The Sports Kid Column: Kevin Durant Can’t Have His Cake and Eat It Too

There are a slew of dystopian films that suggest that someday soon — depending on what fiction you buy into — humans will genetically engineer the ability to create a near-perfect clone species. I sure as hell hope they base that clone model off Russell Westbrook:

Westbrook, in all his fervent athletic glory, has become a bit of a cult hero to fans who overvalue loyalty and hard-nosed play. It’s fair — he is a supernova destined to annihilate the world that is the NBA. He is also, coincidentally, one of the least apologetic players in the league when it comes to sharing his feelings with the media. Perfection comes in many forms, but if you don’t think one of them is “Russell Westbrook,” then we need to fight.

That’s why, since Kevin Durant decided to sign in free agency with the Golden State Warriors, I’ve both enjoyed and anguished over the media stress that has been bestowed on Westbrook — it’s brought some incredible sound bites, but it’s added unnecessary stress and stupidity to an already frustrating sports media, as shown in the above tweet. It’s asinine to expect Russell Westbrook, or anyone on the Thunder for that matter, to answer to the inner workings of his former teammate’s mind when he chose to join the Death Star Warriors. That move is probably layered enough to Durant himself, who labored through the ultimate heartbreak repeatedly when he fell short of several championships in Oklahoma City.

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I don’t blame Durant for leaving Oklahoma City. Things get stale. The culture of that team — oddly insulated from the outside world, us vs. them mentality, obsessive fans who expected Durant to be a savior for a new franchise that could’ve easily floundered — can wear a guy out. Sports fans have this false expectation of loyalty that exceeds the realistic expectations of most athletes. Durant gave nine unconditional years to Oklahoma City, and he came out ring-less.

That being said, his choice to join the Warriors was largely disappointing, for reasons that hot-take aficionados have taken to such extremes that the horse died, was reincarnated, lived a nice life full of oats and love, died again and was beaten repeatedly. But that’s not my point. My point is this: Kevin Durant, having spent the better part of his adult life being acquainted with hot-take sports media, cannot reasonably expect to spurn OKC for the now Evil Empire (whom his previous team should have eliminated last year!) and not get asked to explain why he did it. What’s more, he can’t expect to give “[his] evolution as a man” as his prime reason for heading to Oakland and not have sports analysts question his competitive drive.

Whether the questioning of his competitive drive is fair is a different argument to be had. He had to know it was coming, given his gripes with media shortcomings in the past. The sports media is not fair. The sports media, coincidentally, is also a primary reason that there are billions of dollars being funded to the league that writes his checks. For better or for worse, athletes must subject themselves to the moronic questions from people who know far less about their profession than they do. If he thinks sitting in front of media members and answering questions about why OKC can’t get it done late in the fourth quarter is bad, imagine what it must be like to be a qualified presidential candidate having to dumb your policy down so the American people don’t call you a robot.

I have love for Kevin Durant. I think he’s an outstanding basketball player — one of the most unique and unstoppable that have graced my basketball-watching existence. I think he’s an even better person. The work he’s done in the OKC community, in addition to the positive influence he’s had in his hometown of Washington D.C., has done more for the world than his basketball playing ever will. For competitive parity and pure watching interest, I wish he would have gone to somewhere like Boston or Miami, but I’m not sure I could say no to Steph Curry’s sharp green eyes either. He was probably right when he said the media “doesn’t know [expletive].”

The problem is, these reporters are feeding their families off of these people who “[don’t] know [expletive],” because it is their job to try and elucidate to the public why Durant chose to leave OKC for Golden State, and they can only elucidate extrapolation if he doesn’t give them more to work with. If he wants them to be more informed, he has to give them the information to process in the first place, and sift through the journalists who are doing their job well enough to illustrate that information correctly.

Email Bobby Wagner at [email protected]

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