August 8, 2016, 7:07 am
As time passes, we find ourselves learning more and more about Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City for the Golden State Warriors. He was consistent throughout free agency in saying that it was a ‘basketball decision,’ but can anything ever be so simple?
ESPN’s Royce Young, in talking about Russell Westbrook’s commitment to the Thunder and the shiny new contract that goes with it, makes brief mention of how the OKC-Durant personality match wasn’t as perfect as it seemed on the surface.
“Durant always appeared to be the perfect fit with Oklahoma City, with his humble nature and down-home demeanor. But he also was drawn to a bigger city, not necessarily for the brighter lights, but for the ability to blend. In Oklahoma City, Durant carried a larger-than-life burden everywhere he went. He’d privately lamented to friends an inability to be in public.”
That’s interesting, and a point that hadn’t been made nearly enough before. Celebrity status, whether you want it or not, is one of the burdens of playing in a smaller city where you’re the only game in town. In the Bay Area, the Warriors are certainly the most popular attraction but if you don’t care for basketball there are other sources of civic pride; the 49ers and Raiders, the Giants and the Sharks all exist, with the latter two proving very successful in the recent past. There’s also the fact that the area is awash with cash thanks to the tech boom and as a result is no stranger to celebrities.
It’s tough to imagine him sticking out in a sea of the rich and famous; at least not nearly to the extent he did in Oklahoma City.
On the other hand, it’s hard to envision Durant being less of a celebrity now than he was in Oklahoma City. He’s the biggest villain in the game for at least this year and likely more. Even if Steph Curry’s star shines brighter at the end of the day, Durant will be under a massive microscope. It’s one of the devil’s advocate arguments that starts to look flimsy given the circumstances of Durant’s decision.
If he wanted to shy away from the spotlight the right move was probably to stay put. Now he’s made himself the center of attention by taking a bulldozer to the NBA landscape. The guy who does that usually doesn’t ‘blend.’