russ: 27 points, 15 rebounds, 13 assists, 10 turnovers

KD: 40 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two turnovers

Analysis: Russ put up an impressive quadruple-double, but one of the categories included was turnovers, and his team still lost by 21 points.

Advantage: Durant, 2-0.

Before moving on to the next round, it’s important to consider the stakes here. Westbrook is down 0-2 to Durant, and the pride of every citizen in the state of Oklahoma rests firmly on Russell Westbrook’s next performance.

For Durant, this is his first trip back to OKC since he left, making him the most hated man in the building.

Round 3

Date: Feb. 11, 2017

Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Result: Warriors win, 130-114

Brodie: 47 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, 11 turnovers

Cupcake: 34 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three turnovers

Analysis: Just watch the video. Both players clearly had insane amounts of pressure on them to perform well and defend their own pride, so emotions ran high.

Advantage: This one is a tie. As previously mentioned, the goals in this game were to perform well in front of a ravenous crowd and to defend your own pride. Both players did that.

Advantage: For simplicity’s sake, the tie results in a net gain of zero for both players. Therefore, Durant still leads 2-0.

This next round is tricky, because Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would be playing on the same team (gasp).

The intent behind the All-Star Game is to create a fun atmosphere for the players and the fans to witness an exhibition of comradery, supreme athleticism and absolutely no defense.

However, because Russ and KD were both playing for the Western Conference, it meant that they’d eventually have to share the court as teammates once again (slightly more exaggerated gasp).

For the fans, this is everything you could have ever wanted. Two of the top-five current players, who were once best friends, but now appear to be mortal enemies, have to be teammates again, but they don’t necessarily have to be friends, or do they? Do they have to make eye contact? Do they have to pass to each other? Will they just try to outdo one another and ignore the game completely?

It was set up to be the ultimate “who-can-be-pettier” war.

What we got was better than any of that.

Round 4

Date: Feb. 19, 2017

Location: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana

Result:

Westbrook: The most monumental alley-oop dunk in the history of the human species.

Durant: The most monumental alley-oop pass in the history of the human species.

Analysis: All that is good in the world happened in this very moment. For this moment, nothing else mattered.

What happened between the two is best described by paraphrasing the works of John Green.

There are an infinite set of infinities. For example, between zero and one, there are an infinite set of numbers, as there are between zero and any other number. The space between one million and zero might be larger than the space between one and zero, but both spaces are an infinity.

The time between Durant’s lob and Westbrook’s dunk, for instance, is an infinity.

Advantage: Everyone.

Round 5

Date: March 20, 2017

Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Result: To be determined. The result, however, will not matter. It won’t matter because for one moment in time, a pass between former teammates became an infinity.

Edited by Quinn Pilkey

Featured image by Keith Allison, courtesy of CreativeCommons.org