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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, February 22, 2024

Under the Lights: Pettiness lives

We knew Thursday’s matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors, pitting ex-superstar teammates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant against each other, was going to be epic. We couldn’t have imagined, though, that it would be so delightfully petty.

Durant and Westbrook spent almost a decade together playing for the Thunder, providing the most dynamic one-two superstar punch in the NBA and leading the ex-Seattle Supersonics to the heights of the 2012 NBA Finals and last year’s Western Conference Finals. It was there that the beginning of their eventual breakup began to take shape; after being defeated in seven games by the Warriors, Durant decided this summer to spurn Westbrook and company in free agency in favor of the very team they had just failed to overcome.

That’s where the real fun began. On the day Durant announced his decision to leave Oklahoma City, Westbrook posted an Instagram photo of a stack of cupcakes — a seemingly innocuous gesture thought to be a simple Fourth of July post. According to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, though, that post was actually a not-so-subtle shot at Durant; the two had called each other “cupcakes” to tease each other for being “soft” in practice. They then exchanged veiled shots through the media, arguing about the semantics of the word “selfless” for an entire week without ever actually saying a word to each other. The passive-aggressive feud culminated last Thursday when Westbrook showed up to the arena wearing an orange vest that read “Official Photographer.” Though he’s known for his extravagant outfits, the vest was an overt attempt to get under Durant’s skin; the new Warrior is fond of photography, even getting credentialed to take photos at the Super Bowl earlier this year.

There’s been a lot of “they should just shut up and play the game” talk this week surrounding the Durant and Westbrook situation, and I couldn’t disagree more. Sports -- particularly basketball, which, unlike its competitors, is not marred by any large, looming issue like concussions or steroid use -- exist because of the pettiness, not despite it.

Westbrook’s ridiculous vest was less an act of protest and more a healthy reminder to sports fans of what this is all about: entertainment. We don’t need to take the non-serious stuff so seriously. Westbrook wearing a bright orange vest with “Official Photographer” on the front into the arena before a game with photographers waiting to take his picture is ridiculous and hilarious — both words that describe our relationship with sports perfectly.

We consistently fill 20,000-seat arenas with screaming fans losing their minds over whether a certain team wearing their preferred color scheme is able to throw an inanimate round object into a metal hoop more effectively than the players wearing the other color scheme. It’s easy to get all holy and sanctimonious about each game, but ultimately, that scene is what sports are. Stop fighting the pettiness. Embrace it.