A three year absence hasn’t softened Kevin Durant. He hasn’t forgiven and forgotten, nor has he developed the kind of empathy that makes people consider the other side. He was hurt and that wound is still festering and because of it Oklahoma City will never be part of the Kevin Durant story like Cleveland was part of the LeBron James story. There will never be a closing of the OKC circle, a thank you say you’re sorry now that I am back. Kevin Durant is never returning to OKC.
After he left, Thunder fans and much of the NBA eviscerated Durant for ditching the Thunder and going to a championship team. It felt like he was doing things the easy way. He didn’t want to build anything. He wanted to come in during the 8th inning, hit the grand slam, and then walk around the bases celebrating. The problem is an unequal trade-off. Durant got one thing but was denied the other. Because he wasn’t one of the Golden State anchors, he never received the kind of love that was showered upon the Curry-ites. Loyalty love. Been here a while love. Sweated through the hard times love.
Now in Brooklyn, he is reflecting on Golden State and what could never be, and of his other ex, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant remembers how he was received when he returned to play his first game back, how the OKC employees were dismissive. He bled for the franchise and Durant felt as if he was stabbed in the back, as if past history didn’t matter.
He told the Wall Street Journal, “Such a venomous toxic feeling when I walked into that arena. And just the organization, the trainers and equipment managers, those dudes is pissed off at me? Ain’t talking to me? I’m like ‘Yo this is where we going with this?’ Because I left a team and went to play with another team?”
Perhaps on purpose, Durant doesn’t understand that his leaving was personalized by the organization. Durant was the straw the stirred the drink. He was their everything. He mattered. Furthermore, he gave them indications that he was leaning towards returning. It was a sucker punch when he went west. OKC personnel needed time to recover. Secondarily, those who rejected him were taking sides. Durant the villain. Russ the hero. Durant left. Russ stayed.
Durant personalizes that it was about him when it was about moving forward with Westbrook and being an ally to him. Russ was the kind of player that incentivized the kind of rejection that Durant received. Russ wouldn’t even allow teammates to acknowledge Durant during that first game. The organization, a bunch of Westbrook enablers to their detriment, followed suit.
Durant loves to see himself as a victim and in this case it was not about how the organization felt about him but about how they had to embrace and romance their only star because he was the one holding it together, keeping their small market dreams alive. Durant is right to be in his feelings but he is wrong about the why. It is not about him. It’s about Russell Westbrook and having to be his sycophant, no matter who it hurt.
Durant continues to give financial assistance to OKC but money doesn’t insulate from negative reactions to his leaving. In his animosity towards the OKC organization, perhaps he understands how the fans felt when he rejected them. Showing up for Westbrook was an example of fair play. A dose of the Durant medicine, so to speak. And this too: NBA organizations are more like the military than you think. Defect and you are the enemy.
KD wanting to return to OKC was on a long pause. It’s on life support now.
“I don’t trust nobody there. That sh*t must have been fake, what they was doing. I ain’t talked to none of those people even had a nice exchange with those people since I left.”