At one time or another, for reasons valid or invalid, star players in the NBA get hated on by the fans.
In LeBron's first year after "The Decision", he was the biggest heel in all of team sports. Kobe Bryant has gone through his entire adult life being despised outside the Los Angeles city limits. Dwight Howard get knocked around like a piñata every Thursday night on TNT by Charles and Shaq and America gleefully watches on. There is an eleven minute YouTube online of James Harden's opting to play no defense in actual games.
You get my point.
Eventually, many of them pull out of whatever likability tailspin we've thrust upon them, but at one time or another the sacred bond of blind love between NBA star and NBA supporter gets tabled, temporarily or permanently, with almost every star.
Well, all except one. Kevin Durant.
I don't know if it was because he routinely wore a backpack and had the affability of a care free sixth grader. I don't know if it's because of the sincerity of his MVP speech after last season (where dude called his mom "the real MVP"). I don't know if it's because he could only bench press a box of paper clips at the NBA combine before he was drafted in 2007.
But for whatever reason, everybody loves Kevin Durant. Which is what makes his hell turn at All Star Weekend this past weekend so perplexing and befuddling. I'll be honest, I haven't been this taken aback by a "character change" from a sports figure since Hulk Hogan told the fans to "stick it" back in 1996 at Bash at the Beach.
Durant's "stick it" moment was actually directed at reporters, not fans, and was in response to a question on All-Star Saturday about the job security of his head coach Scott Brooks.
"You guys really don't know shit," Durant told reporters.
While Durant's statement may be a perfectly accurate evaluation of the assembled media, the questions surrounding Brooks' future are perfectly legitimate considering that the Thunder have generally been hovering in about the same place perceptually in the league since making the NBA Finals a few years ago -- good, but not good enough to win the whole thing.
Hell, this season the Thunder may not even make the postseason, although admittedly thas t'd in large part to early season injuries from Durant and Russell Westbrook that put them behind the eight ball in a ridiculously stacked Western Conference. It doesn't change the fact, however, that Brooks is considered a liability by many who follow the team.
Durant, for his part, has alway defended his head coach (another reason he's been so likable -- protects those less equipped from bellying), acknowledging him during his aforementioned MVP speech and saying that Brooks doesn't get any credit, "even though you deserve all of it."
Durant was later asked by the media throng what kinds of questions he'd prefer they focus on.
"To be honest, man, I'm only here talking to y'all because I have to," Durant said. "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."
This flew in the face of everything Durant seemingly represented when interacting with the media since he became a thing coming out of high school in the D.C. area about a decade ago. Perhaps we should've seen Saturday coming with his answers to questions on Friday, when he explicitly said that he's older now and basically tired of pleasing everyone else.
"My first few years in the league, I was just finding myself," Durant said Friday. "I think most of the time, I reacted based off of what everybody else wanted and how they viewed me as a person. I am just learning to be myself, not worrying about what everybody else says, I am going to make mistakes. I just want to show kids out here that athletes, entertainers, whoever, so-called celebrities, we aren't robots. We go through emotions and go through feelings and I am just trying to express mine and try to help people along the way. I am not going to sit here and tell you that I am just this guy that is programmed to say the right stuff all the time and politically correct answers. I am done with that. I am just trying to be me and continue to grow as a man."
On Friday, Durant also sounded off, saying he didn't think the media should vote for awards, instead favoring players to do it, even though the media actually voted him the league's Most Valuable Player.
"Yeah, I think media and guys get too much power to vote on stuff that quite frankly I don't think you really know a lot about [or] as much as we know about it," Durant said. "So, yeah, we play against these guys every single night. We battle against these guys. We know what they say on the court. We know how they handle their teammates. We know how they approach the game and our vote should count. Our opinions should count. Like I said, I don't think you guys know as much as we do, and I don't see why you have more power than we do."
So we now live in an NBA world where Kevin Durant has a snarl, where he's pitted himself against the media and told reporters everywhere to "stick it." I'll be honest, as annoying as so many of my fellow media members can be, who knows -- maybe this takes Durant's popularity to new heights.
Telling the media to "stick it" hasn't really hurt Marshawn Lynch's or Arian Foster's jersey sales now, has it?
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