It’s July 4th, the most significant day in American history. But in the basketball world, this Independence Day morning reached new heights of buzz and anticipation. Many of us spent the morning refreshing our Internet browsers, relentlessly scrolling our Twitter feeds, and tapping the ‘Last’ button on our TV remotes to switch back to ESPN.
We were anxiously awaiting free agent mega star, Kevin Durant, to announce what he would do with his basketball independence. To the delight of many, and the dismay of many others, he chose to sign with the Golden State Warriors. Yes, those Golden State Warriors, who over the last 2 seasons have won 85% of their regular season games (140-24), won an NBA championship, came within 4 points of being back-to-back champs, and set the regular season record for wins (73). Not to mention the team already has the 2-time reigning league MVP, Steph Curry, along with All-NBA performers in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
The reactions came in at Mach speed in the Twitterverse. Everything from questions about Durant’s fortitude to would there be enough shot attempts for everyone. And is there a more damning or harsher sentence in sports fandom than “I’ve lost all respect for…”, literally and figuratively?
I contend folks should save that respect for those who actually seek it. I’m completely guessing when I say professional athletes, who have nine figure net worths, are not among the group seeking your fan respect. However, I’m not certain.
I’ve seen a lot of “I’ll lose all respect for KD if he goes to GSW.” Nobody cares about your respect tho 😂😂😂#KDWatch
— Dre (@TheDreElder) July 4, 2016
I want to address a couple of the hottest takes regarding Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors. Many basketball fans echo the sentiments of ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who believes this to be a weak move by Durant. Smith is on record saying “it’s the weakest move by a superstar that he’s ever seen.” I completely understand this position on its face, but I disagree.
How many of you have made decisions that were best for you but unpopular? How easy was that for you? My point is that it’s easy to capitulate to public opinion or to the pressures of what people want you to be. On the contrary, it’s difficult to be true to yourself without regard for approval from others. Kevin Durant made this decision knowing the criticisms would be harsh, but he proceeded anyway. That is not weakness.
AAU basketball in this country is the epitome of players choosing the paths of least resistance. The teams are often stockpiled with future NBA prospects to increase their likelihood of winning national showcases and tournaments. We all know the guys at the YMCA who give up their ‘next’ status, in order to stack their team because their buddies just showed up. At the collegiate level, Duke and Kentucky thrive on the top high school players coming together to prioritize team over individual. Have you seen their incoming recruiting classes? It happens at every level in every sport. Players want the best chance to consistently win. Yes, even Mike and Joe at your local YMCA.
Another popular hot take is centered on the premise of “KD is taking the easy way out.” Yes, he’s chosen to make his job easier and more fun. What’s the problem? Is that not what we ALL strive for? If given the opportunity to work with talented friends with whom you have strong relationships, you’d walk out on your current job in epic fashion without notice. I also disagree that taking the “easy way out” is an indictment against someone’s character or fortitude. The lottery is a multi-billion dollar industry because millions of people are constantly looking for an alternative to doing it the hard way. It’s a shortcut to riches, which is exactly why we play. You don’t know anyone who would relinquish the winning Powerball ticket in fear of someone discrediting their forthcoming wealth.
In society, we are not anti-shortcut nor are we impervious to the “easy way out.” Finding simpler processes to produce desired results is a basic business practice. Sports is not just competition for today’s athlete. It’s a business. For 9 years, as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant was doing the hard thing, but falling short. If you found a way to increase your morale and chances of success, how many more years would you sacrifice by pridefully ignoring a great opportunity? Kevin Durant, much like the rest of us, wants to make his life easier. He chose to work smarter, not harder.