For the Love of the Game

The moment I heard about Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors, everything was wrong for the rest of the morning. I claimed I had lost all respect for him, I tweeted good riddance. Did I mean any of these things? No. I did this because I was human, just like Kevin Durant is human.

Like many others out there, I want to be mad. My Kevin Durant, the one I welcomed into Oklahoma City in 2008, was not the same Kevin Durant that accepted the deal with the Warriors. That Kevin Durant has been hardened from injuries, not being able to return to the finals and constantly pressured into getting a ring. Wanting to be in the same league of LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the players who boasts both MVP titles and championships within their home courts. That changes a player, and each year I have watched become KD become more bitter and be more vocal about his complaints.

These are not things to blame or burden him with, Kevin Durant is constantly trying to evolve as a player and become the greatest player in the world, like Russell Westbrook and I think he is. That’s why he went to the Warriors. This is the next step for him to prove himself to critics and show he isn’t a slumping superstar. For those who criticize him and call him a bandwagoner, these are the same people that criticized LeBron about his move to Miami and praised him for his return.

The Difference? Durant always said he was not LeBron, he tweeted in 2009 that he wanted to stay in Oklahoma City all of his career. He was the Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant of our generation, or that’s what we were led to believe. In the end, he’s was the LeBron James of a few years ago. The LeBron who I thought I understood, and then I was disappointed in. The LeBron every one hated and burned jerseys over, who people criticized and called a bandwagoner.

Neither of these men are bandwagoners, they went on this journey because basketball isn’t what it was a few years ago. It’s about super teams. Why have one good player when you can have five? This decision wasn’t about money, it was about a ring. The same reason LeBron left Cleveland to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. It’s the reason everyone wants to ignore because it’s easy to complain and wish for the basketball style of the 1980s or 1990s.

Does this mean Kevin Durant could come back? I hope so, but I don’t want to get my hopes up and place faith in a hollow place. Although I heard the reports of Jerry West whispering sweet nothings in Durant’s ear, I also heard the “close insider” talks about how Durant would return. I didn’t think he would leave Westbrook, the dynamic duo who was awarded KIA’s December MVP together because when in sync they are unstoppable. I believed the trading of Ibaka, the one that hurt because it was another member of the unstoppable 2010 team, would show Durant that we were growing and becoming stronger. There were many factors that I thought would lure Kevin Durant back for one more year, but the odds were always stacked against us.

Alas, the Thunder could never deliver him a ring as fast as the Warriors could. Truthfully, I’m not even sure they can get a ring this year, but I know a part of me doesn’t want them to. That’s partly my bitterness over the situation, but I don’t think they will be the team everyone wants them to be. One slip and it won’t be Steph Curry or Klay Thompson or Draymond Green’s fault, it will fall on the heavy shoulders of Durant. He’s walking a fine line between basketball hero and villain, when the truth is he’s just playing for the love of the game.

While Oklahoma is no longer my home, there are things you hold dear. The Oklahoma City Thunder was one of them. While I and Thunder fans held Durant up with pillars on one side, Westbrook and the team held him up on the other. Durant is going to test the waters and see if this is truly the evolution he envisioned for himself, but I think it will fall short. Not because the Warriors aren’t talented and won’t be able to deliver another crazy season, but because it’s not the home or the crowd that has followed him and loved him for eight years. I cannot follow Durant to Golden State, but I hope he finds what he wanted there. I’ll keep my Durant jersey folded away for now, but I’ll be excited when this NBA season is over and we are in the summer of possibilities.

No matter how much hurt I carry around, a part of me will always view Kevin Durant as my favorite player and the best in the world. I’ll long for the days of a Durant and Westbrook team up, miss the little things they did with one another on the court and enjoy it a little too much if Westbrook can lead the Thunder to beat Durant with the Warriors. For now, it is a bitter goodbye and a message for the next year: Come home, KD. Oklahoma City is the home you need, and the Thunder is the team you deserve.

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