Widgets Magazine
View RSS Feed


Blog #10: The Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle That is Kevin Durant (Part 2)

Rate this Entry

The Thunder bounced back well enough with a 55-27 regular season and a 3rd seed in the West, but they were behind the 67-15 Spurs and the record-setting 73-9 Warriors, the defending NBA Champions. The path to the championship would go through the both of those great teams. After dispatching the Mavericks in five games, it would be the Spurs up next, and the Thunder was up to the task by winning in six games and sending Tim Duncan into retirement after 19 stellar seasons, and they kept the pedal to the metal by first splitting the first two games in Oakland against Golden State, and then winning the next two in Oklahoma City to take a 3-1 lead. When the Warriors held serve at home, Game 6 back in OKC was the opportunity for the Thunder to get through a 67-win and 73-win on the way to the Finals, which was a feat that had never been accomplished before. But just when the home team had a lead in the fourth quarter and a clear path to a meeting with LeBron James and Cleveland, Klay Thompson hit the last of his 11 three-pointers to finally bring his Warriors from behind to win, and Golden State won a very tight Game 7 in Oakland to go back to the Finals. The fact that the Warriors ultimately lost in those Finals turned out to be the most critical aspect of what was about to come.

After the painful Playoff elimination, Thunder fans went into a justified tizzy with speculation on whether the franchise Bell Cow would sign a third contract and stay in Oklahoma City, with the prevailing thought being that beating a 67-win Spurs and taking the 73-win Defending Champion Warriors to the seven-game limit before losing was enough for him to want to stay and run it back, right? RIGHT? Well, an added dimension was the fact that instead of quietly re-signing his contract quietly and announcing it later as he had done for the first two, Durant made public that he would listen to pitches from other teams. UH OH. Thunder Nation as well as the entire state officially moved from DEFCON 4 to DEFCON 3, and when the meetings were to take place on Long Island instead of OKC: DEFCON 2. After an excruciating 48-hour period that seem like 48 days for Thunder Nation that by the end was at DEFCON 1, the worst news finally came on the Fourth of July: Kevin Durant would sign his next contract with…

…the Golden State Warriors? The team that just won 73 games?? The team that just defeated the team that he “led” for nine ultra-successful seasons??? In a move that he repeatedly said and just about all of Thunder Nation staunchly and fervently believed was virtually impossible???? The confluence of all of those factors was so overwhelming that the collective heads of the entire State of Oklahoma exploded simultaneously when it was announced; in addition, the question of whether there was anything that Kevin Durant could do that Thunder Nation would not forgive him for was most definitely answered, and this action was it without a doubt. First, the Social Media outpouring from Thunder fans in particular and NBA fans in general was strong as well as absolute: KD took the coward’s way out, and there was no two ways about it. LeBron James act of leaving his hometown Cleveland to join up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami was bad enough, as the fans and then the media made clear, but to join a record-setting team that just put you out of the Playoffs was much, much worse; for the very first time in his long NBA career with nothing but accomplishments and fan love, Durant finally got the opportunity to understand what it felt like to be The Villain.

After nine years of unabashed love from NBA fans the world over, Kevin Durant was clearly uncomfortable with being The Villain, and despite winning two Finals MVPs with the now-unbeatable Warriors, he developed Rabbit Ears as he felt compelled to respond to each and every negative comment, no matter how innocuous. That led to some very embarrassing episodes he was caught responding heatedly to random fans and their comments under a pseudonym that was easily traced back to him. Also, he was always cooperative with the media his entire nine years in OKC, but with the Warriors, he came to be snippy with the press before becoming downright hostile in just about every availability, as if to justify his move to everyone who doubted him; it became harder and harder to find anyone who did not belong in that camp. I believe that the very worst aspect of all was the joyless way that KD accepted his Finals MVP trophies; it was as if he knew that the two Championships he had just he won didn’t “count” among the NBA public, and that he knew in his heart that he had become the one thing that he despised the most while with the Thunder: A Ring-chasing Carpetbagger who left his OKC teammates hanging. I witnessed the worst moment of Durant’s post-Thunder season personally: His first game back in Oklahoma City with Golden State. I had attended virtually every Thunder home game of Durant’s career and after since 2009, and I have never, ever seen a more intense crowd that filled each and every seat in Chesapeake Energy Arena a full thirty minutes before tipoff. The signs were profane, and the chants were even more profane. It did not help matters for him at all that the new Apple of Thunder Nation’s eye, the Triple-Double man himself, Russell Westbrook, refused to speak to Durant, or even mention his name in public since that fateful Fourth of July.

The Warriors won the game, but it was totally beside the point. He and Russell got into a war of words on the court during a timeout, which egged the crowd on even more; afterwards, Durant returned to his bench dejectedly
as Russ bounced back to his bench with vigor. It was a cathartic experience for Thunder fans, and it was simply the worst day of Durant’s life; it was abundantly clear that he had did a complete 180 degree turn from most loved to most hated in the eyes of Oklahomans, and it seemed to cut through him like a knife. KD seemed to lose a huge part of the joy he had previously playing basketball that night, and perhaps for the very first time in his life, being on a basketball court in front of fans who despised him turned into a burden. Us Thunder fans had lost our Kevin Durant forever, and the realization of that is something that I will never forget.

The fallout haunted Durant all the way until his final days with Golden State, when he attempted to play in Game 5 of the 2019 Finals after missing the previous nine games with a calf injury. He clearly was still not healthy, but he felt pressured to play anyway chiefly because of rumblings from fans and the media, and his medical staff and front office did not step it to protect him. When he reinjured the calf and left the game for good, his days with the Warriors were effectively over, and the three-year odyssey of Kevin Durant wound down with two Rings, two Finals MVPs and more than a few regrets. On balance, I am pretty confident in saying that if KD had to do it all over again, he would have re-signed in Oklahoma City and kept his shoulder to the grindstone, for I am sure that he now realizes there is honor in fighting the good fight with the franchise that selected him, no matter the outcome. He will continue to try to find what he had and lost in the Sooner State with a fresh restart in Brooklyn with good friend Kyrie Irving and the Nets. Despite his return to health and his place as one of the very best players in the world two years in, the jury is still out on whether Kevin Durant can finally find peace again.


Submit "Blog #10: The Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle That is Kevin Durant (Part 2)" to Digg Submit "Blog #10: The Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle That is Kevin Durant (Part 2)" to del.icio.us Submit "Blog #10: The Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle That is Kevin Durant (Part 2)" to StumbleUpon Submit "Blog #10: The Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle That is Kevin Durant (Part 2)" to Google

Tags: None Add / Edit Tags


Single Sign On provided by vBSSO