When it comes to fans opinion, the most hated player in the NBA can also be the most popular, or one of them. Kevin Durant, who year by year moved away from his likable disposition into a more contested approach, has now completed the transformation from everyone’s likable player to full-time villain, signing with the Golden State Warriors easily turning him into the most hated NBA player right now.
LeBron James? No matter what he’ll do, he’ll always have a huge band of detractors, punishing him for the Decision, the other decision, the firing of David Blatt, the fact that he’s “only” 3-4 in NBA Finals and not 7-0, and for what seems to be an obsession with his legacy, and simply realizing that at some point, no matter where he’s playing, he’s the most powerful individual in the organization. But it’s always about “what you’ve done for me lately”. For James, it’s beating the NBA champions, coming back from 1-3, against a team with 73 regular season wins. He’s a three-time Finals MVP, and again, it’s a bit more difficult to rationalize the hate towards him.
Durant? He just left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Warriors. What’s so bad about that? The Warriors were the most loaded team in the league anyway, coming off two Finals and 73 regular season wins, with the player who won the MVP these last two years, Stephen Curry. Not just that, but the Warriors beat the Thunder and Durant in the conference finals, coming from a 1-3 deficit, just like they dropped in the Finals against the Cavaliers.
It’s not just “taking the easy way out” that Durant is being criticized for. He himself tweeted when James left Cleveland for Miami and a few years later, criticizing the moves without mentioning James’ name. But as more things are revealed, or tweeted by journalists and beat writers about Durant last season and overall, a picture of someone who cares way too much about what’s being said about him is revealed; someone who says all the things people want to hear, but a bit deeper inside, thinks completely differently.
One thing that has been talked about is the relationship between Durant and Russell Westbrook. Most of the time, Westbrook has been labeled as the reason why Durant hasn’t won a championship or won’t. His selfishness on the floor and his over the top reactions, along with his disdain for the media (something Durant shares with him, and the entire Thunder organization for that matter) didn’t help him become more popular. But Westbrook has slightly changed his game, and his solo effort in the 2014-2015 season (which fell short) made him a bit easier to like.
One of the reasons Durant left for Golden State is Westbrook. Frustrated with playing next to him, feeling that he’s not changing, and he’s part of the reason why Durant doesn’t have a title ring he thinks he deserves. But there’s another side to that coin. It seems the Warriors, through their players and especially Draymond Green, have been working Durant for quite some time, even during the playoff series. Westbrook was especially frustrated to see Durant be friendly with Green, while the latter was kicking Thunder player in the nuts without getting punished for it.
Come to think of it, Green might be the most hated player in the NBA, but he fits the role. He’s not a superstar, and part of his job is being the enforcer, the bad guy. Durant, like James, is simply being haunted by his decisions, which don’t fit a certain narrative expected of them. Once they made it, the media senses the direction the fans are taking, and the stories shedding more negativity on Durant keep flowing and flowing, until it’s time to find someone else to crucify.