OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant is talking again.
While it has never been something he’s been shy to do, he will have plenty of opportunities to do so while he recovers from a devastating achilles tear. The first of those chances came earlier today when a Wall Street Journal piece dropped detailing Durant’s thoughts on his NBA career.
The Golden State era, the NBA and other things will certainly make their way around the basketball news cycle. The scorching topic around Durant however will always be his relationship with Oklahoma City.
And he talked about that too.
“I’ll never be attached to that city again,” Durant told the WSJ. “I eventually wanted to come back to that city and organization, but I don’t trust anyone there. That sh- must have been fake, what they was doing. The organization, the GM, I ain’t talked to none of those people, even had a nice exchange with those people, since I left.”
Clearly, Durant is still turned off by how he is viewed by the fanbase — and now the Oklahoma City Thunder — over three years later. He has his truth. The Thunder and the fanbase have theirs, respectively. The actual truth lies somewhere in the middle of those three things.
But when Durant opens his mouth and anything OKC related comes out, it highlights one of the inherent problems between the era of player empowerment and basketball as a sport.
There is nothing wrong with, as the kids say, getting yours. No matter the profession you are in, you need, nay, must look out for yourself and your family. People have been taken advantage of for other’s personal gain forever.
But when you take the getting yours mentality and slap it into a profession that only exists with the precious fuel of competition and team play, things can get ugly.
Durant saw his decision as a personal right. He assumed — or was misinformed — that OKC fans who adored him for nine years would do nothing but have a, “gee thanks for the good times buddy,” approach towards it.
But this is a team sport. This is basketball. This is competition.
Durant’s decision altered the future of the team. It all but guaranteed Oklahoma City would not be enjoying a championship parade in the following years. Russell Westbrook’s career was negatively affected. Sam Presti’s job as a GM would be graded harshly. The fans had to sit and watch their team go from a title-contender to a second-tier team while their old hero went gold digging with the Warriors.
You’re a fan because you have a passion for your team. When they are great, leisure time is more enjoyable. When they’re terrible, yikes. But when you can pinpoint the reason your team went from the former to the latter, it makes the transition all the more unbearable.
Durant’s player empowerment opportunity squandered any positive relationship he could have with Oklahoma City in the short term. Competitive juices, emotions and passion won’t allow for warm, fuzzy thoughts to incubate.
While Durant was the Thunder’s best player, he was still a member of a team. A team that leaned on him in the 2014 and 2016 Western Conference Finals. A team that leaned on him in July of 2016 to return.
He didn’t. And that’s fine. But if you forsake the collective for the individual, the collective will bark back.
Remember that Durant did nothing wrong. He didn’t break a law or commit any other immoral act. But there is something to be said of honor. Instead of going that route, Durant went for the easy and quick exit strategy of personal gain without understanding that the collective gain would have other feelings. If you want to leave a great team for another great team, you’ll need a thick skin.
Durant’s an emotional man. The fanaticism that comes with following a sport stems from that same emotion. Put the two together and sometimes things can traverse into the realm of regret. It is ugly now. And given the chance to speak on OKC again, Durant could likely further bury his standing with the Thunder fanbase.
Someday it won’t be bad. Time is the only elixir all sides of the Durant saga can hope for. For now, prepare for more Durant interviews over the next year.
Brady Trantham has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for The Franchise since April 2018 and for Thunder Digest since 2016. He hosts a Thunder podcast with Madysson Morris “OKC-82 Podcast” which can be found on all podcast outlets, and is a featured co-host on the Franchise Thunder Insider’s Show on Saturdays from 10-12, in addition to weekly guest spots on “The Franchise Drive” on Tuesdays and “The Franchise Morning Show” on Wednesdays. Follow him on Twitter @BradyDoesSports