I’ve never been a Taylor Swift fan. Sure, she’s got some catchy songs, but it’s not really my cup of tea. It’s my understanding that a few years ago she made some big deal about her transitioning from country(ish) music to pop(ish) music. Now, I get legitimately angry every time I hear her music come on. She puts on this attitude and tries to sound hard, but when you’ve been a pampered millionaire since age 18, you look like the home school prom queen trying to rap in her bathroom. And it sucks.
Kevin Durant, in his own subtle way, has gone through a similar transition. When he was drafted and moved to Oklahoma, I recall stories of him riding around Oklahoma City in his van with his sneakers in the back and stopping to hoop with kids in the park, wherever. He was quiet, reserved, relaxed. His calmness and composure was the perfect contrast to Russell Westbrook’s intensity on the court.
When he went to the Bay, something changed. He was still calm and quiet, he was still not 6’9”, but for perhaps the first time, Durant was hated. Any true basketball fan, Thunder fans in particular, hated the man. I admit, it was hard not to; watching people around me hop on the Warriors bandwagon was annoying enough. Seeing one of the more likeable superstars in American sports do the same thing was just mindblowing.
Durant, ever conscious of the media, was certainly aware of his role as the villain. It was his choice ignore it and calmly hopscotch his way to a championship, or embrace it and rub it in everyone’s face. He cupcaked his way to a ring, grabbing Finals MVP honors along the way. In a season when he put up 25.1 points per game, he averaged 37.6 against the Thunder through his first three games against his former team with the Warriors. Nowhere else was he a greater villain than Oklahoma City, and nowhere else was he more dominant.
While Swift’s new music sounds horrific (in my opinion), Durant’s game has become more well-rounded as the villain, as his height on a relatively short Warriors squad put him in a rim protector role on defense. With a career average of 1.1 blocks per game, Durant averaged 1.6 in his first year with Golden State, and currently averages 2.1 this season.
While Durant has not varied in simplicity as a personality, he has certainly opened up and spoken out. After his ejection on Friday night for arguing a no-call, he said: “The refs run the game, so if they’re not feeling good today, they can just make any decision they want, I have to know that they got all of the power, and I got to shut up and take it.”
Perhaps a routine statement for most other superstars, but OKC Durant would likely be mum on the officiating, and probably wouldn’t have been ejected.
But this emergence to the stage of the outspoken seems to be a side effect of Durant just being Durant, a process which has taken shape over the course of his entire career. In an interview with San Francisco Magazine, done for an article centered around his endorsement trip for a tech company from Silicon Valley, Durant said the following about doing the typical basketball things, and having too many endorsements:
“It turned me off from the love of the game. I hated talking to the media, I hated photo shoots for stuff that I didn’t even use. And then Rich came in and simplified my whole life, and now the only stuff I’m doing is because I want to do it. If I’m sitting here talking to you, it’s because I’m passionate about it.”
The mantle of being arguably the best basketball player on the planet comes with a big target on your back, and going after your passions, what you feel is best for you, will not go unnoticed. Breaking an entire city’s heart in the process? Buckle the hell up.
“To have so many people just say, ‘**** you,’ that really does it to you,” Durant said. “Because I truly had invested everything I had into the people I played for…. And for those people that I know and love and trust to turn their back on me after I was fully invested in them, it was just…more than I could take. I was upset.”
In the same article, Durant discusses his “rock bottom”, a point he reached after signing with Golden State. The guilt and the backlash was apparently too much, and it hit him hard.
We’ve seen Durant’s transformation; we know the results. But is this the real Kevin Durant? Did he just leave his silencer in Oklahoma? Has he accepted his role as villain and become a bully, or is he still crying over Oklahoma City?