Kevin Durant can do what he wants and you can too.
Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City in favor of the Golden State Warriors to construct the NBA’s most recent super team, complete with derision, mass polarization and, of course, enviable title odds, was a personal one, and one he was perfectly entitled to make without offering a fake validation or explanation. The only requirement is he deal with the ramifications from that decision—an overwhelming likelihood he caresses his first Larry O’Brien trophy and the subsequent side-eye denunciations proclaiming he took the easy path to the game’s zenith.
Winning a title is hard and requires a gruesome commitment, vicious training regimen, rare natural ability, a reputable and distinguished organizational culture and a certain amount of luck that can’t be secured by any method. Durant’s decision to change the location in which he plays basketball shouldn’t render any of those arduous tasks invalid or tarnished. What he’s done to achieve his spot in the NBA’s hierarchy of individual players is something dignified and respectable that simply can’t be stripped away.
But, yet, what about you the fan, the observer, the bystander that played no role in Durant’s choice, and, when viewed through the lens of utmost objectivity, life is unaltered for better or worse by him swapping out the Thunder for the Warriors. But, just like Durant’s freedom to choose his employer as he desires, people have the right to offer their own opinions on what Durant’s decision should imply or insinuate.
All people are, after all, equals, and while fans, media people, neutral observers and the like may not pledge their way of life to the game in the manner Durant does, how they view and interpret his decision deserves some value. Ultimately, if they see Durant’s signing as a vile and soft move to team up with his conference adversary to form an NBA titan won’t matter when Durant expresses the jubilation of a rigorous climb to the top of the basketball world or experiences the elegiac undoing that plagued his otherwise illustrious tenure with the Thunder.
However, if those fans are willing to take a whipping on social media, through friends or through any other form of criticism for their hot takery or statements then so be it. They aren’t restricted from that. Durant, even as a basketball deity, isn’t some sacrosanct prophet, who is in a protective chamber, shielding him from his own public perception.
The NBA may reside overall as a cynical business as with any profession, but its appeal exists in the realm of raw emotional investment and fans are prone to lash out, labeling Durant as a gushy milquetoast for bailing on an organization, a city and a quest because things got hard. They are pardoned to render his entire legacy scarred by his abandoning of a hypothetical loyalty that should dictate his every move. The reason fans become uncensored and irrational is because they’ve suffered through the defeats alongside Durant, they’ve felt the heartache, and yet they haven’t jumped ship to root for what is vogue and successful. Fans are entitled to resentment, but that anger and frustration isn’t going to change anything; one still has to come to terms with the shifted NBA landscape where Durant suits up with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green as comrades rather than rivals.
It’s that emotion, however, that drives their invective statements or euphoric reactions to Durant’s choice. Becoming too rational and facing a reality that is too matter of fact would render the entire concept of fandom and sports irrelevant. When viewed at face value, American citizens should be far more concerned with Great Britain’s exit from the European Union than Durant simply exchanging work attire; it’s direct impact on one’s standard of living and overall well-being isn’t even in the same stratosphere as anything that has to do with sports. The examples are ample and expansive, but people don’t explore such cases with the vigor of Durant’s free agency as they are too sobering and realistic to pour one’s heart into. People need something passionate to cling to and invest themselves in without truly knowing how it unfolds will have a direct impact on their own lives.
It doesn’t make sense. But then neither does the thinking that one’s opinion of Durant matters or the idea that it has to matter to others for us to let it be known in the first place.