The other night I watched Kevin Durant receive a pass from Russell Westbrook, then return the ball to his cutting ex-teammate for a vicious alley oop slam.
“Cutting”, the sort of demeanor Westbrook has enlisted in regards to the treacherous thin man.
That’s either a poor choice of words or I’m writing a sports article and need as many puns as I can get.
In any case, it was exhilarating to watch because it reminded me of their now dead and buried dynamic style of play. Both were and are exciting attackers of the rim, vis-à-vis athletic, beautiful dunks. In the timeout following the alley oop, member of the Western All-Star team gathered around the two and cheered in celebration. I cheered too.
And then I started to really miss them. I wonder if Kevin misses them. In fact, as a fan of the man, I cannot understand why he would leave, especially for the Warriors. It’s taken months (the regular season and entire free agency period) to come to terms with his decision. Obviously, no one’s clamoring for my input, especially not Kevin himself but why leave such a workhorse in Russell, why leave the man you, as recently as this all-star weekend, gave the award of “best in-game dunker”.
The less emotional parts of my beautiful mind remind me that dunks and style and triple-doubles are not the stuff of championship and Kevin Durant really just wants a championship.
So that’s my answer right? I just answered my own question. “Why did Kevin Durant leave?” “Because he wanted a championship.”
Whatever. Ok. Who cares about championships? For me, as a consumer of the league, the game has always been about myths. Lebron’s myth is one of comeback and redemption in the most emphatic ways possible, returning to his hometown team even after vicious backlash and then coming back against the best team in regular season HISTORY to win the finals. Kobe’s legend is one of pure determination, striving beyond physical limits, accomplishing victories through mental toughness, mantras, focus. Durant’s, for me, was to be one of steadfast loyalty and brotherhood and…yeah, that’s foolish to expect from someone right?
But how are you gonna cry at your MVP speech and rain adulation on this Russell Westbrook character then leave him for, not just the BEST REGULAR SEASON TEAM IN LEAGUE HISTORY but the team that came back from a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals to beat you the year before.
My confusion rest on the fulcrum that the Warriors could have won without Durant and Durant would have won without the Warriors. He’s an MVP, Russell could be MVP this year, the Thunder had great direction in terms of improvement.
Then I stop thinking of Kevin Durant as my own personal mythology. I stop vilifying him and glorifying him in the same breath and I think of him as a human being and it is difficult to knock the move. The Warriors are, by definition, an ‘unselfish’ team. Sure, that seems like shade being thrown at Westbrook game but, even averaging 10.5 assists, it is hard to see Durant thriving in a system where the point guard attacks the rim so relentlessly, sometimes to the detriment of team concepts like ball movement, spacing and off-ball efficiency. Such deficiencies were tough to forgive from the perspective of a free agent.
Conversely, Kevin Durant made many mistakes in the aftermath of his decision that sting more than any well-placed alley oop could never heal. According to both camps, depending on who you trust, Russell either heard about it through a text message or at the same time as the media.
Again, you can’t cry at your MVP speech, praise the point guard, tell him he will always be there for him (not in as many words but…) diss Steph Curry as a defender in the conference finals series you would eventually lose, then publish an article in the Players Tribune saying you’re “stepping out of your comfort zone” by joining a team that just went 73-9 without you.
It’s fucking ridiculous. Frustrating to the nth degree how someone I thought was loyal can just…arghhhh….