Ok, so the Oklahoma City Thunder are in the NBA Finals, and the knee-jerk reaction will be that they are doomed to lose because they’ve never before performed on the big stage like so many of the Celtics and Heat have.
We’re here to tell you that knee-jerk reaction argument is fatally flawed.
Unbeknownst to many Americans, the Thunder’s dynamic duo of Durant and Westbrook have not only performed, but won, at the highest level on earth.
That happened at the 2010 World Championship in Turkey, when the United States “B-Deem Team” brought home the gold medal from that tournament for the first time since 1994.
I covered that team for ESPN.com, spending 40 days on the road with them from Las Vegas to Madrid to Athens to Istanbul. That team went into Madrid and defeated Spain as Derrick Rose replaced Rajon Rondo as the starting point guard, and they then had a few close battles in Turkey (they beat Brazil by just 2 points when Leandro Barbosa missed a buzzer-beating 3) en route to the medal round. Also en route to the elimination stage, Westbrook replaced Rose as coach Mike Krzyzewski’s go-to point guard. (Rose didn’t play well until the fourth quarter of the gold medal game against Turkey).
Defeating Turkey in the gold medal game in front of a raucous, singing home crowd was Team USA’s crowning achievement two summers ago, and the foreign media was absolutely flabbergasted by Durant.
I had a sitdown interview with FIBA chief Patrick Baumann at the SwissHotel in Istanbul, and he was shaking his head in admiration saying “This is a player who simply cannot be defended.”
The Spurs just learned that, as did the Lakers and Mavericks before them.
Whether Oklahoma City can take the next step and be an NBA championship-caliber team remains to be seen, but Durant and Westbrook’s championship pedigree has already been established. It came when they were wearing red, white and blue. More on that in the above video with CineSport’s Tara Petrolino.