Try empathizing with Kevin Durant for a change

Courtesy of The Seattle Times | A young Kevin Durant with one of his biggest supporters: his mother, Wanda.
Courtesy of The Seattle Times | A young Kevin Durant with one of his biggest supporters: his mother, Wanda.

Adam Lindner | Sports Editor

Beginning promptly on July 4, 2016, when mega NBA star Kevin Durant announced his decision to leave Oklahoma City for The Town, — err, uh, Golden State? — Durant chose to forfeit his general likability, his worldwide popularity amongst casual fans and his spot alongside superhuman point guard Russell Westbrook for perpetual, ceaseless criticism from every corner of the universe — well, maybe everywhere, except for the corner of Quire and Sultan Avenue in Capitol Heights, Maryland.

In 2010, LeBron James cultivated similar contempt from the public when he left his hometown Cavaliers high and dry for the opportunity to head south and play in Miami.

On the surface, the two situations may appear to be homogenous, but key, well-documented differences between both James and Durant’s transgressions are vital in differentiating between the two situations.

While James left a sorrowful Cleveland team to form a superteam in South Beach with friend Dwyane Wade and newly-acquired Chris Bosh, Durant left a Thunder team that was one win removed — on three separate occasions, no less — from beating the Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals for the same formerly distinguished Golden State team.

James immediately became Miami’s indubitable leader upon his arrival, and because Miami was not a preexisting power prior to LeBron’s arrival, most of the disdain felt by others toward James was rooted in aggravation and disapproval with the manner that he handled his departure from Cleveland.

Conversely, upon Durant’s arrival in Golden State, he was met by a Warriors cast that was fresh off of a record 73-win regular season.

While pundits were eager to find imperfections in the Warriors’ play early on in Durant’s tenure with the team, most were aware, deep down, of the incredible potential that Golden State possessed together. The vast majority of fans knew that, no matter how badly we may have wanted to believe it, the Spurs’ 29-point victory over the Dubs in Durant’s debut was a fluke.

Prior to Durant’s decision, I genuinely thought that no matter where Durant ended up, I’d be excited to be able to witness his next endeavor. I love the NBA, I love free agency, and in anticipation of Durant’s decision, I truly believed that whether he signed with Boston, the Clippers, Golden State, or re-signed with Oklahoma City, I’d remain an even keeled purveyor of his game.

It turns out, I genuinely was not capable of foreseeing Durant actually making the move to Golden State before it truly existed in reality. Reasonably speaking, such a monopoly within the NBA was

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated | LeBron James (with ball) vs. Kevin Durant (on defense) in the 2012 NBA Finals.

almost unfathomable to comprehend for me.

Immediately after the decision made its way to me, my definitively neutral opinion on the matter turned to astonished bitterness, almost instantaneously.

I began to think about the repercussions of his decision, and I soon decided that winning would not suffice in silencing Durant’s new critics.

How bitter does one have to be to deem that Durant ‘winning doesn’t matter anymore,’ just because Durant’s that likely to succeed?

While many people were hoping that the Warriors would somehow fall again in the playoffs, fans eventually had to resort to the idea that even if Durant did succeed, it was only because he’s actively benefiting from the culture that was built before he was present in Golden State.

Not only is there nothing wrong with benefiting from positive things if you’re able to do so, but in reality, joining the Warriors was an extremely proactive move for Durant. What person, in their right mind, would not seize an opportunity where the probability of future success was inevitable?

Nevertheless, in light of @KDTrey5’s recent incidental tweets, it’s apparent that Durant does hear the voices of his discounters and critics, and very loudly at that. In what should be the time of Durant’s life, with his first NBA championship victory a few months behind him, he’s instead caught in the middle of a humiliating scandal that saw him call out his former organization, head coach Billy Donovan, and the Thunder’s lack of quality depth behind MVP point guard Russell Westbrook, all in third-person.

Durant’s tweets insinuate that he most likely possesses a ghost social media account that he uses to defend himself in third-person regularly.

According to multiple sources, Durant’s uncovered fake Instagram handle, @quiresultan (which has since disowned by Durant) is a reference to two streets within the area that he grew up near. Durant’s brother tagged Kevin as ‘@quiresultan’ in an Instagram post once, and friends of Durant’s followed the low-profile private page, including rapper Big Sean and former Thunder teammate Andre Roberson, among others.

It’s likely that this page was once owned by Durant, and we can presume that, in some capacity, he used it in a similar effort to defend himself anonymously.

Beyond the initial enjoyment of following such a peculiar developing story, some may bask in Durant’s stated humiliation. By responding to his critics in such a calculated, secretive manner, Durant provided his naysayers with the ultimate credibility and leverage.

Additionally, Nike recently released the ‘Finals’ version of the KD 10 shoes, which are complete with common critiques heard by Durant on the bottom of the shoe.

Words and terms like ‘not a leader,’ ‘quitter,’ ‘weak,’ ‘blew a 3-1 lead,’ ‘KowarD,’ ‘snake,’ and ‘can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ are scribbled in black, with “16-1” and “2017 Champs” written over-top of the demeaning quips, attempting to symbolically negate them.

Durant’s acknowledgment of his detractors aids them with extreme ammunition, as his critics now know that he’s well-aware of their digs toward him.

No matter how you feel regarding Durant’s choice to join the Warriors, you must acknowledge the fact that it must be absolutely maddening for Durant to work all of his life for something only to sign with a team that increases his likelihood of success exponentially and, in turn, becoming discredited.

It’s no secret that Durant likely desired much more of a fluid offensive attack during his time in Oklahoma City, but the team never would have been able to build a more cohesive unit than the one that Golden State had already established.

God bless Russell Westbrook, fashion god and triple-double king, but Durant’s ideal style of play is much better suited in an offense led by unselfish, ball-moving players like Curry, Thompson and Green.

Durant, no matter what you say, reserves the simple autonomy to be able to make a decision like the one that he did in leaving the Thunder for the Dubs, effectively augmenting a competitive imbalance that exists within the league.

The general population certainly doesn’t need to willingly hop on the Warriors’ bandwagon as a result, but I encourage fans to simply consider Durant’s infuriating predicament and to stop claiming that Durant’s successes are flawed and asterisked due to his surroundings.

What outlet is Durant supposed to utilize to silence his critics if winning isn’t sufficient?

Over a year removed from Durant’s decision, I encourage fans to accept the reality of the situation, appreciate a historically great team in its prime, and fixate their attention upon the moves that other teams have made this offseason in an attempt to inch closer to dethroning the Dubs.