The sports media is interesting to watch and follow. Have you ever noticed how certain players get a pass while others do not? There are some players in certain sports who are celebrated and adored by the media…you know how it goes, when they have a poor performance they are delicately discussed and when they have great games it is nonstop adoration and love. What’s interesting to watch is very seldom do those certain “celebrated players” that I am referring ever remain in the good graces of the media for too long. There are so many examples of this situation, but I want to bring up one in particular…Kevin Durant.
Before I get into this observation, I want to preface my comments by stating I think Kevin Durant is the best pure scorer in the NBA and an incredible talent; a Hall of Fame player. But I think it is worth taking a look at Kevin Durant and comparing him and his career to that of LeBron James. I think it is important to compare the two because LeBron James has been covered by the media, at times, in a completely different light than Kevin Durant. Unfortunately for Kevin, I think he will begin to have to answer the same questions that LeBron has had to answer for the past 5+ years… Like LeBron James, Kevin Durant was a high draft pick (2nd overall) and drafted by one of the worst teams in the league (Seattle Supersonics).
Kevin had a fantastic year personally, but led his team to a 20-62 record, the worst record in the Western Conference and 2nd worst record in the NBA. In his second year, he had another stellar individual year while leading his team to a 23-59 record, last in the Northwest Division and the 3rd worst record in the Western Conference. Lucky for Kevin, he was one of the “celebrated guys” by the media and they focused on his incredible ability, talent and numbers and didn’t bang on him for not leading his team to victory. Things started looking up for KD in his 3rd year, but keep in mind, with his team having two terrible years in a row it allowed them to stockpile lottery picks – i.e. Russell Westbrook (4th overall pick, 2008) and James Harden (3rd overall pick, 2009). KD did lead his team to the playoffs in his 3rd year, helping the newly relocated Oklahoma City Thunder to the 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference.
For contrast, look at LeBron’s path…he was taken 1st overall in the 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of worst teams in the NBA at the time coming off a 17-win season. Like KD, LeBron had a stellar rookie season but the difference is LeBron helped his team nearly double their win total and they missed the playoffs by a half game. In his second year he brought Cleveland to a winning record and playoff appearance. After LeBron’s 1st playoff berth he continued to improve Cleveland, eventually singlehandedly turning them into one of the powers of the Eastern Conference. However, with each passing year, every time his Cavs were eliminated the media began to place the worst label on him possible – “he can’t win the big game.” With every loss they killed him…they said he couldn’t close games out, he couldn’t hit big shots, he didn’t want the ball in big moments, etc.
LeBron finally got that monkey off his back last year, a year that he was League MVP, NBA Finals MVP and alas, NBA Champion. It is looking more and more like he may repeat all three prestigious honors this year, further frustrating the media and many haters across the country. Unfortunately for KD, I fear he is going to begin to have to face what LeBron and many others in similar situations have faced before him…”he doesn’t have it in him, he can’t win the big game.” I hate it for him, but I fear it is going to happen. Last year he didn’t have a stellar performance in the NBA Finals vs. The Heat, but people gave him a pass because it was his 1st appearance and his team had steadily gotten better each year.
Well this year’s playoffs have been a disaster for KD so far. His team is on the brink of elimination after blowing a 17-point lead last night to the Memphis Grizzlies. To make matters worse KD missed 12 shots last night in the 4th quarter/overtime. The media is slowly starting to turn on him, subtle whispers that he needs Russell Westbrook…he can’t carry the team by himself…etc. Is it fair? Not sure. I can tell you this though, if LeBron missed 12 shots in the 4th quarter and overtime of a playoff game to aid in his team’s loss, the noise and pressure would be 100 times louder about “another choke from The King.” Unfortunately for KD, I think the dial is about to get turned up on him and I hope he can silence the critics…I know one way to keep them quiet…WIN. Written By: Jeremy Clouse