Eleven months ago, Kevin Durant shook up the NBA world when he announced his controversial decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder, his “brother” Russell Westbrook, and join forces with two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Never, in the history of the NBA, had a player’s personal choice to upgrade his professional situation been more polarizing. For some, Durant, who’s arguably the best player in the world, teaming up with an already established championship caliber team, was the ultimate sucker move. He was deemed a traitor for joining the team that he blew a 3-1 lead to in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, and weak for taking the easy road to a an inevitable championship. Conversely, others respected Durant for taking control of his career and striving for peak greatness.
How did Durant respond? He let his game do the talking when it mattered most. Not even regular season injuries could alter Durant’s destiny of being an NBA champion. Though the Cleveland Cavaliers were formidable appointments, Durant proved to be the most efficient player on both ends of the court, leading the Warriors to an NBA-best 16-1 playoff record while averaging 35.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, and 5.4 apg in the NBA Finals. In the end, Durant earned an NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP award against the Cavaliers.
It’s a liberating story of perseverance and redemption. One boldly told by NIKE immediately following the game in a 60-second spot titled, “Debate This”. In its congratulatory ad, NIKE captures the career-long criticism, overcome by Durant, regarding his size, mental tenacity, leadership ability, and so much more before concluding with the mic drop of all mic drops. Durant winning his first NBA championship.
Say what you want about Durant’s decision, but don’t discredit his ability for setting a lifelong goal and finally achieving it with the heart and hustle of a champion. The popular opinion suggests Durant needed the Warriors more than the Warriors needed Durant. However, Durant’s value to the Warriors should never be diminished nor doubted after witnessing his dominance and will throughout the NBA playoffs.
Respect Durant for being a fine example of what it looks like to take control of your destiny. Athletes literally fought for the right (see Curt Flood) to choose their own way; and when an athlete exercises that right he’s demeaned and vilified. In 2017. Let Durant’s victory serve as a great reminder for why one should never apologize for choosing self. Why living for the approval of others is an oppressive mindset.
And if you can’t respect that, your whole perspective is wack.
photo via Getty Images/video via NIKE