By Anthony L. Cuaycong
Yesterday’s news on the National Basketball Association was dominated by Kevin Durant’s revelations to The Wall Street Journal. Not that what he told J.R. Moehringer were shockers; for a long, long while now, avid hoops fans have known him to be, well, conflicted. Successful and yet unfulfilled. Wanted and yet unsettled. Talented and yet unsure. It’s why his divorce from the Thunder in 2016 was met with derision, and why his decision to move on from the Warriors over the summer, in contrast, felt preordained. Ironically, he had given assurances he would stay with the former, and no indications of his intentions in regard to the latter.
Indeed, Durant’s pronouncements simply validated sentiments of those from the outside looking in. He’s a proud man, hence his insistence that his joining the Warriors wasn’t aimed at completing his career with a championship. “What are you going to teach me? How can you alter anything in my basketball life? I got an MVP already. I got scoring titles,” he argued. At the same time, he acknowledged that winning it all in 2017 “was a defining moment in my life — not just my basketball life.” It clearly didn’t last, though. They retained the Larry O’Brien Trophy the next year, and could very well have gone three of three last June had he not suffered from a calf injury in the second round of the playoffs. All evident brushes with greatness. And still he left.
Significantly, Durant noted that his move to the Nets was dictated by fit. He didn’t even need to be wooed, as much an indication as any that his mind was made up long before his 2018–19 campaign ended (and perhaps before it began). His discussion with agent Rich Kleiman on his options as a free agent, he recounted, lasted all of a lunch meeting — after which he simply said “All right. Well. I’m going with Brooklyn.” It’s where he can share the court with Kyrie Irving, his “best friend in the league. It’s where he felt respected as an opponent, and where he believes he will be welcomed, continually, without reservations.”
Durant has long been big on acceptance, and it’s fair to wonder if his latest stop will be his last. True, he’s 31 and in the midst of a long period of convalescence from an Achilles tear. True, he has a contract with the Nets that runs until 2023. Then again, if there’s anything recent events have proven, it’s that players can force change even when change doesn’t seem possible. And, in his case, change is just about the only constant. Still, the hope is that he finally finds cause to settle down. He truly has nothing left to prove, and he deserves the peace that comes with believing it himself.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.