Basketball, Sports

Everybody hurts, sometimes: Social media accounts reveal Kevin Durant’s emotional side

Last summer, Kevin Durant made possibly the biggest decision he’ll ever make. After eight years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he published an article on The Player’s Tribune, announcing his intention to sign with the 73-win Warriors—not long after his Thunder had blown a 3-1 series lead against them in the Western Conference Finals. The fan base’s backlash was swift and strong, with followers burning jerseys and calling him names all over the Internet. Still, he remained steadfast in his decision.

“I believe I am doing what I feel is the right thing at this point in my life and my playing career,” Durant wrote in his article.

He was tired of finishing second, and he appeared in an April 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated saying just as much. He wanted a championship, and he wanted to win. He wanted to be on top of the basketball world.

One year later, Durant got exactly that—a championship and a Finals MVP. And in an effort to catch up to his title-defending Warriors team, other contenders were extremely active this offseason, with the Rockets trading for Chris Paul and the Thunder forming their own super-team. However, Durant’s social media interactions were the more notable events of the Golden State offseason.

For any frequent Twitter user, it’s pretty easy to tell that Durant’s favourite activity on the platform is responding to critics. As a result, his tweeting episode on Sept. 18 and 19 wasn’t really surprising. In the debacle, Durant’s account replied to a tweet in the third person, explaining why he made his free agency decision and trashing the Thunder’s coach, organization, and roster—except for Russell Westbrook. Some of the Internet community latched onto the theory that Durant had “burner accounts,” or accounts he could use to defend himself without being attached to his own name and had simply forgotten to switch to one of those accounts before this particular set of tweets. Durant, however, rejected that explanation, admitting to having written the contentious tweets himself.

Although Durant’s unprofessional and immature actions were indefensible, his original decision can be justified—regardless of the commotion it caused. His departure for greener pastures was unpopular. From the looks of it, either he didn’t expect fans to turn on him so quickly, or he expected to handle the backlash much better. As a consequence, social media use has turned into his instrument for self-defence. Judging from his high frequency of response to criticism, it seems as though he still feels the need to justify his year-old decision to everyone.

This reaction is decidedly human. It’s tough to always be in the spotlight. The task gets immeasurably harder when every decision an athlete makes gets put under a microscope—they’ll be be discussed for hours upon hours during the never-ending sports news cycle. It can be especially difficult for someone like Durant, whose decisions are particularly controversial.

Kevin Durant’s strange, humanizing summer on social media didn’t end with the tweets. He’s an active YouTube user and responds to fans there as well. One comment from his verified account caught everyone’s eye last week, giving the basketball world another revealing look at Kevin Durant.

“I play basketball, I got acne, I grew up with nothing,” Durant wrote. “[I’m] still figuring myself out in my late [20’s] [….] I’m closer to you than [you] think.”

This comment is just another example of how Durant has opened up more and more frequently this offseason, with appearances on Bill Simmons’s podcasts, replies to nobodies on Twitter, and other newsworthy YouTube comments. As a result, it’s much more useful to understand and see him as just another ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances. As far as his decision goes, he was clearly tired of coming in second. He chose to join Golden State and finished first. With that result, he got what he wanted, but now it seems that what he needs is for the sports universe to accept his decision.

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