Can Kevin Durant Rebuild His Legacy?
Just a decade ago, a bright eyed Kevin Durant would be far and away the best young player in the NBA. At 24 years old, Durant was a fan favorite who despite being in a small market was one of the faces of the NBA. He was a player young fans could relate to and root for as many felt betrayed by LeBron's decision to go to Miami in 2010. Being drafted in 2007, Durant was at the forefront of the social media era for young players resulting in many memes which included teammates Harden & Westbrook. The metaphorical passing of the torch most notably begins with Jordan passing it to Kobe in which LeBron quickly grabbed. The assumption was always that when LeBron tapered off, Durant would be on the receiving end of the torch... Well as we all know this never happened and this tweet perfectly sums up what happened. Since this iconic tweet, LeBron has been to 4 finals and won two with two finals mvps.
Where did it exactly go wrong for Durant?
Durant's situation was unique as it ran parralel to the prime of Miami LeBron, who many considered could be better than Jordan depending how many rings he wound up with. The pressure on LeBron to win at least 5 titles was immense and players who had never won one were ridiculed while greats who did not win enough were being slighted. After six years of not being able to capture a championship with Russell Westbrook, it was clear he might leave after a Chernobyl size meltdown blowing a 3-1 lead to the Warriors.
Looking back, Durant has done a fairly remarkable job building back up his legacy after being one of if not the most hated people in sports. The decision to join the Warriors at the time was viewed as cowardish and him ring chasing. Him bailing on small market Oklahoma for the 73 win Warriors is what really made people mad. If he left for Boston like many thought, this would not have been an issue.
While Durant was able to capture two rings and finals mvp's with the Warriors, the writing was on the wall come 2018. It was clear him and Draymond hated each other yet they kept winning because they had a video game roster. Verbal assaults during the middle of a game in which Draymond told Durant they did not need him (clean version). This was also around the time Durant was found to have burner accounts, shown in the tweet above. For the first decade of Durant's career he would tweet things like:
It was clear Durant was a changed man, as he felt the fans, media, and his own teammates were against him. While he would not be wrong, we know for a fact two of which were brought on by his own actions. Durant captured not one but two illusive championships so many said he would need to get to solidify his career. Yet it was still not enough and he found himself arguing with people on Twitter about the validity of his legacy and or career decisions. This would eventually evolve into him asking D-List celebrity Michael Rapaport to meet him on "West 17th Street" to fight...
In 2019 free agency came around and Durant would have yet another decision to make and this would likely be the last free agency of his prime. Kyrie Irving and Durant would ultimately team up and join the Brooklyn Nets which had a young core of Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen. While Durant missed the 2019-20 season due to an achillies, he would return the next season. In which he demanded the team trade their young core for 31 year old James Harden... Four first round picks, Jarrett Allen, and Caris LeVert later they would go from a young team to an old one with no draft capitol. The 2020-21 season ended with Harden and Kyrie getting injured in the playoffs in which Durant lost to the Bucks.
With Kyrie sitting out much of the following season for personal reasons, it was clear Harden had enough in just 1 years time. Harden would demand a trade to Philadelphia which would net Brooklyn Seth Curry and Ben Simmons. While Kyrie would return full time for playoffs, Simmons would not. The Nets would face the Celtics in the first round which resulted in possibly the worst playoff performance for a superstar in NBA history. His stats are horrid but if you watched the games, down the stretch Durant would avoid being passed the ball.
Following the 2022 playoff shitshow, Durant literally demanded a trade as he felt his team was not good enough. Fans of the league rolled their eyes once more as Durant wanted out when the going got tough, in which the toughness he manifested. The Nets refused to trade Durant and as Durant accepted that fact, he and the Nets would look for a much needed reset where Ben Simmons would hopefully return to form. AAAAAAAND less than one month into the season we got this quote from Durant...
Barring a miracle, I think it is a forgone conclusion Durant will never win a ring in Brooklyn. Durant has burned almost every bridge imaginable which puts him in a unique position to treat people poorly. He has created so many enemies and haters, he cannot differentiate fans from haters.
In just six years, Durant went from one of the most loved players to most hated of all time. It is hard to see Durant ever be in the good graces of NBA fans again at 34 years old, he does not have much time left. Durant is obviously one of the greatest players of all time but is a fascinating case study in how NOT to manage your career.