You don’t know it, but you’re totally cool with Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City for the greener, err, sandier pastures of Oakland and San Francisco.
In fact, you’re more than cool with KD’s decision. You’re infatuated with it – and not just the immediate drama either. You love Golden State’s wooing of one of the deadliest scorers of all-time because it reinforces everything you’ve ever held sacred about sports and the NBA.
Death to Hero Ball
I started watching the NBA in the early 90s, so I’ve seen my fair share of one-man wrecking crews wreak havoc on opposing defenses. There was (and still is) something spellbinding about watching one player dissect a hapless group of defenders. It was like watching Neo from “The Matrix” dodge bullets for 48 minutes except Neo also had the ability to break the collective ankles of a slew of Agent Smiths.
Sometime between the emergence of Allen Iverson and the Malice at the Palace, the sports world began to view the NBA as a breeding ground for malcontents and selfish prima donnas. The term “thug” also started to proliferate all conversations about the league.
The merits of the “thuggish” label can be debated, but the ball-stopping style of play that guys like Iverson and T-Mac romanticized played a huge part in players being perceived as selfish. Players presumably didn’t care about the team and were only concerned with shoe deals, padding stats and cashing checks.
Thanks to the 2004 Team USA debacle and some combination of public pressure and rules changes, “Hero Ball” eventually gave way to the “right way”.
See, the 2004 Pistons and the post-Robinson Spurs played the game like it was supposed to be played because they shared the glory and the ball never stopped on offense. Never again would we celebrate the notion of one or two players driving a team’s success through volume scoring.
Which leads me back to KD’s decision to join a ready-made champion in Golden State.
Wasn’t it an accepted fact that Durant and Russell Westbrook would never win a championship with the franchise’s insistence on those two accounting for 99.9% of offensive output? We begged OKC to start playing like Golden State and San Antonio because that’s what wins. “Strength in Numbers,” ya’ll.
Remember when we wanted professional players to be more concerned about winning than personal glory and fat contracts? Well, Durant is leaving millions of dollars and thousands of points on the proverbial table to put himself in the best position to capture that elusive ring.
KD is turning his back on Hero Ball and is embracing the team concept of all the teams you adore.
You love Durant’s decision to join Golden State. You really do.
A Callback to the Golden Age
Ah, how could we ever forget the Golden Age of the NBA? The time period between the 80s and early/mid 90s saw the rise of the Showtime Lakers, Bird’s Celtics, Dr. J’s Sixers, MJ’s Bulls and the Bad Boys.
Life was easy and basketball was pure.
What often gets forgotten about this celebrated era of pro hoops is not that rivalries ruled the landscape and drove interest in the league, is that these rivalries only consisted of a handful of teams.
The parity we’re crying for currently didn’t exist during the time period everyone points to as the BEST TIME EVER in NBA history.
You know that KD vs. Bron rivalry we all wanted after the 2012 Finals commenced? We’re almost guaranteed of a Magic vs. Bird-esque run of championship matchups between Durant and James now.
Going further back into the NBA history books, we could see Golden State affect the game the same way the Bill Russell Celtics did when they “laid the foundation” for the league back in day. Isn’t odd no one ever brings up the monopoly Boston had on talent in the pre-Free Agency Era of the NBA when gushing over the Celtics dynasty?
The Warriors are “ruining basketball” the same way those old Celtics teams did and you love it. You really do.
This Tragic Moment
Whether you agree or disagree with Durant’s decision, we can all acknowledge that OKC’s story arc from 2008 to present day is a tragic one…and we secretly love it.
Sorry, Mary J. Blige, but we sports fans crave drama.
We all knew that OKC failing to reach their championship potential was a thing that could happen because we’ve seen it happen before. What just happened to the Thunder’s once inevitable dynasty is eerily similar to what happened to Penny and Shaq’s Orlando Magic dynasty-that-never-was.
We were so enthralled by that Magic team’s swift rise and fall that we ate up any content that was produced on the subject. From Grantland’s incredible oral history of Orlando’s lost dynasty to ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on how the team was assembled and dismantled, we were captivated by the story.
Durant sounding the death knell for the franchise he basically built is as good as any Shakespearean tragedy out there and you can’t wait for books to be written and documentaries to be filmed about the Thunder demise.
You love everything about Durant’s decision. You really do.