Kevin Durant Goes to the Warriors, What Does This Have to Do with Baseball?

Let me be up front…I have lived near OKC for a number of years now.  The NBA’s Thunder is my favorite basketball team.  Kevin Durant was my favorite player on that team.  Not only is he an amazing athlete, he always seemed like a great guy.  OKC fans loved his MVP speech, loved how his mother came to most home games, and how KD hugged her at the end of each game when she was there.  If he’d have stayed, while I think he’d have ultimately won a ring or two, I am certain there’d be statues of him and streets named after him, etc after he retired.  However, he’s gone, having agreed to a deal with Golden State.

I’m very disappointed.  Once again, I’m a fan of a “small market” team jilted in favor of one with a bigger budget.  What I’m not is angry.

Many of my fellow Thunder fans are angry, however.  There have been jersey burnings, and insults like “coward,” “greedy,” and “traitor” thrown about.  Certain talking heads at a certain four-letter network have said essentially the same thing.  This is where the KD case intersects with MLB.  Such emotional reactions happen every time a popular player leaves one team for another via free agency.  MLB has more experience with it, since it has had true free agency longer.  The classic recent example was Albert Pujols.  I still see the occasional person write his name as “Poo-holes” and think himself clever.

Why do athletes change teams?  Money and the hope for championships.  If they say anything else, they lie.  Professional sports is a business, period.  It’s a business for the teams/owners, and it’s a business for the players.  We, the fans, are merely customers.  They don’t truly love us because they do not know us–it’s not personal.  What they owe us is their best effort, for the term of their contracts and nothing more.  Even if they could know us all and feel like family–family members sometimes move away too, don’t they?

It is not treason.  The  notion is actually absurd.  Sports is not war.  Fan groups like to call themselves things like “Red Sox Nation,” but we are not countries unto ourselves; and others are not foreign powers.   Once a contract has been fulfilled, the contract employee has every right to sign a new contract with whomever they wish.  NBA and MLB contracts also do not have non-compete clauses either.

Greed?  Well, maybe, but who doesn’t take the best salary they can get?  Is not maximizing income one of the cornerstones of capitalism?  NBA free agency is different than MLB free agency though, in that there is a cap on the money and years a free agent can be offered–and the incumbent team can offer more than other teams.  The cap went up a lot this year.  It’s going to go up a lot more next year.   It was a given therefore that Durant was going to sign a deal with a one-year opt out in order to really cash in next summer.  What a lot of folks (including me) failed to add in was that actually meant was (if he was going to leave) the departure would occur this year as now the new team becomes the incumbent that can offer the max deal next year.  As always, follow the money.  (Note: He also has a 10 year , $300M deal with Nike.  It’d be zero surprise if Nike indicated to him they like the idea of him playing in CA better than in OK too…or his own idea for more endorsement opportunity as well.)

Cowardice?  Please.  Staying in OKC wouldn’t require bravery.  It’s a fine city, and (with him), the team had an very good likelihood of winning an NBA championship.  However, obviously that chance is even greater in Oakland.

In the end, Durant is moving on to a team where he believes he will win rings and where he will be giving up no money/may make even more.  In retrospect, his decision was pretty obvious.

Post-script:  There is one group I will understand if they feel betrayed–employees of KD’s restaurant (called KD’s).  It serves excellent southern food in an upscale atmosphere in Bricktown.  It’s an excellent location, usually has an hour or longer wait, but I’m afraid it’s doomed now.


12 thoughts on “Kevin Durant Goes to the Warriors, What Does This Have to Do with Baseball?

  1. It’s absolutely insane to me that people are reacting this way about a guy who simply is trying to put himself in the best place to be happy and successful. If anyone of us did the same, we’d congratulate the hell out of them. “Got a new job int he big city! Good for you! You’ve worked so hard for it!” I love sports, many would say probably more than most, considering I started a blog about it, but people take these things too personally. Sure feel sad or jilted. That’s natural. But people are taking things too far. They are taking an athlete moving to a new team as some sort of personal insight. It’s just sports. It’s not knights representing different provinces and countries facing each other in battle to determine who shall rule the land. Sure if Manny Machado leaves Baltimore I will be super bummed. But at the end of the day, that’s his right, to make the best of the life he has. He’s worked for it, he deserves it. I hold out hope that my team will resign him and he will remain in place happy. Just as I hold out hope that Schoop, Jones, Bundy, etc all do the same. But some times a player leaves for greener pastures, and we can’t fault them for that. We blame players to leave for money, and we blame players who leave for fame, family, or the chance to win. Maybe we should really be looking at our own insecurities, as to why we feel such sense of self worth, into what really amounts to nothing more than simple entertainment? Root, cheer, weep, hug, cry. Get passionate. But also don’t forget. It’s just a game.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A couple of items here:

    “Coward” is a very popular insult these days. But the users tend to be very non-specific about what constituted the other person’s act of cowardice. I would suggest most of these fans would be a little afraid to use that term in KD’s presence.
    I see one more motivation in baseball that I think is less common in basketball due to the salary cap. Yes, they are going for optimum money, and players who say otherwise (I’m lookin’ at you, David Price) are pouring on the baloney. But in baseball I think the highest salary has become a way for the players to measure that they are the best. In truth, I think it is a measure of which owner is
    a.) Desperate
    b.) Overly optimistic
    c.) or Just plain stupid
    But I think the players do see it as a way to say they are the best. It’s much harder to buy a championship in baseball than in the NBA.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Another point to consider is that loyalty is a two way street. As soon as management feels that they will be better off without the long-time “loyal” player, they will not hesitate to get rid of him, whether by trade, DFA or just not signing him to a new contract. A player has a limited number of years in which to make substantial salary and they would be foolish not to try to maximize their income.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As I posted on HBT, it’s hilarious to bring up loyalty vis a vis Durant/OKC. Durant was drafted by the Sonics, who had so much loyalty they up and moved to OKC.


      1. Yeah, I didn’t bring that up here, but it does further the point. Sports teams are private businesses, not municipal institutions.


  4. Once again, I’m a fan of a “small market” team jilted in favor of one with a bigger budget.

    Lest not forget GS was a perennial loser far longer than OKC’s team existed and was never really “big” market until 2015. But yeah, all points well taken.


  5. I do want to call out Sam Presti for handling himself in about as polar opposite a manner from what Dan Gilbert did as humanly possible:

    “How should they feel about him? You know, listen, I’m not going to tell people how to feel or not to judge or what have you. I just think that what he represented for the city was something larger than basketball. I think that he arrived at a time where the city was also on an upward trajectory, a 20-year-old young man in an aspirational city. People kind of snicker and kind of sneer when we talk about that kind of stuff, but my guess is you’re probably not doing that right now.

    “You know, we talk and you guys would hear me say, this connection to this community, and the typing would stop and the eyes would roll. But I was saying that truthfully and authentically because I know how this business works, and I know that these days are possible. And we need to recognize what exactly took place here over the last eight years and recognize it and celebrate it.

    “They should feel thankful, grateful. They should not — I can’t tell them not to be disappointed, but the one thing I would also say is the city should be incredibly proud of what they’ve helped create for the Thunder. It’s not possible without that. They need to carry that on. They need to carry on the spirit and the fight and the grit, because that was here before the Thunder. That was here before the Thunder, that spirit, that ability to continue to press forward. That’s in the water here.

    “I think all of us, Kevin included, was a beneficiary of that approach and what’s in Oklahoma. So my message would be, carry on. Carry on and continue to be proud of what it is that you represent. It’s much bigger than the Thunder.”

    Liked by 3 people

  6. My favorite basketball player is Dirk Nowitzki, a guy who has shown incredible loyalty to a team and an owner and for many, many years was underpaid and was given a less-than-good team to reward him for said loyalty.

    He’s 38 years old. He has one (1) championship ring (he should have two, but let’s not talk about that). He can still ball, but his best years are behind him. But still, Dirk is a wanted guy, a hot commodity.

    This time, the Mavericks decided to put their money where their mouths are and gave that big goofy German a 2 year, $40m contract. A lot of people will bitch and say it’s too much, it’s ridiculous, he’s 38 years old, blah blah.

    I say, get it, Dirky. Get that money. Get what you can get, and get it while you can.

    He chooses to stay in Dallas because he likes it there, because it’s his home, but I have no doubt that if he truly felt that his best option would have been to head to greener pastures, he would have done so, and I would never in a million years been angry at him.

    Hell, my favorite baseball player in the known universe and any and all multi-verses picked up and left to chase a championship. Everyone knows it. No one talks shit about it because it ended up being an amazing thing.

    We don’t know Kevin Durant’s rationale. I mean, is a ring guaranteed now that he’s going to Golden State? No. Remember when LeBron took his talents to South Beach and then Chris Bosh came along, too? Remember when they were anointed as the winners before they even took the court, but some scrappy doof German came along and crane kicked them in the ass because he’s that damn good? Yeah, I remember that.

    Remember when Dwight Howard went to Houston and everyone and their momma thought he and James Harden would bling the world out? Yeah, well, that didn’t happen. You never know what’s going to happen. Steph Curry could cut his foot on a sharpened Lego and be out four weeks, and in those four weeks the Warriors could morph into this year’s Atlanta Braves. We don’t know until the games are played.

    So let’s just see what it’s like and go from there.

    /basketball talk

    Liked by 2 people

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