Great expectations do not come with refunds. You deliver or you die trying. You show the world you’re worth all that hype, or you wilt under the bright lights and become just another big talent that couldn’t handle the big moment.
Kevin Durant shined.
He didn’t just help the Warriors reclaim their championship belt. He led them to it; averaging more than thirty five points per game and serving notice to the King that his throne ain’t a forever deal. And maybe Durant isn’t there yet, because LBJ showed us that he’s still got plenty of tread left on his size 15’s. But here’s the thing. After the last week and change, Durant has officially entered the conversation.
So here’s to the man whose game I happen to be in deep love with. The man whose game is a prototypical wonder in an age of fast and furious athletic dynamism. The man whose game is best enjoyed (by yours truly) with the sound on the flat screen chilled and Curtis Mayfield served up piping hot. The man who took his surgical skills to those great expectations and delivered up the kind of thrill only the great ones get to own in perpetuity.
Here’s the Dear Kevin letter I penned last July. It was right after he signed on with the Dubs, who were fresh off a Finals meltdown that had tainted a regular season for the ages. A special thank you to the lovely Anna Beguins for coming up with the idea to re-post this.
My man, you went and did it this time.
You threw down a seismic dunk on the Association by joining a club that won 73 games last year and came within a Superman’s cape performance by Lebron of ‘Best Ever’ status. You’re not much for nuance at this stage of your career, and I gotta admit . . . I dig it.
Now, all you have to do is win it all. As Stephen Spielberg would tell you, you gotta kill the whole shark because the audience expects nothing less. And so while this new Death Lineup you have rounded out could make a legit run at 70 wins if all goes according to plan, it’s gonna come down to the 16 games you have to win in May and June. Your new mates won 15 spring games this year and were five points short of winning a second straight title when the clock struck midnight on their magical season. It might as well have been a hundred points because the end result still feels empty.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for you. Really and truly and forever. I have been in deep love with your skills ever since you were a hotshot kid making Texas Longhorn basketball something worth watching. I remember the first time I watched you play, thinking that you possessed the silky smooth capture of a Jamaal Wilkes jump shot with the cool hand moves of George Gervin at go time. You had next in a league built on Rushmore legends, and I knew you had the kind of special to carve a spot of your own.
It began with that short stint in Seattle- which was a fitting destination for your supersonic talents- before making Oklahoma City your home. For nine years, you did the place proud, on and off the court. You went and took a football enclave and turned spring football into a fallback option. When you made the finals against Miami, it was a bittersweet proposition for yours truly. I would’ve been thrilled with a tie. But that’s not how it works in sports.
As you well know, it’s all about winning the last game of the season. No matter how great you are, no matter how transcendent a player you might be, people demand that 35 wins a ring. In OKC for sure, in Golden State? Most definitely.
Anything less than a ring will be considered an epic fail. So lemme be the first to recognize that you did not take the ‘easy’ route as your critics claim. These people have no idea how to set a pick and roll, much less master it. They never made a defensive stop when they needed to, or sank a free throw with the season on the line or knocked down a three as the clock went blank. There is no such thing as ‘easy’ in professional sports. As Pat Riley once opined, there’s winning and there’s misery. He knows of what he speaks from his time in Los Angeles and Miami. Building a Hall of Fame lineup guarantees you nothing, other than the vitriol of every fan base that ain’t yours.
The haters are pulling out archival proof that you’re a phony because your decision doesn’t jibe with their opinions. I guess you were supposed to base a life changing decision on the Twitter feed. Rest assured, many of these same critics have taken turns trashing and adoring Lebron for more than a decade. So there’s that.
As for the revisionist history being thrown around, let’s review. The critics contend that back in the day, star players were anchored to their teams like a Norman Rockwell painting. Which is interesting, seeing as how Maravich, Wilt, Kareem, Moses Malone and Charles Barkley all changed uniforms in their primes. That last fella has been awfully noisy about your move, but he changed zip codes a couple times in search of a ring. Funny how that works.
I wish the haters would stop throwing the halcyon days of Magic, Bird and Jordan in your face when they get on their soapboxes. Such talk fails to acknowledge the chasm that exists between their past and your present. It asks us to consider their motives retroactively, because that’s the only way their argument can work. Thanks but no thanks. I’ll stick to understanding the league and its players inside the times we’re living in.
Listen, I daydreamed about you in a Miami Heat uniform. And I agreed with my son when he said Boston was a pretty solid idea. Not to mention, I was intrigued about your chances in OKC next year with a team that had added Oladipo and possessed a belief that they could take the Warriors out next time around.
But see, here’s the thing. Those were my wishes and opinions. Not yours. And I think the critics are forgetting how all this free agency business works. But I won’t, promise. I’ll be rooting for big things from you in your new Bay area digs. And if you win it all, I’m gonna be pretty damned happy about it. I rooted like hell for Cleveland this June, but as a ball fan, I’m allowed to change things up. And so are you.
All that has to matter, all that should matter is what you feel in your heart. And not for nothing, but if Mom is good with it, you’re doing just fine. Your career to this point has been a basketball life well lived. All that’s left for you to do is write the ending. So don’t worry about the critics and the clowns. You just keep doing what you’ve been doing all along.