Thankfully defending him OFF the court.
**Links in this article will be mostly informative, to assist readers who aren’t locked in on the NBA**
Kevin Durant is ONE of the best basketball players ever. He’s a seven foot tall basketball savant. He’s got the size, speed, skill, and knowledge to be a true basketball unicorn. KD sustained an injury in these 2019 NBA Finals that kept him out for the first four games of the series. With his team down 3 games to 1, just one loss away from elimination, KD chose to come back.
His decision to come back and play, was clearly too soon. Before the first half was over, KD attempted an aggressive move to get in to the paint, and tore his achilles. A decision that may come back to haunt him, a decision that could cost him millions of dollars, a decision that could derail his whole career.
I don’t have a personal relationship with Kevin Durant. In fact if I ever met him I bet I would be too nervous to formulate coherent words. But I do feel like I understand KD. We are around the same age. We both obsess over basketball. (My home brew basketball league stats page I run outside on a dinky court out behind my house.) We’ve played the sport our whole life. We’ve done some pretty dumb stuff on the internet. (Anything I’ve ever posted on Facebook in my teenage years.)
Let’s not forget, Kevin has been a pretty open dude. He has had some awesome, and candid, interviews with Bill Simmons. He has beefed publicly with the media. He cried when talking bout his Momma during an MVP speech. I don’t know KD, but I feel like I can relate to him.
Kevin joining the Warriors 3 years ago was a two pronged decision. To play the best style of basketball he could play (basketball nirvana), and to win Championships. I suppose those are two auxiliary reasons for the ultimate reason he joined Golden State. KD DESPERATELY wants to be considered the greatest player of all time. It is the single motivating factor for every decision he has made in the last decade. He joined GS because he knew they played a better brand of basketball. He joined GS because he knew the first question anybody asks when mentioning the GOAT is “how many rings ya got?” He took every single possession personally against Lebron in the 2017 finals. He was trying to TAKE that top spot. All his decisions make sense if his LEGACY is the most important thing to him.
So that’s why he played in Game 5, clearly before he was ready. You only get so many chances in a career to be a hero on a stage this big. KD has 5 more years, give or take to really make a run at this, and he saw the NBA finals as 20% of his remaining chances. Had he been a difference maker in the final 3 games of an epic comeback, it could have been his crown jewel. (Coming back from a 3 – 1 does a lot for your legacy.) It might have been his LAST chance at an NBA finals.
KD is on the internet, he sees the comments. Shoot, there are videos of cats with jewelry on with YouTube top comments saying, “still more meaningful than KD’s rings”. This was a huge chance to end all that nonsense. This was a chance to clap back on the 🐍 emojis. He had a chance at an infinity stone, and he was willing to sacrifice Gamorah for it. So he took a risk. It didn’t pay-off. In fact it backfired into what will be one of the most iconic injuries of all-time.
So the discussion might be over, he’ll only end up as ONE of the greatest. GOAT might be just beyond his reach now. He will probably spend the rest of his life thinking about the what-ifs of his basketball career. (I know I spend a lot of time thinking about what-if Joe hadn’t torn his ACL our Senior year.) The things that define his legacy, all the things around him that dictate the narrative. The media, luck, injuries, free-agency.
I can promise the one thing he wouldn’t have been able to stomach: sitting on the bench while the chance at winning the Finals slipped by. Not only because of what means for his teammates, but what it means for his legacy.
Why does it have to be someone’s fault that he sustained an injury? Why can’t it just be bad luck, unfortunate, another case of a bad thing happening to a good guy? Why can’t this guy just be human like the rest of us? Injuries, self-doubt, and shortcomings, all wrapped up in an NBA MVP. I think KD makes the same choice again given the opportunity.
Get well soon Kevin.