2019-06-12 sp-emigblog Durant

Golden State forward Kevin Durant (middle) grimaces as he leaves the court after being injured during the first half of the Warriors’ win against Toronto in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Toronto on Monday. Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP

Kevin Durant’s Game 5 Achilles injury was sickening because it brought out sickening behavior. Select mouth-breathing Raptors fans celebrated the Warriors’ star dropping to the floor Monday night, and now one of the NBA’s most passionate fan bases in one of North America’s most prized cities has been tainted.

“I’ve lived here,” Steph Curry said after Golden State’s Game 5 survival. “I really enjoyed the people and their passion and excitement for not only the game, but just when you come into town they just enjoy life and they’re nice people. Very confused around that reaction. It’s not my experience with the people of this city.”

Durant’s injury was sickening because it brought out disturbing cynicism.

Warriors general manager Bob Myers choked up while addressing Durant’s situation, and the immediate reaction included questioning both Myers’ sincerity and the organization’s motives.

Did Warriors brass pressure Durant into a hasty return? Were they bleeding him for every last jumper figuring he was off to play for the Knicks later this summer?

The man playing the best basketball in the world right now had just had his career threatened by a more menacing injury than a torn ACL, and many were quicker to lay blame than convey sympathy. Isn’t that fundamentally backwards?

Durant’s injury was sickening because even as we universally agreed that gutting it out was a courageous act, some couldn’t help but wonder if it was born of sad, old narratives attached to the actor. “He’s too soft.” “He’s so insecure.”

Was Game 5 Durant’s “(Bleep) you, I’ll show you who’s soft” line in the sand? Did that put him at risk more than anything his organization did?

Here was another round of questions that metastasized on traditional and social media outlets in the hours after Game 5. This, too, was terrible to see.

The whole stupid situation – the injury, the immediate reaction, the Monday night-into-Tuesday morning attempts to come to grips – was awful.

This was worst of all... This was what we all should have thought of as Durant fell, then needed help getting to the locker room and crutches to leave the arena, headed for a suddenly, shockingly uncertain basketball future:

One February 2007 afternoon, an 18-year-old freshman who stood nearly 7-feet tall and looked like he might have weighed 150 pounds, suited up for Texas at Oklahoma’s Lloyd Noble Center. It was the first time a lot of us had seen the kid in person, and we didn’t know how to manage it.

Durant scored so many points in so many beautiful, effortless ways that all we could do in the two rows of press was look at each other.

“He’s must-see TV,” OU coach Jeff Capel had told us before that game.

He was must-see basketball. Durant has been must-see basketball ever since for those lucky enough to have to have seen him play at Lloyd Noble, Gallagher-Iba Arena, Chesapeake Energy Arena or anywhere else.

Whatever you think of those sad, old narratives, you must appreciate the beautiful, effortless game he played right up until 9:50 remaining in Game 5’s second quarter. You are a fool otherwise.

Whatever you think went into the fact that Durant played, whatever question you choose to ask in the aftermath, you must realize that the 18-year-old is now 30. He must manage a worst-case injury. He might not play so beautifully or effortlessly any longer.

That is most sickening of all.


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Guerin Emig

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guerin.emig@tulsaworld.com

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Sports Columnist

Proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the Oklahoma Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.