Kevin Durant’s Success May Come At A Heavy Cost
Does A Win Under Any Circumstances Count As A Win? Yes, But Still
Kevin Durant is considered to be one of the top five basketball players in the North American professional leagues. He’s a bonafide mega-watt superstar, voluminous scorer, lights-out shooter, and a better than average defender. Due to his relative lack of tattoos and easily pronounced name, he is also one of the more likable athletes in the NBA.
At least, he was before Independence Day, 2016.
On Monday, July 4th, Kevin Durant celebrated his contractual independence by announcing that he agreed to join the Golden State Warriors for the upcoming season. The 73-win Golden State Warriors. The two-time defending Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors. The probable oddsmakers-favorite-to-win-next-season’s-title Golden State Warriors.
In leaving his conference runner-up team to join a superior one, Durant cost himself something more important than wins and losses. Something that he may never get back. Something that all of the rings and plaques and trophies and ribbons cannot replace. While he may have gained a better chance of winning a championship, he lost the respect of a bunch of people that sometimes watch him on television.
Greg Cooper has been an Oklahoma City Thunder fan every April for six of the last seven seasons. He’s no stranger to the game of basketball, once defeating his older brother Bryan in a particularly heated game of “21". Now a technical support representative, he nevertheless felt the sting of Durant’s departure.
”It sucks man. I cheered for him when he made shots. When he missed shots, I got madder than he did. How does he repay me? By skipping out of town because he couldn’t hack it. Can’t beat Steph Curry, so might as well join him. What the hell is that? Well I tell you this, my feelings can be summed up with this.”
Cooper turned around to show me the back of his Thunder jersey. Above the number thirty-five was a strip of tape covering the name “Durant”. Written in sharpie was the word “Traiter”.
Cooper’s opinion is shared by fans around the world. Many cannot fathom ever leaving a good situation for a better one. Especially when it comes to something as important as winning basketball games. In fact, many say that the current climate of selfish players doing what is best for their careers is not how it used to be, and is turning them off of sports for good.
As always, the voices on message boards and talk radio speak the loudest. Internet commentator OKCMeWin astutely stated that players like Durant are simply ring chasers.
”Can you imagine a guy like Wil Perdue leaving Chicago to go play for the Knicks or Pacers? He didn’t want to join the winning teams, he wanted to beat them, and stuck around to let guys like Michael Jordan and Pippen develop, rather than do this mercenary stuff.”
Or as Scott from Orlando said, “Any rings Durant wins should have an asterisk on them. He didn’t earn them. Same thing with any titles Steph Curry wins now, or Klay Thomas, or LeBron. In fact, any titles a player wins as a member of a cohesive team and not by winning games completely and utterly by themselves are tainted. The ‘86 Finals was just Magic versus Bird in a game of one-on-one. That’s how legacies are created.”
Kevin Durant’s legacy is yet to be complete. What happens next season, and in the next decade remains to be seen. Will winning a title be valid since he joined a super team? Will any amount of NBA championships replace the stain of leaving the team that cheered for him because he helped them win? Will he be content to enter the Hall of Fame knowing that he did not stay with the franchise that selected him in the draft before they relocated to another city that offered them a better situation?
What is certain is that the NBA has changed. Players have more power than ever, more money than ever, and the refs never call traveling. However, the court of public opinion, as always, has the final say.
Bigballa79 put it best. “Instead of parity, like in the 80s and 90s, we have all of the power concentrated in one or two select franchises. Big markets like Oakland, Cleveland, and San Antonio get whoever they want while the rest of the league suffers. No one even watches games anymore. And it’s cuz the players are babies. I liked it better when players stayed with the same team through their prime and we could say they sucked because they never won a title.”