Kevin Durant’s injury in Game 5 of the NBA Finals has dramatically shifted the tone of conversation surrounding the series.
The narratives of the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty being on its last legs, the changed perception of the Toronto Raptors franchise, and the historic playoff run turned in by Kawhi Leonard have given way to discourse around the nature of playing through injury and the instant reactions fans had to watching Durant fall to the floor.
Reactions from the Warriors’ side have been fairly succinct. General manager Bob Meyers gave an emotional address, Steve Kerr called the scene “eerie and strange”, Steph Curry was confused by how out of character it was, and DeMarcus Cousins’ wasted no time in letting some expletives fly.
The Raptors bench were among those shocked by the injury, and after the crowd’s initial excitement when Durant went down, a few members of the team gestured for fans to quiet down out of respect. Curry made a point in his statement to commend Danny Green and Kyle Lowry for taking that action.
Serge Ibaka played alongside Durant for seven seasons together on the Oklahoma City Thunder, and it was tough for him to watch someone he is so close with work all the way to come back only to succumb to injury so quickly.
“To see a friend, a player and a friend going down like the way he did, it’s something you cannot celebrate,” Ibaka said to Michael Lee of The Athletic. “It’s something I would not like to happen to me or my teammates. Of course, I don’t want that to happen to other players. We play the game, basketball is just a game, but you have more stuff, life is more important than basketball. It’s a game.”
The fans’ initial reaction of excitement was also something Ibaka felt compelled to quell, and he joined his teammates in trying to hush the cheers in the immediate aftermath.
“It’s an emotional game and fans they’re excited,” Ibaka explained. “Sometimes, when you’re excited, you kind of forget who you are, so it was our job to tell them to stop.”
After being asked to stop, fans responded with loud “KD” chants in support of Durant, something Ibaka points to as a positive sign. “Right away they stopped and they start cheering for him. That shows you how good our fans are. When you are emotional, you can sometimes forget, but the good thing about it, the crowd was cheering his name and to me that’s most important.”
Ibaka and Durant have been down this path together before, making the NBA Finals with the Thunder in 2012, a series that ended in a loss to the Miami Heat in five games.
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