Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant is best known as a bright young man who always does his homework, leaves a plate of cookies and glass of milk out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, and scores upwards of 30 points per game even though he's just 22 years old. Based on popular opinion, you'd think he were about to lead the NBA into a golden age in which no one ever gets in trouble with the law and the only nationally televised decision anyone makes involves choosing whether to support one charity or five. (Hint: It's always the latter!)
Of course, Durant is a little more complicated than that: He's a product of his era, not some halcyon age when hip-hop was just something rabbits did when they were happy. (Incidentally, he probably wouldn't have been allowed to shoot more than a few times a game in that era, but who's paying attention.) Like many players his age, Durant has tattoos, and he also has friends that are often seen as representing all that's wrong with today's NBA. That doesn't make him a problem child; it just means he's a human being. The same goes for his good friend Michael Beasley, who can't be all bad if he hangs out with someone as well-liked as KD.
Durant, like many NBA stars, has a decision to make about whether or not to play overseas next season. He recently solicited advice from an unlikely source. Here's Michael Lee for The Washington Post (via Matt Moore):
Durant said that after speaking with Stephen Jackson and a few other players last week, he has decided to set a deadline of Oct. 1. "Once we really know the season is not going to start at regular time, that's when you make the decision," he said. "I guess when October hits, it's really going to get real for me. I don't want to do it too early and be locked into something, knowing we're going to play. I'm going to keep my options open."
Oh, Stephen Jackson. That makes sense. He's always seemed like a very reasonable fellow.
That's not entirely a joke. While Captain Jack's involvement in the Malice in the Palace brawl and numerous suspensions are well known, he's also considered one of the best teammates in the league by virtually anyone who's ever worn the same uniform, including the staid Tim Duncan. Plus, before he carved out a spot for himself in the NBA, Jackson played in Australia, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. He knows the larger basketball world.
So Durant's decision was justified. Nevertheless, the choice is an interesting one, primarily because Durant chose to seek the counsel of a controversial basketball figure rather than a widely sanctioned authority like union head Derek Fisher or the talking basketball that Michael Jordan held after winning the championship. It was a smart choice, but not the politically correct one. It proves that Durant is far from being the caricature of sports purity that many have made him out to be in the media.
Being friends with Stephen Jackson or having a lot of tattoos doesn't mean that everyone's wrong about Durant. It just serves as a reminder that he needs to be viewed in full rather than as a totem of simplified morality for certain observers to brandish against all that makes them uncomfortable in the modern sports landscape. People are more complicated than that, and we do Durant a disservice if we don't consider him as such.
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