With a league dominated by All-Star caliber duos, Durant and Westbrook have found a way to separate themselves from the pack. A pack that includes Hall of Fame locks, perennial All-Stars and former NBA champions.
So how was it done? Just ask Kobe Bryant.
According to Ric Bucher of ESPN, Bryant tried to break up the duo of Durant and Westbrook during the 2012 London Olympics. More specifically, he attempted to turn Westbrook against Durant.
Bucher posted the following on his official Sulia Page.
...source says the Black Mamba talked relentless smack during the Olympics that the Thunder stars weren't going back to the Finals after the Lakers acquired Steve Nash and then added Dwight Howard right before the U.S. played Spain for the gold medal. Kobe also 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 best player is. (If you think that's too conspiratorial to be real, you don't know Kobe.) KD, in particular, got tired of hearing him. For what it's worth: KD and Westbrook's combined 69 points is the highest single-game total they've posted this season.
The Western Conference just got interesting.
Anyone who views this as disturbing appears to lack an understanding of the competitiveness of the NBA. They also fail to comprehend the correlation between the NBA's all-time greats and the art of trash talking.
Even Michael Jordan has been accused of calling Muggsy Bogues a "[expletive] midget" (via The Score). It's a less-than-attractive aspect of the art of basketball.
The fact of the matter is, it is only those who threaten the greats that garner a target on their backs. Which is why Durant and Westbrook are at the top of the list.
Clearly a Threat
Kobe Bryant may be one of the most polarizing figures in the NBA, but he's also something that an unbiased mind cannot deny. That, of course, is a consistent contender for an NBA championship.
Keep in mind, Bryant has won two of the past four NBA championships. Writing him off is certainly premature.
For that reason, Bryant approaching Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant proves that they are a threat to the crown.
If we know anything about Bryant, it is that he is looking to gain the physical and mental edge over each and every opponent he faces. When he specifically targets an individual, however, Bryant respects their greatness.
If that's not a meaningful co-sign, whose approval do you need?
James & Wade
The No. 1 debate on this topic will clearly revolve around the duo that took Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant down in the 2012 NBA Finals. That tandem happens to reside in Miami, Florida and play for those mercurial Heat.
If we're basing this off of pure talent, James and Wade win the debate. The tricky aspect of this comparison, however, is that the Oklahoma City Thunder run through Durant and Westbrook much more than the Heat do through James and Wade.
Just check the numbers.
The Thunder have posted a +/- of positive-12.8 with Durant on the floor and negative-6.3 without. They're at positive-11.4 with Westbrook and positive-3.3 without.
Miami has been a different story.
The Heat are allowing 99.0 points per 48 minutes with LeBron on the floor and 93.2 when he is not. Their +/- sits at positive-6.4 with James and an even 0.0 without.
Miami has a +/- of positive-3.5 with Wade on the floor and positive-7.1 without.
They may have the big names, but Miami has been just fine without their stars. OKC has been bleeding in shark-infested waters.
Thus far in 2012-13, Durant and Westbrook have also carried their team further.
Oklahoma City is presently 19-4 and in the midst of a 10-game winning streak. Miami is 15-6 and in the process of underwhelming viewers which each passing performance.
The Heat will turn it around. With that being said, Westbrook and Durant have stepped up after James Harden's departure without needing to "turn it around."
Right now, Durant and Westbrook are the best duo in the league.
Durant, Westbrook or Nothing
It was touched upon briefly before, but the Oklahoma City Thunder are a team that rely heavily upon their stars. In fact, they place more of a burden on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook than any other franchise on their respective stars.
Well, more than any franchise that's actually above .500.
As for the numbers to back that claim up, Durant and Westbrook are averaging 45.4 percent of the Thunder's field-goal attempts per game. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James sit at 42.4 percent of the Heat's attempts.
D-Wade and LeBron account for 43.5 percent of Miami's points, while Westbrook and Durant combine for 45.7 of OKC's.
Furthermore, Westbrook is averaging a career-high 8.7 assists, while Durant sits at career-best marks of 8.4 rebounds and 4.2 dimes. They're accounting for a majority of the team's points, providing a defensive spark and leading their unit to victories.
No matter which way you cut it, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the best 1-2 punch in professional basketball. Allow the numbers to speak to that.