I'm a sports fanatic, and I enjoy writing about the game and the players.
Show Me a Hero, and I'll Write You a Tragedy
It's not how he left but who he left for. Kevin Durant's decision to join the Golden State Warriors, a 73-game-winning juggernaut, is head-scratching at the very least. It makes even less sense given the fact that the Warriors happened to be the very team that sent him home packing when he was on the cusp of victory during the previous playoffs.
It's a character arc the likes of which you see in superbly written television shows or motion pictures. KD was once likable and affable. Humble, talented, and meek are all words that easily describe the early points of Durant's career. He mostly let his game do the talking and essentially embodied what fans want out of their superstars. However, he was eventually stricken with the labels of runner-up and 1st-place loser. Those labels became the bane of his existence as an elite basketball player.
Oklahoma's Adopted Son
Durant was a linchpin for 8 years in a city hurting for a hero. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing at the hands of Timothy McVeigh, a tragedy that took the lives of 168 people, created a wound that has yet to stop bleeding. Minor victories and small triumphs are coveted in a tough city steeped in cowboy culture.
When it was announced that the Seattle SuperSonics would be moving to OKC in 2007, Oklahomans rejoiced. The soft-speaking and soft-shooting Durant quickly became an adopted son as a result of his prowess on the court and his affability off of it. Sports have a tendency to serve as an avenue of relief for many people, an escape from harsh realities if you will. The people of Oklahoma were happy to watch Durant do his thing.
Things appeared to be happy in paradise. The year was 2012, and Durant was seemingly on top of the world. He led the league in scoring for the third year in a row, reached the NBA Finals for the first time in his career, and even starred in a major motion picture, Thunderstruck, as himself. However, a telling quote from Durant during the summer following the loss in the Finals to LeBron James' Heat gave us a glimpse into the growing distaste Durant had for losing:
I’ve been second my whole life. I was the second-best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the Finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it.
Clearly, he was feeling the pressure from fans—but more importantly from himself—as it pertains to winning a championship. He was living in the shadow of LeBron James, and the idea of playing second fiddle was eating at him.
KD vs. the Media
It is important to shed light on the duality and hypocrisy displayed by Durant on different occasions throughout his career. As of this writing, Durant has fully immersed himself into the villain role, but I'll get to that later.
It's important to note that KD was pretty much revered by the majority of basketball fans. He was a media darling and a genuine philanthropist that made him different from other players. This wouldn't go unnoticed, and the general opinion of him was highly favorable. That being the case, journalists reciprocated Durant's goodwill by throwing good press his way whenever possible.
Comments at the 2015 All-Star Game
The great rapport the two sides once shared was destroyed when KD delivered an out-of-character response while speaking with the press during media day at the 2015 All-Star game in Brooklyn; he was questioned about the job security of then-head coach Scotty Brooks. He replied,
You guys really don’t know (expletive).To be honest, man, I’m only here talking to y’all because I have to. So I really don’t care. Y’all not my friends. You’re going to write what you want to write. You’re going to love us one day and hate us the next. That’s a part of it. So I just learn how to deal with y’all.
First of all, the fact that he decided to knock the same media members that previously voted him MVP and have been on record as describing him as the nicest guy in the league is a strange about-face and a startling example of the duality of Durant's personality.
Secondly, it comes across as even more duplicitous when you understand exactly how fair the media has been to him throughout his tenure in the NBA. In fact, one could argue that the media has played a vital role in his marketability and exposure. The way he's portrayed in the media is a big factor in the number of dollars coming his way (outside of basketball.)
That withstanding, the coup de grace to his likeability as it pertains to many people, including myself, was delivered on July 7, 2016.
See You in Oakland
When it comes to Durant's decision to join the Golden State Warriors, every tired cliché is germane. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The tragic irony is, he did just that! Another cliché that comes to mind is the idea that you die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. He could have died a hero and shown some loyalty by sticking it out with OKC, but instead, he became the villain by joining Golden State.
A quote Durant delivered earlier in his career further speaks to the level of hypocrisy I've been hinting at in this article:
"Now everybody wanna play for the Heat and the Lakers? Let's go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!"
The duplicity is glaring. He has also been quoted as saying something to the effect of, "I know I'm the villain now, but I don't care." He probably should care because he's essentially stepping out of his own frame, and it's a set up for future failure. He didn't reach the pantheon of his profession by being an unlikeable jerk.
Who Is KD, Really?
I'm still convinced that KD is a nice, humble, and—dare I say—sensitive superstar that just doesn't fit the villain label. Perhaps I'm being too hard on Durant with my scathing criticism, but am I the only one irritated by the insincerity and seemingly dual personalities he has displayed during the latter part of his illustrious career?
The pressure he's placed on himself is immense, and the feeling in basketball circles is that it is a championship or bust for the Warriors. The games still need to be played, however, so those who are convinced the 2016 Golden State Warriors are a shoo-in to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy could be counting a chicken that has yet to hatch. I don't think there's enough ball to go around, but what do I know?
Brendan Public Opinion Poll
© 2016 Brendan Michael Cronin
CJ Kelly from the PNW on February 27, 2017:
I almost never criticize a player for leaving for better circumstances. My fervent belief is players should players (and all "workers") should be able to choose their own destiny. But from a PR and legacy standpoint, this hurts Durant and the NBA as a whole. The league has a competiveness problem and Adam Silver needs to get the owners in line.
LeBron left and came back, carrying the Cavs to a championship. Let's face it, Irving and Love are not Wade and Bosh, regardless of the #s. James was the man dragging them over the finish line. OKC loved Durant and he had an owner (as much as I don't like him) who would spend to get talent. Russell would have stayed, I believe. You can't buy a legacy as a player. They might try, but public opinion is hard to beat.
Get a third wheel and OKC would have been a favorite in the West. The Spurs are in the decline permanently now. Besides the GS, everyone else sucks. I'm glad Durant chose winning over $$, but he's a good guy and I hate to see him labeled as a bit of "hanger on" , mooching off of the splash brothers.