Greatness has a price. To achieve such a status in pro sports means you embody everything that is awe-inspiring and next-level about your chosen profession. It means that only a small percentage of your peers can freak the funk like you do.
It also means that you are on a never-ending chase to satisfy the fans insatiable desire for more and to push the envelope and establish your place in the pantheon of supreme ballers.
In the NBA, labels of greatness are awarded early and then as a player’s performance becomes the status quo and his individual accomplishments become repeats of a great independent film, fans want to see them become a champion. They want to see the full motion picture blockbuster, with rings and all.
Kevin Durant sits in that predicament right now. The fact that he is an NBA superstar and a Top 5 player in the league is not debatable. Before the emergence of Russell Westbrook, Durant was as dominant a scorer as we've ever seen and his 6-10 size and multiplicity of skills made him a revolutionary player.
He had that one Finals run against Miami’s Big Three in 2012, and everyone assumed the scoring wizard and his sidekick combo guard would eventually get a c’hip or two in the near future.
Now, with both players facing free agency in the near future and Golden State’s rise to mythical dominance, Durant is not only facing a real possibility of not bringing OKC a championship, but the label of “greatness” that has been bestowed upon him is stuck in neutral right now.
Sometimes what fans want to happen and what actually happens confuses and distorts a perfect situation. After Durant’s all-time horrible 7-for-33 playoff shooting performance in an 85-84 Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the first-round of the Western Conference playoffs, his superstar stock is at an all-time low.
Elite players don't allow their squads to blow an NBA-high15 fourth-quarter leads.
Those numbers, and his team’s performance this season, don't reflect that of a squad with a pair of All-NBA players leading the charge. Blame it on the injuries and the personnel changes over the years, but something is missing in Durant’s game.
While fans sit and wait for him to elevate in the playoffs and earn the accolades that have been granted to him, Durant seems to be fighting a personal, mental and probably physical struggle, even if his regular season stats don’t show it.
He also seems to be crumbling a bit under the pressure, as he totally went wagon on Tuesday night and refused to allow his teammates to help him out of his funk.
The loss to Dallas, in which Durant and Westbrook combined to shoot 15-55 from the field, was the lowest point for OKC in a while. We keep waiting for that spark and that gear to kick in. We keep waiting for KD to rise above the competition of the Kobe's and the Curry's and take his rightful spot among the “greats”, with rings to match.
Besides for the fact that he’s probably more liked by the fans, at this point, Durant is another Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley or Carmelo Anthony.
He’s no new jack. He's ringless.
He’s been in the league for almost 10 seasons now. We know that he’s not going to get any better as far as peak performance goes. Once he leaves OKC without a ring, regardless of how many MVPs or scoring titles he accumulates, his “greatness” will become as devalued as driving a Mercedes off the dealership lot.
He would have failed to bring a championship to the city that drafted him and helped build his legend. It happened to LeBron and he went to Miami and teamed up with two killers to get the championship monkey off his back.
Despite his success, King James gets flack for that power move to this day.
Durant and Westbrook had a great run, but it’s clear that KD will have to seek out a better situation to get his championship. At this point, Durant is entering desperation territory for a Top 5 player who has been in the league since the 07-08 season and is yet to win a ring.
Forget everything else, he has to start thinking about his future landing spot and how he’s going to flip the chessboard in his favor over the next five years. It's legacy time.
I expect Durant to come back with some great games for the remainder of the series, but Game 2 was a reminder of how quickly all of the hope and optimism can get snuffed out by a reality check. And the reality is that as long as he’s stinking it up in playoff games, the verdict is still out on just how “great” Kevin Durant truly is.