KD's An Interesting Guy

Kevin Durant did a piece with the Wall Street Journal, interesting read.

Jim Rome
September 11, 2019 - 11:35 am
Kevin Durant

USA Today

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Kevin Durant did a piece with the Wall Street Journal…interesting read…and chock full of interesting quotes. That’s because Kevin Durant is a very interesting guy and he’s doing some interesting thinking. I’m just not sure he’s fully resolved some of the thoughts that he’s having.

For example, there’s this quote: “Some days I hate the circus of the NBA. Some days I hate that the players let the NBA business, the fame that comes with the business, alter their minds about the game. Sometimes I don’t like being around the executives and politics that come with it. I hate that.”

And I know that a lot of people are probably going to hear that and think, that guy hates the NBA? What the hell is wrong with him? He’s one of the greatest NBA players ever and he hates it? What’s his deal?

But I get it.

It’s a long season and it is a circus. It is a complete grind. And I’m guessing just about every person who plays or works in the league hates it at some point. It’s not you or me going into the backyard to shoot hoops or dropping in to the local gym for a run, it’s a job.

But Durant had more.

And he had a few things he wanted to say about the time in Golden State: “I came in there wanting to be part of a group, wanting to be part of a family, and definitely felt accepted. But I’ll never be one of those guys. I didn’t get drafted there.… Steph Curry, obviously drafted there. Andre Iguodala, won the first Finals, first championship. Klay Thompson, drafted there. Draymond Green, drafted there. And the rest of the guys kind of rehabilitated their careers there. So me? Bleep, how you going to rehabilitate me? What you going to teach me? How can you alter anything in my basketball life? I got an MVP already. I got scoring titles.”

Okay, I kind of see him working there. Steph, Draymond, and Klay were drafted there. But Iguodala wasn’t. Andrew Bogut wasn’t. David West wasn’t. I could keep going, but there were plenty of parts of that roster who weren’t drafted there.

Now, KD would say that those guys “rehabilitated their careers there.”

Uh, Kevin, wasn’t that why you went to Golden State? To win titles. To make sure that you would get that feeling of winning a ring. To stack wins. Isn’t that essentially rehabilitating your career?

How is that not rehabilitating your career and your image? There was the famous SI cover back in the day where you talked about being sick and tired of finishing second. You went to Golden State so that you wouldn’t finish second.

That’s not bashing you, that’s just stating facts. I have absolutely no problem with you going to Golden State. In fact, I had your back.  I even celebrated it. It was great. But don’t re-write history and don’t act like it wasn’t about creating the narrative of your career. 

“As time went on I started to realize I’m just different from the rest of the guys. It’s not a bad thing. Just my circumstances and how I came up in the league. And on top of that, the media always looked at it like KD and the Warriors. So it’s like nobody could get a full acceptance of me there.”

There is so much to unpack here, I’m not sure I have the time. If Durant’s point is that he was never going to get the kind love that Steph gets from Golden State fans, he’s right. Because that is a relationship that goes back a long time. And that is a fanbase that has seen Steph grow, and struggle, and turn into a transcendent force.

But the notion of “the media always looked at it like KD and the Warriors” is kind of weird.

Because if you wanted people to not talk about your free agency all of last year, you could’ve handled that very differently. But you kind of welcomed the talk about free agency, which is essentially going to create a division between you and the Warriors. Of course. The media didn’t do that to you. You do that to yourself. And the organization. 

And then he had thoughts about Steve Kerr’s offense: "The motion offense we run in Golden State, it only works to a certain point. We can totally rely on our system for maybe the first two rounds. Then the next two rounds we're going to have to mix in individual play. We've got to throw teams off, because they're smarter in that round of playoffs.  So now I have to dive into my bag, deep, to create stuff on my own, off the dribble, isos, pick-and-rolls, more so than let the offense create points for me."

Steve Kerr would probably be the first person to admit that he’s not a perfect coach. But that offensive style seemed to work well enough to hang banners. It seemed to work well enough to win a title without you. And come as close as you possibly can to winning a second title before you came. And to be competitive in the Finals without you this year.

And sometimes those isos didn’t work so well. Sometimes, that ground the offense to a halt.

But the most interesting stuff from the interview isn’t where he’s complaining about the Warriors offense or the team chemistry, it’s later in the piece. It’s where you can really see Durant wrestling with big topics. And I’m not sure he’s winning that wrestling match in the way that he thinks he is. 

One of the other things that Durant talks about is that he realizes “how big this whole bleep is.”

The bleep, as described by J.R. Moehringer of the Wall Street Journal “is “the machine,” a great big invisible generator of narratives, programmed by the powers that be to gin up controversy, conflict, whatever keeps people dialed in. He’s learned—he’s learning—to free himself from the machine, to separate the game he loves from the noise and nonsense surrounding it.

That sounds like a guy who wants to separate himself from the hype and the narratives and get back to the game he loves. That all sounds good.

Until you take a step back.

You’re ticked off at the machine, the thing that generates narratives and creates controversy, and you are looking to free yourself from the machine. I get that. But you’re doing this in a long-form piece in the Wall Street Journal. A newspaper with a circulation of 2.6 million and in a piece that will be picked up by millions more.

You are expressing your dislike of narratives and controversies, while creating a narrative and a controversy. You’re expressing your dislike of the machine, while talking to the machine, while participating in the machine.

There is some serious pretzel-twisting going on here. And Durant isn’t done making pretzels.

If you know anything about Kevin Durant, you know that he likes social media. He really likes it. And it’s burned him numerous times when he’s been caught with burner accounts that either hype him or defend him.

As the Journal writes, Instagram is one of his main portals to the world. It’s an introvert’s utopia, he says, a place to engage with people from a safe distance. Never mind the grief it’s caused him in the past. (In recent years, at times using fake accounts, he’s clashed with online critics, including at least one who still had a curfew.) He checks his direct messages twice daily, and though they number in the hundreds, he methodically works his way through, chatting with all sorts of folks about all sorts of subjects.

Again, this is a guy who is saying that he hates narratives, he hates controversies, and yet he’s hopping on Instagram throughout the day. That is the very definition of feeding the machine. You hate the circus, but you’re going to it multiple times per day.

And the best part of the whole Wall Street Journal piece didn’t even come in the Wall Street Journal piece, it came on twitter. 

When some rando on twitter with 379 followers tweeted: Dude- you have got to be the most self-conscious dude in the NBA. Give it a rest and grow up

And Kevin Durant responded: No.

That is incredible. That is so Meta, it’s unbelievable. Honestly, if this was all performance art, it would be the greatest show ever.

But it’s not.

I’m not saying you can’t or you shouldn’t be on twitter or that you can’t or shouldn’t do interviews with major publications that play significant roles in shaping narratives, aka the machine.

But you can’t both be part of the machine and complain about it. You can’t be going on social media, sometimes with your own account and other times with burner accounts, and then complain about the machine and the narratives. You’re creating some of those narratives.

I like that you’re thinking big thoughts and wrestling with big ideas, but it feels like you got tied up and twisted in them. It feels like those wrestling matches didn’t go so well.