Kevin Durant is the current NBA villain, blamed for ruining the NBA, particularly the NBA Finals the past two years. But when you cut through all the hedonistic whining you realize, regardless of whatever Durant side you fall on, he wasn’t responsible for the Cleveland Cavaliers gutless effort in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Durant wasn’t responsible for the no-show performance of the LeBron crew.
There have been many Finals games in which the underdog team competed until it was over, historical series. The Spurs in 2013 come to mind, a Game 7 for the ages. The Celtics in 2010 played a Game 7 hard and to the bitter end. Even the Cavs in 2016 played gutsy games in all their elimination go-home dramas.
Kevin Durant isn’t a witch doctor or a voodoo priest. While he is the reason the Cavs lost, he isn’t the reason the Cavs didn’t show up other than LeBron James. The fault lies in the Cavs and their management and front office who traded their second best player and a top-5 point (Kyrie Irving). The Cavs management did this to LeBron, not Kevin Durant. But what Durant is responsible for is taking the easy way out for titles number one and two.
Wanting to avoid all the burdens when you are the best player is still a weak move two years later. But that one surrender doesn’t mean the NBA was destroyed. Kevin Durant isn’t powerful enough for that. He’s a scorer who often drifts in and out of responsibility but he’s gifted, a Hall of Fame player and a difference maker.
In fact, the opposite almost occurred with the NBA. Kevin Durant has saved the league.
The NBA has always operated on scorers being villains. Rick Barry was reviled. When Jordan came into the league he was consistently called a ball hog and players hated playing with him and weren’t shy about saying so. We know all the Kobe and LeBron hate. Tracy McGrady was called an underachiever, Vince Carter was a dunk machine with zero skill, Allen Iverson was reckless. Because scorers determine wins and losses and the gifted at that position bring people to their side and turn everyone else against them, it’s natural Kevin Durant is the next villain.
The NBA drives its product on who do you hate. One of the Steph Curry NBA problems is its hard hating this new group of NBA stars. They are socially conscious. They care about their community. They help up those they slam to the court in a hard foul. They laugh on the court with opponents. They could be your neighbor. No old school Charles Oakley venom. No Kevin McHale taking down Kurt Rambis. No Isiah Thomas dirty tricks and Kobe elbows to the face when the ref isn’t looking. No Bill Laimbeer vileness. This group of players are a bunch of Nick Youngs. Social media savvy, Instagram posting, Snapchat loving, wanting to get likes. They are millennials.
The league was veering towards boredom before this Durant is evil thing got off the ground. LeBron was getting older and as players age we realize, uh-oh, they don’t have much time left, they are about to check out of their career. We begin to love them.
That was the vortex Kevin Durant stepped into and a bunch of mud splattered in his face and the good thing was he went to the Warriors. The bad thing was he went to the Warriors. Thunder fans hated him. Warriors fans loved him. The rest of us were just plain salty about his weak defection.
The NBA, more than any other league, traffics in conspiracy and hate and subjective analysis. It is the most gossipy league of all the major sports. It is the league that has ownership of social media. The fans know more about their favorite NBA player than they do about their congressman whose job it is to provide affordable healthcare, good schools and can you please make sure I don’t get a flat tire once winter is over and the streets are still jacked up. But hey, we know about Ayesha Curry having baby number three and Rockets fans throwing shade her way. This makes the NBA. The drama 24-7.
So when all was getting just too cute and boring Durant entered and threw everything into hell. It made the Warriors ratings epic. It made NBA social media blow up. I was at a wedding over the weekend and at the reception no one was talking bride and groom and their age discrepancy or them moving to London for three years. No. It was about how much they hate Kevin Durant and how he ruined their basketball loving lives. It was perfect. If you run the NBA that is.
The NBA thrives on negativity. That Durant wants people to love him ala LeBron makes it even more beautiful. He’s not bringing any Kobe-Jordan f**kery to the table. Nah. He wants to be your friend. He wouldn’t have had burner accounts otherwise. He’s all into perception and unlike LeBron he can’t fix it by going back to OKC. This is his reality. This New World Order.
The fans moan and groan. The NBA movers and shakers rake in the cash. The more Durant is hated, the more their league is saved. The league is relevant. When LeBron leaves, Durant will still be around with all these fans in full hater mode.
The league can one-up Kevin Durant all this Durant hate that has saved them from the NBA Friends Club. Can we get Anthony Davis to join the Celtics? Please.