Yesterday, when I read Tommy Craggs’ column about Kevin Durant I kind of just thought, “Hmm, that’s an interesting take on it. I don’t really agree entirely, but still interesting.” And moved on. I didn’t think much of it.
But then a bunch of people started writing and giving thoughts on it, so here I am a day late about to give a few thoughts of my own. Try and contain your excitement.
It’s true – we don’t really know Kevin Durant. I’ve met him. I’ve talked to him. In all my encounters, nobody seems to more of the real deal than KD. There are countless stories about him out there illustrating how genuine and humble he is. Every media reporter or fan that’s ever talked to or met him has nothing but great things to say. But to Tommy Craggs point, I suppose we don’t really know Kevin Durant. We just know his image.
But then again, what about the other side? How dare anyone judge Ron Artest for being a crazy person or J.R. Smith for being a bad person or Terrell Owens for being a jerk? Since we don’t REALLY know, I guess we can’t say anything one way or the other. I kind of think this whole argument is a little circular. On the surface, we all agree KD is a humble, kind and great guy, plus a great basketball player. All of that is obvious if you follow him. Do I know what he’s doing at 2 a.m. on a Friday night? No, I guess not. But then again, your pastor could technically be getting high. Your moral Senator could be banging another man’s wife. You don’t REALLY know about anyone, so I think media and fans go by what we do know. LeBron appears to be a narcissistic, prideful person and Durant appears to be the opposite. Why can’t we just leave it at that?
The media tends to deify athletes. We all threw up in our mouths at the media idolization of Tim Tebow the past few years. He was painted as an angel and it made most of us sick. In the eyes of the media, Saint Timothy Tebow could do no wrong. Is that Tim Tebow’s fault? Should he not have gone on those mission trips or been such a good person in order to quell media attention? I fear KD might approach Tebow status this season with the current lovefest for him. People might get so much Durant exposure that they start to loathe him. And when he starts killing other people’s favorite teams, they’re going to start to dislike him even more. It happens. It’s the life-cycle of an athlete’s public image.
I think Mike Prada’s point about judging how you feel about an athlete in comparison to another is definitely a quality one. For people that are now KD fans because they hate LeBron, Craggs is right, you might be setting yourself up for a fall. The Phil Mickelson-Tiger Woods comparison is a good one, but what’s interesting there is that many of Phil’s fans liked him because of his personality and disliked Tiger for his, long before any of this sex scandal stuff. Sure, Mickelson could certainly be cheating on his wife as I type, but then again, how do you know what ANYBODY is really doing? I think that sort of reasoning is FAR more judgmental and invasive on one’s character than just going by what we know.
Besides, LeBron hasn’t done anything wrong, per se. He’s just kind of irked people with his lookie-here! antics. And as a result, a lot of people have turned to Durant and said, “Ah, a breath of fresh air!” But this is coming before Durant is on every NBA preview issue this fall, before he’s on national TV 25 times, before every commentator is talking about him nightly, before Durant starts endorsing products. Maybe all that starts to inflate his ego. Maybe he starts listening to people like me bow down to him and he starts thinking, “Yeah, I am really great. I should start talking about that more often.” Maybe. But I don’t think so.
My issue with Craggs piece is that he calls Durant “allegedly humble” as if he’s saying we don’t really know if he is or not. What’s that supposed to mean? I guess in his bedroom at night, Durant might shout to the heavens, “I AM THE GREATEST EVER!!!!!!!!”But to us, he hasn’t ever slipped or said a prideful word yet. Even when he appeared on Wale’s mixtape and a DJ was begging him to list off accomplishments, it took some serious prodding just for Durant to say some of the facts. He wasn’t even saying, “Best player in the NBA…” or anything. He was just listing some accomplishments. The dude’s humble. There’s no alleged about it.
Are we setting ourselves up for a fall with Durant? It’s possible. Over time, a lot of public figures have let people down. Presidents, movie stars, athletes – they’ve all screwed up. But some haven’t. Some really are the person you’re looking at. It’s possible that in private, they aren’t, but isn’t it pretty weak to just assume that? Do we REALLY know Kevin Durant? I suppose not, at least in the sense that “REALLY” implies. But of what we’ve seen, is it safe to assume that Durant views things a little differently than say, LeBron James? Based on the evidence, that would be a yes.
I agree with Craggs about his point about portraying Durant as the anti-LeBron. It’s kind of a weird thing to do, especially when a few years ago, LeBron announced his contract extension with the Cavs a very similar way as Durant. But then again, at this current moment, they appear to be two very different people. LeBron was comfortable with his title of The King since high school. LeBron has written books and made documentary films. LeBron has tried to develop a worldwide brand. LeBron held a one-hour television special. LeBron talks in third person. It goes on and on. Durant hasn’t done any of these things and at this point, it’s hard to see him ever doing them. Does that make them two different people? In a superficial, public image kind of way, yes, yes it does.