Kobe Bryant tried brainwashing Russell Westbrook against Kevin Durant when the duo was crushing other teams in the NBA.
Two years following his tragic death, there are hardly any sports fans who do not know about Kobe Bryant’s mentality. The Black Mamba did everything he could to win everything he could. If that needed manipulating his own teammates, be it.
The 18-time All-Star is not only one of the greatest NBA players of all time, but he also dominated the ball game at the world level as well, winning two Olympic Gold medals. While putting the world on notice of his tremendous skills he didn’t forget to take the necessary steps that would get him another NBA title.
Already having won 5 NBA titles before the 2012 Olympics, everyone knew how desperate Bryant was to equal his idol Michael Jordan in the Larry O’Brien column, as he and Lakers recruited Steve Nash and Dwight Howard for the upcoming season.
But that also didn’t stop Kobe from playing some mind games with his teammates from Team USA.
“Kobe made a point of guarding Westbrook during practices and pumping him up, the theory being that he wanted to incite Russ to bump heads with KD over who the team’s [OKC’s] best player is” ESPN’s Ric Bucher said at the time.
Recently another ESPN reporter brought that up.
Woj goes back in time to remember how Kobe Bryant tried manipulating Russell Westbrook.
Adrian Wojnarowski, in The Woj Pod that came out on Wednesday, brought up the time the Lakers superstar tried manipulating Russell Westbrook against his then-teammate Kevin Durant.
“Kobe used Team USA [to play mind games]…Kobe would tell Westbrook, ‘Why do you keep letting KD win the scoring title? You should be winning the scoring title.’ He would get that in Westbrook’s head, to try to send him back to Oklahoma City to create friction.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder were a team to reckon with at the time, having the league’s best scorer in the Slim Reaper, who already had 3 scoring titles at the time. They were also the finalists in that very season following which the Olympics took place.
Unbeknownst to the fact that James Harden would be leaving for the Houston Rockets in the coming months, KD and Brodie would have thought of getting their hands on the championship in the next season. Which never came true even after they played for 4 years together after 2012.
Although Westbrook didn’t immediately try to better Durant following the Olympics, he did win the scoring title over KD in 2015 who had won his 4th and last one in 2014. Kobe never stopped going at the duo.
Loved this answer from Kobe Bryant on Grantland bball show when asked if Thunder were Westbrook/KD’s team: pic.twitter.com/dhJnGj1f8e
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 23, 2015
A year after Westbrook won that scoring title and OKC’s continued failure in reaching the NBA Finals since 2012, Durant finally decided to move on and join their arch-nemesis, the Warriors.
Maybe Bryant’s manipulation did work slowly and in its own way. Otherwise, that 2012 Thunder team was not far away from looking like a dynasty in years to come. But it did not help his Lakers as much as it helped other teams in the league, most certainly the Warriors.