For almost a decade, Kevin Durant was known solely as an extremely likable 7-foot basketball player who just loved to hoop.
Drafted when he was just 19 years old, he spent the first year in Seattle, but really grew up in Oklahoma City, a small market where every Thunder fan seemingly developed their own personal relationship with the former Texas star.
He opened a restaurant in OKC. He donated money to the victims of a devastating earthquake in Oklahoma that upended thousands of lives. He gave that emotional speech after winning the MVP in which he told the world that his mother was, in fact, “The real MVP.” He was a part of their community.
Man, I miss the old KD.
The KD who griped on Twitter when LeBron took his talents to South Beach. The KD who told the world he would drink Scarlett Johansen’s bathwater. The KD who tweeted “Erykah Badu thicker than a kindergarten pencil.”
But KD changed, man.
I think it all started when KD berated the media during the 2015 All Star Game and told reporters, “You guys don’t really know shit.” Up to that point, KD could do no wrong in the media’s eyes — what was he so upset about? He had never been slammed on sports talk shows for weeks at a time like LeBron or Kobe. He lost to LeBron in the 2012 Finals but that young Thunder team was never expected to truly challenge a Heat team featuring LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
Now KD plays on a superteam. His life is easy, he makes millions of dollars on and off the court, he has a ring, a Finals MVP, and probably many more to come. But sadly, he is also the NBA’s villain — a role that really doesn’t suit him, but one he seems to have accepted and is definitely thriving in.
KD used to be the guy who would stroll into Rucker Park, drop 66 while sniping threes from all over New York City’s most legendary court and then get mobbed by a massive crowd. Moments like that are the reason fans connected with KD and saw him as more accessible and relatable than LeBron James.
Man, I miss the old KD.
Remember when KD carried the Thunder for weeks in 2014 when Russell Westbrook went down with an injury? Remember how KD built the Thunder into a perennial contender by toppling some of the best Western Conference teams, including the Lakers, Spurs, and Clippers.
I don’t hate KD for moving on from OKC, a small, conservative city where it surely wasn’t easy for a 7-foot African-American to blend in.
He definitely traded up by moving to the Bay Area where he hangs out with tech moguls and goes to concerts with Draymond Green. But KD didn’t leave OKC because of the city’s nonexistent nightlife or investment opportunities.
I think he got tired of playing in an isolation-heavy system with a ball dominant guard like Westbrook. He saw the Warriors playing a free-flowing, democratic version of the game where every player was having the time of their life and he said to himself, “I want that.”
But joining forces with the Warriors, the team that you came so close to beating in 2016, was whack for the culture. It deprived us of seeing KD eventually overcome a great Warriors team and potentially a LeBron-led Cavs team in the Finals.
KD walks away from the 2016-2017 with some serious hardware. But I found it strange when he told Bill Simmons that he didn’t attend the Warriors celebration party following their Finals victory. If he had won in OKC with Westbrook, Harden, and Ibaka would he have skipped out on celebrating such a momentous occasion with his teammates? I don’t think so.
The old KD is gone forever and NBA fans will have to adjust to the new version. KD might waltz into four, five or maybe six titles. And that’s great for him.
But man, I miss the old KD.