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Sorry, Oklahoma City Thunder fans. I know you were hoping that Kevin Durant, the league's reigning scoring champion and your team's best player, was going to be 100 percent focused on keeping the Thunder's season alive by winning Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night, but that just doesn't seem to be in the cards. He will undoubtedly turn all his attention Thursday to mounting a legal defense against a guitarist who claims the Oklahoma City star is a trademark thief. Because that is happening now.
News of the federal suit comes, as you'd expect, from TMZ:
Durant was sued [Wednesday] in Federal Court by a guy named Mark Durante — a guitarist who, according to the lawsuit, was a big deal in the 80s ... playing with Public Enemy, The Aliens, The Next Big Thing, and (our favorite) The Revolting Cocks.
TMZ obtained a copy of the lawsuit, in which Durante says he adopted the name "Durantula" for his "on-stage and performance persona" — and has used it to market "music, recordings, apparel, t-shirts, guitars, and related merchandise."
Meanwhile, sports fans have adopted the handle for the Oklahoma City Thunder star and current NBA scoring champ.
Durante claims he sent KD's people a couple letters "demanding they stop using the nickname" — but says Durant's reps claimed he wasn't using it.
In the suit though, Durante claims Nike has used the moniker to launch a shoe campaign — and KD himself signed "Durantula" on basketballs that are for sale through his website.
This is the third NBA-related trademark/copyright case to make headlines in the past month, following on the heels of unsuccessful attempts to claim rights to the phrases "Let's Go, Thunder" and "Linsanity."
Before we get going, an important note: As USA Today's Mike Foss writes, it's not that Public Enemy. According to Wikipedia, Durante's Public Enemy was a rock combo formed in 1978 that bore "no relationship to the hip-hop musicians of the same name." So don't blame Mistachuck for this.
Now that we've cleared that up, it seems pretty weird that Durant can be sued for stealing a nickname that he didn't make up or choose for himself.
As former BDL editor Trey Kerby noted at The Basketball Jones, "Durantula" was, as most great things are, a product of the Basketball Internet:
As the legend goes, the Durantula nickname was created by the internet's Rob Mahoney many years ago, only to be popularized by the hosts of a certain internet basketball show called The Basketball Jones. One of their hosts even posted on a popular internet web log about the nickname, declaring for all the world to see that Kevin Durant shall be called Durantula from now until eternity.
That's right — "Durantula" came from and was popularized by three of the Internet's foremost basketball bros, with the post that stamped the burgeoning phenomenon coming here on BDL way back in March 2009. Despite the fact that it's been out there and milling about for better than three years, though, Durante's suit comes in the middle (or, perhaps, at the end) of an NBA Finals series that has put the subject of the nickname in front of tens of millions of viewers day-in and day-out for the past nine days. Timing's a funny thing, huh?
[Marc J. Spears: LeBron James feeling comfortable on the cusp of a title]
According to TMZ, Durante is suing for damages (psssst: that means money) and to stop the Thunder star from using the name. Whether Durant himself has ever actually used the nickname for profit seems to remain unclear, but there's definitely plenty of Durantula merchandise out there, including multiple pieces that have been produced by official retailers and available through the league's official site.
Given that, I guess it would make at least some sense if the league or the retailers who produced those pieces of merchandise were to some degree be liable, but it's hard to see how Durant would come out of his having to, like, denounce the nickname or fork over serious cash or anything. Then again, when you are being sued by a pedal-steel maestro whose best credit is with The Revolting Cocks, maybe not everything is going to make sense.
Either way, this is obviously an annoying thing for Durant to have to deal with the day before he and his teammates try to stave off elimination and, in his words, "take this thing back to the crib" for Game 6 in Oklahoma City. Then again, maybe KD will get his KG on and use the annoyance/slight as fuel. It would be pretty amazing if he hung 40 on the Heat and after the game told us that, in his eyes, every Miami defender actually looked like this guy.
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