Sports

Klein ’20: How Kevin Durant can shake his haters

By
Sports Columnist
Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Golden State Warriors are on top of the basketball world. They dominated last season by an incredible margin, losing only one playoff game on their path to the championship. To make things even easier, thanks to Kevin Durant taking less money on his contract, the team was able to re-sign all of its players facing free agency. Golden State actually improved over the offseason, adding Nick Young and Omri Casspi to their already spectacular bench. Without a catastrophic series of injuries, the Warriors are almost sure to capture another championship this year and are likely to add two or three more in the future. Everyone in the organization should be riding high.

But one person is not riding so high right now — superstar Kevin Durant himself. One would assume that the Finals MVP spent his summer enjoying his status as champion. After all, Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder and co-star Russell Westbrook for the Warriors and was rewarded with an easy championship run. With four of the NBA’s top 15 players, a dynamic second unit and a roster without any weaknesses, the Warriors were expected to roll over the rest of the league — and that is just what they did. No other team came close to touching them. Why should Durant care what some angry fans have to say about him and his perceived sell-out move? His team won.

Durant has said he does not care. But his actions tell another story. Durant cares so little that his new shoes feature insoles with common criticisms of him written on them — so he can effectively “stomp” on his haters. Durant cares so little that a commercial appeared after the Finals all about him “proving his critics wrong.” Durant cares so little that he spent his summer engaging in Twitter wars against fans who insulted him and created a series of alternate Twitter and Instagram accounts to compliment and defend himself in arguments with other random users.

The Warriors were reportedly “perplexed” by his offseason activities, which makes sense. Someone like his teammate, Draymond Green, cannot possibly understand Durant — Green feeds off hate and performs best when treated with hostility on the court. Durant, on the other hand, just wants to be liked.

Durant mistakenly thought that a championship would turn public opinion around. The commercial, mentioned above, showed him hushing up his critics by winning the Finals. That is the whole issue, though. Everyone believed the Warriors would win the championship from the day of Durant’s decision. The entire reason everyone was mad at Durant was because it would be so easy for him to win, joining the team that knocked him out of the playoffs in 2016 and won the championship in 2015. He did not prove anyone wrong by going 16-1 in the playoffs. He proved the public right. The championship was never in doubt, not even for a second, and I’m saying this as a Cleveland Cavaliers fan.

The reaction to the victory rattled Durant. He expected to be loved again, especially after watching LeBron James gain back the admiration of the sports world by toppling Golden State in the 2016 Finals. When fans continued their criticism of his move to Golden State, among other things, he lashed out on Twitter more and more, sometimes spending hours arguing with trolling fans.

Everything came to a head when he was caught bashing the Thunder organization. Durant forgot to switch to an alternate account and tweeted from his main account that he “didn’t like playing for Billy Donovan. His roster wasn’t that good.” The story went nationwide. Durant said, when apologizing, that he had not eaten or slept over the past two days. In what should have been the happiest summer of his career, Durant was miserable and at his lowest point.

Believe it or not, Durant was a free agent this summer as well. He re-signed with the Warriors, of course, as was planned last year. But by doing so, he lost his escape route. Durant wants to be liked again, a superstar without polarization. More championships with Golden State certainly will not help him in that cause. If Golden State wins 70 games and sweeps through the playoffs this season, the hate will only increase. Same thing if they win the 2019 championship. And so on in 2020. That is why Durant should have left the Warriors this past offseason.

Durant needed to take more time to consider his decision to re-commit to the Warriors. If he had left and signed with his hometown Washington Wizards, or the Miami Heat, or the Los Angeles Clippers, or even the Boston Celtics, then the hate might have faded away. In that case, a championship would truly shut the haters up. The Warriors and Cavaliers, after all, would still be the favorites. A single championship victory like LeBron’s in 2016 or Dirk Nowitzki’s in 2011 would do far more for Durant’s legacy than the three or four he will probably win in Golden State.

But Durant lost his chance and now he is stuck. In the end, he made the best possible decision for the Golden State Warriors and the worst possible decision for Kevin Durant. As this season unfolds, watch out for Durant’s off the court antics — they could become even bigger stories than the Warriors themselves.

George Klein ’20 can be reached at george_klein@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.