Written by Brandon Gordon; Saint Paul, MN
Since the announcement made by the former MVP regarding his decision to move his talents to the Bay Area, Kevin Durant has been facing insurmountable criticism about his decision to go to the Golden State Warriors after almost making it to the finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Looking at this decision, this is the second time within the decade a top 3 to 5 player in the league left a team to go into a major market after a huge wave of success in the smaller market, the first being LeBron James. James himself made a decision to move away from Cleveland, taking his talents to South Beach as LeBron decided to further his legacy by winning two NBA Championships with the Heat, eventually returning to Cleveland and winning the NBA Championship with Cleveland this past June. After being alive for both of these announcements, some people been stating that Durant’s decision is one of the most weak, even weaker than LeBron’s back in 2010. Since both decisions were made, let us compare and contrast both decisions. In order to do this, it would be best to separate them via categories, there’s three in mind, the way it was announced, the team they were on prior to announcement and the social media and news backlash, these three will determine who handled it better.
Durant this morning announced his decision via the Player’s Tribune in a written article about his decision to move to the West Coast, talking about this being a basketball decision as well as stating that he would miss Oklahoma City and he will cherish the relationships within the organization, emphasizing the fact that OKC was his second home, where he was truly raised. In addition, he stated in great remorse about his decision being really challenging, as well as the deep sorrow of how many people he would be disappointing with this decision. On the other hand, James had a ESPN special named The Decision pitched by freelance writer Jim Gray with ESPN giving the time away allowing James’ team to sell ads for the news story. Since this was an hour special, the announcement wasn’t made until 30 minutes into the program, which had James taking his talents to South Beach. In the process, The Decision managed to make $2.5 Million for the charity in addition to $3.5 Million in other total revenue that was distributed to other charities.
Although The Decision did a lot of good for multiple charities, LeBron handled this decision the absolute worse way, it also didn’t help that multiple critics from NBA analysts to Current NBA Players and even legends of the game criticizing LeBron for joining All Stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, stating him being soft. Although Durant is virtually joining 4 of the top 40 players in the NBA currently with Curry, Green, Thompson & Igoudala doing the same exact thing that LeBron did six years ago (but it was two players), LeBron being under the microscope that he was since his sophomore year of high school, being slated at the next “Jordan,” the horrible performance against the Celtics that made it seem like he gave up on the city, on top of that created a media circus with The Decision was a clear reason to give Durant the point of handling it better.
Durant 1 – James 0
What’s Left Behind:
Looking at what Durant left behind was pretty tough. Durant left behind his partner in crime for eight years in Russell Westbrook who’s entering the prime of his career and had great success with throughout their tenure together in OKC. In addition, Durant left behind solidarity in Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, a solid, new coach in Billy Donovan, a chance to play with a new exciting backcourt in Oladipo and Westbrook and eight years of great success. On the other hand, LeBron left a situation in which he was the only true star on his team. He had two other All Stars on his team and that was Mo Williams, who in Lebron’s final year in Cleveland before the move to Miami, was selected to replace Chris Bosh in the All Star game that year, a consistent Point Guard, but never could control games, as well as Zydrunas Illgauskas who made the All Star team alongside James in 2005. Plus, Lebron worked with past prime All Stars in Shaquille O’Neal & Antawn Jamison, role players like Eric Snow, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Anderson Varejao, etc, and a coach in Mike Brown who was a great coach, but was heavily scrutinized throughout his coach career despite having a 61 percent win percentage.
Looking back at both teams that were left behind, Durant’s decision was the most perplexing. In all actuality, Durant left a team who in many eyes (mine’s included) were a favorite to win the NBA title this past year and the up incoming season if Durant decided to stay. Even with Durant’s decision, according to GolfOdds.com, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a 30 to 1 odds to win the NBA title without Durant, that’s the sixth best odds in the NBA behind the Warriors, Cavs, Spurs, Clippers & Celtics. James’ decision on the other hand, on a basketball perspective made sense. LeBron realizing that he needs production outside of his game alone. Despite Mo Williams being productive, he wasn’t enough, he couldn’t dictate the game when it came down to the final two minutes. Management wasn’t getting it done for LeBron to stay, Durant despite losing Harden to Houston, management in OKC has done its best to maintain its standing in the loaded Western Conference over the years with appearances in the Western Conference Finals four times out of the seven times the Thunder made the playoffs since Durant’s NBA career started. Plus, it doesn’t help that Durant was absolutely close to making his second NBA Finals berth after blowing a 3 to 1 lead in the series against the Warriors derailing his hopes to capturing an NBA title for the Thunder and on that merit alone, LeBron James gets the point.
James 1 – Durant 1
Social Media and News Backlash:
A tale of twitter hate, dislike squads, jersey burnings, ESPN analyst roastings, and questions of intentional fortitude on both sides, neither one of these gentlemen had it easier. Both men got called soft and was criticized for not getting the job done for their respected franchises. Durant got himself criticized for his contradiction as a whole when he stated in a tweet “Now everybody wanna play for the Heat and the Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples.” Not going to lie, a bad look on Durant’s part. It also doesn’t help that, many criticism in which shows Durant took the “If You Can’t Beat Em, Join Em” attitude especially when he had multiple chances this Western Conference Finals to defeat the Warriors and you failed. On the other hand, LeBron being from Akron, being “The Chosen One” slated as the Next Jordan, at one point the infamous “what should I do?” commercial response Cleveland fans stated that he quit on Cleveland after Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semi Finals against the defending NBA Champions, Boston Celtics. James joining the Heat still to this very day gets a lot of backlash today due to The Decision being a consistent punchline for many social media memes, comedians, analysts, etc.
This one is rather tricky, despite this announcement only happening 12 hours prior to me writing this analysis, the opening backlash was a lot worse on James’ part. Leaving his home state, and home team was a massive blow, especially to join Wade and Bosh in Miami. Everything Miami was Cleveland wasn’t and isn’t, from its city vibe, to the destination, to the people, even to its Championships, Miami and Cleveland are two different parts of the spectrum. Cleveland was considered by many a dying metropolis, cursed by ridicule of failure of many sports, being considered a laughing stock and punchline to the United States sports media and James was the “Great Hope of Cleveland.” Moving to Miami who is a Champion in all of their major pro sports teams and even the Hurricanes of University of Miami being champion on numerous occasions in Football, it felt like a bigger cop out at first to everyone in social media alike. Despite Durant literally joining the team that beat him and cost him a chance to be a champion with the team he left, LeBron’s scrutiny was a lot worse than what Durant got initially, but it could change.
Durant 2 – James 1
Despite the fact that Lebron leaving was more justified in the grander scheme of things, LeBron’s major flaws of him utilizing media to his disadvantage as well as the scrutiny given to him as his career flourished in Miami, Durant’s decision actually was handled a lot better despite what he left behind in the end.
Filed under: NBA