A huge game for Kevin Durant as the Oklahoma City Thunder destroyed the Indiana Pacers was also the next step in his transformation from a beloved, likable superstar on the rise to a player with a chip on his shoulder, obsessed about his own numbers, success and the perception of him in the media, which might have a negative effect on everything he’s hoping to achieve.
The media love running story lines before big games. ESPN are the kings of it all, even though their blatant attempts at sensationalism and creating headlines are quite easy to see through. Its effective, and it gets across to a lot of people.
Before the Pacers played the Thunder, the popular theme was – is Paul George actually better than Kevin Durant right now? Well, Durant answered with 36 points, while George wasn’t far behind with 32. So Durant won that battle, but his team, with a 24-point victory over the best-in-the-East Pacers, got the more important win.
Durant still wouldn’t let go. According to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, Durant didn’t leave that game quietly. When taken off for good in the fourth quarter, with the Thunder leading by 20 points, Durant turned to the media sitting behind the scorer’s table and howled: Write about that!
Not that being slightly arrogant and confident is bad. Usually superstars have that trait in them, of self importance. The best of ’em often feel like there’s always something to prove, something new to achieve. But there’s been a change in Durant over the last couple of years. He has become more competitive and also more expressive in his desire to be more successful. The national media showed him looking quite sad, broken, on the verge of tears after losing to the Miami Heat in the NBA finals. That kind of attention did something to him.
Last year he played with an attitude, improved most aspects of his game – even his effort on defense. It didn’t help him win the MVP, and the Russell Westbrook injury made the season end two rounds too early. Durant was also one of the most T’d up players in the league last year. Feeling like he deserves the kind of respect from referees that LeBron James or other big names get (not sure if they do, but that’s the way it feels like Durant sees things), he wouldn’t shut his mouth on calls he didn’t like. Brooks and he both mentioned more than a few times that he needs to learn how to stop it from happening.
Then there’s the whole – sick of being second place thing. It may be pushing him just slightly too far. Maybe still not being an NBA champion even though everyone said this Thunder team would have won one by now is getting to him also. The Thunder are an excellent team, and according to the record, the second best in the West, not to mention being undefeated at home. Durant pushing himself to improve and get better isn’t hurting anyone, for now. But a dirty play here (Jeremy Lin last year) and a comment no one expected there, Durant might also be turning into a mini-villain. He can ask LeBron James how that season, the villain year, ended for him.