It is hard to believe an NBA superstar who rose up over LeBron James and drained a dagger 3-pointer in Game 3 of the Finals is so easily distressed by Twitter trolls, but Kevin Durant is one and the same.
We learned in Durant’s own words from an interview with Modern Luxury Media on Tuesday just how deeply the eight-time All-Star was bothered last year by social media critics who believe leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the 73-win Golden State Warriors was the easier road to a championship.
In the interview, Durant and his consigliere Rich Kleiman described a conversation they shared during a 2016 Nike tour of China just after his free-agent decision. Here is that exchange, via Modern Luxury:
Durant: “To have so many people just say, ‘F*** you,’ that really does it to you. 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.”
Kleiman: “You were f***ed up in China.”
Durant: “That was before I met anybody from the Warriors and dove into the culture. I was basically on my own.”
Kleiman: “It was like you were in between two teams.”
Durant: “I’m telling you, I was f***ed up for a while!”
Kleiman: “We were all messed up on jet lag, and I was up at 6 a.m. and he calls me and says, ‘Yo, are you up?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, what’s up?’ And he’s like [yelling], ‘Why the f*** did you let me do this to my life?’ And I’m like, ‘Ohh s***, I’m coming over to your room.’”
Durant: “That hotel was rock bottom.”
This strikes at the heart of the anguish Durant experienced when switching teams. It also stands in stark contrast to the stone-cold killer we saw capture Finals MVP honors. It should make us feel for a guy who claims moving to the Bay Area fulfilled his dreams of basketball freedom, business acumen and personal development but who also clearly cannot overcome the traitorous perception of him.
Instead, this only feeds the beast. Twitter trolls don’t back off when you cry uncle. They dance on your rock bottom and try to drag you down further. It’s enough to almost make you feel sorry for a guy riding a title wave and making $25 million a year as an entire city throws a parade to celebrate him.
But Durant hasn’t helped his own cause. This admission may have drawn some sympathy had it not come on the heels of him throwing the Thunder organization, coach and roster under the bus in a pair of tweets on Sunday in response to, you guessed it, another Twitter follower questioning his decision.
Again, this is 14 months after the fact, and yet this week Durant told the world on one hand, “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,” and on the other (in the third person), “He didn’t like the organization or playing for Billy Donovan. His roster wasn’t that good, it was just him and [Russell Westbrook]. … Imagine taking Russ off that team, see how bad they were.” Those two statements are dichotomous to each other.
I think what bothers Durant the most is the idea that his free-agent decision could impact his legacy forever. It’s why he wavered in that Chinese hotel room, even though he apparently felt disdain for his old workplace and embraced the freedom his new employer provided. I’ve been there, believe me.
“I was worried about how my peers were going to feel about me,” Durant told Modern Luxury. “In my profession, that’s the only thing I care about. So when I was talking to Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and they were like, ‘Congrats, man, do your thing,’ and Paul George was like, ‘Congrats, man, I am happy for you,’ and Kevin Love was like, ‘Shoot, do what you gotta do,’ that eased my mind a little bit, because I want that from my peers.”
Except, he can’t stop arguing with Twitter trolls, and in doing so he’s only reinforcing the perception that he couldn’t shoulder the weight of carrying the Thunder to a title. Durant should let his 2017 Finals performance speak for itself. He went toe-to-toe with the best player of his generation and came out on top, super-team or not. Instead, he’s intent on linking that effort with his haters’ words:
But instead of stomping them out, he’s only giving their voice equal weight. If this is the fuel Durant needs to reach those heights again, godspeed, but he’s doing his legacy no favors. Let it go, man.
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