At the age of 10, Kevin Durant decided he wanted to become a professional basketball player. It started out as just that, the dream of a 10-year-old boy. But what made Durant’s dream a reality was the effort and commitment he put in as an adult.
After being drafted, Durant had a lucrative career with Oklahoma City Thunder, having won 4 scoring titles, an MVP award, made 6 NBA All-Star appearances, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, and many more. All that was missing was an NBA Championship title. Up until that point, Durant was viewed, by fans and the media, as a member of a specific team. He was not viewed as an individual with personal desires, hopes, and dreams. Many fans make the mistake of assuming that an athlete’s loyalty lies with the city he or she plays for. This is often not the case as Durant’s loyalty is with himself and his family. When fans assume that a player has some sort of loyalty to the city they play for, it prevents them from understanding that an athlete’s decision to play for a certain team and city ultimately comes from themselves.
So when Durant made the decision to sign a contract with the exact team that eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder from the playoffs, he was met with a lot of hate and ridicule: “yeah, it’s difficult. I’m not used to this much attention, but I’m getting used to it,” Durant said. Even the fans of the Golden State Warriors, Durant’s new team, were angered by his decision. It’s important to understand that much of this anger stems from the fact that Durant’s decision to leave reminded fans that although basketball is played as a team sport, it is still very much an individual sport. When Durant dreamed as a young boy of becoming a professional basketball player, he dreamed about winning trophies. He dreamed about the success he would have as an athlete. That’s a very individualistic mindset, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. He did not worry about the city he would win a championship for, because as a young boy he would not have known what city he would play for. What mattered was living his dream of becoming a professional athlete one day.
Similar to when Lebron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat, he did it to win championships. Lebron James reminded fans of the notion of the ‘individual athlete’ and was met with a lot of hate. He could not control the narrative that was written about him, and so he instead worried about his own play on the court. Durant found that even when he played well for the Warriors, there was still a lot of criticism directed towards him. He had a streak of 72 games with at least 20 or more points, tying a record with Michael Jordan for the fourth longest streak of that sort. However, fans as well as the media pointed to Durant as the root cause of many of the struggles the Warriors faced. And sure enough, after Durant sustained a knee injury that took him out of play for 19 games, the Warriors simultaneously began to improve their play which led to a winning streak. Again, fans and the media pointed at the absence of Durant as the root cause of the team’s success.
What this all illustrates is that you cannot control the narrative written about you. What you can control is the effort you put into your craft: “obviously, people don’t like me right now, but it is what it is. I can’t please them all. I’ve got to still go out there and handle my business.” As Durant noted, he cannot control the narrative that is written about him. Whether or not the Warriors go on to win a championship this year, most people will still stick by their previous judgments and criticism about him.
The position of an athlete is very difficult. The moment they decide to put on a jersey, they represent the pride and passion of a city and its fans. They face a ton of criticism and are often dehumanized through outside ridicule. It is important for athletes such as Durant to remember that they ultimately represent themselves, and to focus on controlling the effort they put in: “they [the fans] are not going to get up at 9 o’clock in the morning and work on their game for me. I’ve got to do all of that on my own,” Durant said. “I can’t worry about people on the outside. I’ve got to go to sleep at night, I’ve got to get up and I’ve got to perform. I’ve got to do all that stuff.” There will always be criticism and judgments thrown his way, but what perhaps empowers Durant is knowing that his decisions are what led him to the position he is currently in – that he is living out the dream he has had since he was 10 years old.
Author Bio: Idil Dahir
Idil Dahir is a freelance writer and editor living in Toronto, Ontario. She is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto in which she completed a specialist program in English. Idil enjoys everything from Films, TV Shows, Sports, Novels, and Comic Books. She is currently working on her fantasy novel as well as her freelance work. If you would like to contact Idil you can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org