Much of the criticism Durant and James received can be explained by two things: the rivalry that others want to force on them despite their clear friendship, and the old-school mentality that knows nothing other than competitors despising one other on and off the court.
“There's things that are old school that you have to change to get into the new world,” Brooks said. “And it's a different world. We play in a different world. There's the social media, so you are able to have friendships with these players that you compete against. But it hasn't affected the way that we compete on the floor…With our guys it has never affected how we compete against guys on the floor.”
Westbrook has trained with his closest counterpart, Chicago guard Derrick Rose, in each of the past four offseasons. They're two of the top five players at their position, and perhaps two of the top 10 players in the league. Yet little to no backlash has found its way to Rose and Westbrook.
“It's just different because we played (Miami) in the Finals and everybody wants to make a big deal out of it,” Westbrook said. “I mean, they're good friends. They knew each other before this, before the Finals, before each of them were at the level that they are now so I don't think it's a big deal.”
Westbrook charged the AAU scene for helping create today's culture of chumminess. Players are friends, if not teammates, from a very early stage in their basketball journeys.
“I think that's a big part,” Westbrook said. “A lot of players know each other just from playing on the same team as younger guys, AAU, high school, college. And then when they get to the NBA obviously it becomes a big deal.”
Much of Westbrook's growth, however, can be attributed to him and Rose pushing each other annually at a high school gym outside Los Angeles. Perhaps the operative saying no longer is to be the best you have to beat the best but to be the best you must work with the best.
“It definitely can be helpful. You can learn things,” Westbrook said. “I feel that it's always room for improvement in your game. I don't know if it's always the right thing to do every single time, but you can always work out and learn new things.”