Kevin Durant, deputy publisher of The Players Tribune, who has averaged 27 points and 7 rebounds per game in his second career as a member of the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, announced his decision to join the Golden State Warriors today.
The sports world will spend the next few
days months decades debating whether Durant is a traitor or a coward, whether he took the easy way out or simply made the best decision for himself and his career.
Rather than focus on such nonsense, I’d rather approach it by looking at the hypocritical standpoint of those critics that want to have it both ways.
For years, writers, commentators, and pundits have lambasted players – particularly NBA players – as being selfish, me-first egomaniacs that put money, stats, and personal glory over winning, but yet when one of the five best players in the league decides to check his ego – and his shot attempts – in exchange for putting winning above all else, those same so-called “experts” criticize him for it.
You can’t demand that players make sacrifices for the sake of winning and then call them names when they do exactly that simply because they didn’t do it the way you demanded of them.
No NBA great has ever won by himself. Just ask Jerry West.
LeBron James had Kyrie Irving and, before that, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Larry Bird had Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Magic Johnson had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. Back when he was Lew Alcindor, Abdul-Jabbar had Oscar Robertson in 1971. At one point, Bill Russell played with eight other Hall of Famers. Kobe Bryant, the ultimate lone gunman, is often held up as an example of a great that would never join another team, but let’s not forget that he demanded a trade in 2007 so that he wouldn’t be stuck on a losing team (instead, the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol and promptly appeared in three straight NBA Finals). After losing to the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, Michael Jordan, ultimate competitor and six-time champion, when asked what the Chicago Bulls needed to get back to the championship, said, “We need Horace Grant.” That offseason, Dennis Rodman joined the team before their then-record setting 72-win season and subsequent three-peat.
Kevin Durant knows this. Kevin Durant knows you can’t win alone in the NBA, no matter how transcendent your talent and how strong your will. So if you want to win and your team isn’t doing the things necessary to win, you need to take your destiny in your own hands.