At 6:30am this morning, my (nearly) four-month old baby stirred in his cot. I got up to check on him, and though he immediately went back to sleep, I knew he’d probably be waking up soon.
Kevin Durant is pissed off. Though it’s not entirely clear whether the Oklahoma City Thunder star is genuinely upset, or if he’s simply tired of being a nice guy.
Maybe behind closed doors he’s always this stroppy. I mean it can’t be easy driving a hatchback or buying a tux when you’re six-foot-eleven.
Then again, when you make $20 million a year, can’t you pretty much take care of any problem?
It seems Big Kev isn’t happy with the media mostly, which is hardly something new to rage about. The media – in the broader sense – tends to find its way under the skin of most people at some point, even those of us in it!
For Durant, the main issue is that he doesn’t seem to think those in the “media scrum” are too sharp. For example, he told a group of reporters at the recent NBA All-Star Weekend that they “didn’t know sh*t”, after they asked him about his coach’s job security. The Thunder coach, Scott Brooks, has been widely criticised for his lack of, shall we say, coaching. But in Brooks’ defence, it can’t be easy mentoring freelancers like Durant and his cohort Russell Westbrook.
So when asked by the same reporters what type of questions they should ask him, Durant responded:
“To be honest, man, I’m only here talking to y’all because I have to. So I really don’t care. Y’all not my friends. You’re going to write what you want to write. You’re going to love us one day and hate us the next. That’s a part of it. So I just learn how to deal with y’all.”
Fine, Durant’s sticking up for Brooks. He clearly likes him and not just because he lets him and Westbook run whatever offence they want.
If you’re not familiar with the Thunder, they’re experts at isolation plays in which one player takes over the whole attack. These typically feature either Durant or the equally dynamic Westbrook, while the four other men look on encouragingly. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.
But perhaps the one point Durant is overlooking, beyond that the media collective helps to make the NBA a highly covered and therefore engaging sporting product, is that it’s also needed as an independent watchdog.
I mean somebody has to call out the league’s miscues, its coaching catastrophes, the players that care only about tallying up stats, or that certain uniforms combine a weird palette of colours. Without this scrutiny, you just have a bunch of 20-something kids running around in fluorescent sneakers and millions of dollars stuffed in their back pockets. It’s tough work but someone has to do it, right?
Increasingly, athletes have become more entitled however, not only demanding big pay days but dictating where they want to play, as per LeBron James’ ongoing decisions, and shunning their obligations to talk to the media, as was the case with Marshawn Lynch of the NFL.
Most of us can understand when sportspeople feel they have the right to choose their employer, while we can also realise that being peppered with inane queries by a bunch of sweaty reporters plump from the buffet table might not be all that appealing either. But marquee sports stars also don’t have to wade through Excel spreadsheets or Powerpoint slides to make ends meet. They’re living a fantasy, and the dream of many.
For most pro athletes, the perks of many millions, flash cars and dating models surely outweighs a few inconveniences. So, I personally don’t agree with the one or two who manipulate trades to get on the team they want, when so many others don’t have that luxury. Nor do I think one self-opinionated star should put his views ahead of his team or club, not when he’s earning more money than a Clooney-led casino heist.
There is indeed a difference between you and me and these blokes, and it’s more than the height discrepancy. They’re privileged.
Listen, Durant is a great player, with a beautiful jump shot and superb athleticism, and as the MVP of the NBA his opinion is highly valued. He, like LeBron, is as much a part of the current NBA brand as its famous logo. But by the same token, he should respect the opinion of others, media or otherwise. If not for his club or the league, then out of the small obligation he has to us, the fans.