January 31, 2011
As we all learned during the Team USA media onslaught at last summer's world championships, Kevin Durant(notes) is the nicest young superstar the league has seen in ages. In addition to scoring tons of points and leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the postseason, he is courteous to reporters, kind to teammates and generally seems more grounded than other players who get voted to be All-Star starters. You wouldn't mind seeing your son be his friend or your daughter bringing him home.
It turns out he is capable of getting very angry, though. During the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the Miami Heat in OKC, Durant and Chris Bosh(notes) got in a bit of a verbal argument that earned both technicals. After the game, the NBA's nicest player was asked about it, and he responded with the kind of comments not typically associated with him. From Art Garcia on NBA.com:
"I was talking to my teammate and [Bosh] decided he wanted to put his two cents into it," Durant explained after the 108-103 setback. "I am a quiet guy, laid-back guy, but I'm not going to let nobody talk trash to me. He's on a good team now so he thinks he can talk a little bit. There are a lot of fake tough guys in this league and he's one of them."
Whoa, but Durant wasn't finished.
"I'm no punk," he continued. "I wasn't even talking to him first off. He decided to butt in and I'm not going to just let that slide. Especially in our house. Like I said, he's not one of those guys I look at and say he has a rep for talking back to guys or getting into it. He's a nice guy. I'm not going to let that type of person say something to me like that."
Could Durant's reputation all be a sham? Is he actually a big meanie who picks fights with lizard-looking forwards and then talks smack about them to the press? Is up now down?
Um, no, unless you bought into the hyperbole surrounding Durant's nice-guy image and forgot that he plays a sport in which all the best players are pathologically competitive. Like most All-NBA talents, KD plays to win, and he sometimes gets mad in the wake of a loss when he feels like he was treated improperly by another player. He's a basketball player, not a saint, so this is basically par for the course.
Let this incident be a reminder that there is no such thing as a purely good or evil athlete, but merely people who play a sport and react to the events that happen around. Some are better at controlling their tempers than others, but all are capable of getting angry -- and sometimes more than is necessary -- when provoked. In this case, Durant went in on Bosh and did everything short of calling him a nancy boy, but that's just what happens sometimes in professional basketball. Move on and realize that he's a person capable of displaying many emotions, just like you and me.