Kevin Durant wasn’t lying when he said his future would be determined on a basketball decision.
As the most coveted free agent this summer, the 2014 MVP had the option to handpick his next team. He could have prioritised loyalty while also maximising his earnings by staying at Oklahoma City, chose to blaze his own trail with the up-and-coming Boston Celtics, or take the chance to win titles immediately with the Golden State Warriors.
Clearly, what he values most at this moment in time is the opportunity to win, and win now. It’s hard to blame him.
Basketball fans may be getting deja vu of LeBron James’ infamous decision in 2010 to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to team-up with stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
LeBron’s situation and Durant’s are different, but the vitriol that was directed at the former is unfortunately now going to be thrown in the latter’s direction also.
In a perfect world, everyone would respect Durant’s desire to move on to bigger and better things, but the court of public opinion delivers far from ideal verdicts.
So people are going to call Durant a coward, a traitor, burn his jersey, claim he sold out, criticise him for joining what was already a championship roster, so on and so on. Is Durant joining a bandwagon instead of creating his own? Yes. There’s no doubt about that. But so what?
We’re so quick to hold a candle to the feet of athletes, but any of us would choose a job which made our lives easier and gave us more fulfilment, which is what winning the title will do for Durant.
We, NBA fans, the media and anyone with a voice or decision making powers in basketball, are also to blame. Those who loathe the idea of ‘super teams’ should have first considered not making “ringz” the be-all and end-all for determining success. But many of those same people only count trophies that have been won without the help of other star names. You can’t have it both ways.
And, by the way, not one single player has hung a banner on his own. Different players have needed different levels of help, with winning a title extremely hard and requiring a collective effort. Hell, what LeBron just accomplished may be the best argument against that notion, but even he needed Kyrie Irving to come through in critical moments.
Speaking of LeBron, legacy sure is a fickle thing.
Again, it shouldn’t be the case but many will suggest Durant’s legacy, no matter how many times he hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy with Golden State, will come with an asterisk. Remember when we said that about LeBron in Miami?
Instead, what happened was LeBron won two championships with the Heat and then returned to the Cavaliers to deliver one of the most iconic titles ever. Even if Cleveland’s curse was still looming, the perception of LeBron had already softened since 2010.
Durant doesn’t need to come back to OKC and win them a championship for the same to happen to him.
So the prospect of winning, and winning a lot, is one part of that “basketball decision”, but the other is the chance to play with unselfish, talented team-mates.
Anyone who’s ever played sport will understand how much more fun it is when action and outcome is shared. In professional sport, this can be a liberating approach. Especially when you’re coming from the opposite end of the spectrum, like maybe playing on an isolation-heavy team with a volatile point guard who’s prone to jacking shots, for example.
Durant is going to raise the Warriors’ offence to levels we’ve likely never seen before. The thought is enough to turn NBA fans into nihilists ready to accept the coming basketball apocalypse.
Undoubtedly, his stats will suffer as a result of playing in such a loaded attack, but let’s not go so far as labelling Durant’s decision as unselfish just because he’s sacrificing shot attempts and points.
It is telling, however, of how much he values winning. At the end of the day, when you’re an athlete who’s made as much money as possible and racked up individual accolade after individual accolade, winning is the only motivation.
Let’s not begrudge Durant for that.
The dramatic yet sadly predictable unravelling of Johnny Manziel’s NFL dream hurtles towards an end with no winners.
Losers are sprawled out everywhere: his father, his family, the hangers on and the manchild himself.
A continually expanding rap sheet is close to bursting point with assault charges, substance abuse and hit and runs placing a dark stain on a career which threatened so much while delivering nothing but heartache and shame.
Without a team after being dumped by the Cleveland Browns following two disastrous, error prone seasons, the 23-year-old Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winning quarterback has been hit with a four-match ban by the NFL for violating the league code of conduct.
Drug abuse is believed to be the reason. If, and it’s a monstrous if, someone has a common sense failure and actually signs him in the next few weeks, Manziel could return by Week 5. That, however, is looking increasingly unlikely.
Yet the rate at which those who should be attempting to help him are instead digging holes even deeper is truly alarming. It has gone beyond parody. Manziel senior, intoxicated on his son’s rapidly diminishing wealth, was as helpful as an umbrella in a sand storm by letting the world know he’s fathered a drug addict who’s at breaking point.
“He’s a druggie,” exclaimed Paul Manziel to ESPN. “It’s not a secret that he’s a druggie. I don’t know what to say other than my son is a druggie and he needs help. He just hasn’t seeked it yet. Hopefully he doesn’t die before he comes to his senses.
“That’s about all you can say. I don’t know what else to say. I hate to say it but I hope he goes to jail. I mean, that would be the best place for him. So we’ll see.”
Thanks Dad. With Manziel’s character continually being called into question, it was the last thing he needed.
Well, apart from a butter fingers attorney accidentally texting one of the world’s largest news agencies with explosive information which blows the on-going assault case involving his ex-girlfriend wide open. You couldn’t make it up if you tried.
In an attempt to reply to a request from the Associated Press for information about a car crash involving Manziel, Bob Hinton somehow responded by divulging the legal team are planning to agree to a plea deal in a domestic violence case which could see him spend up to a year in prison.
“Heaven help us if one of the conditions is to pee in a bottle,” Hinton wrote, clearly fearing any potential deal could be quashed because of his client’s penchant for illegal substances.
“He is very interested in working with us to arrive at some agreement.”
The world’s most helpful legal counsel also let slip there is a receipt doing the rounds which indicates Manziel may have spent over $1,000 on drug paraphernalia just hours after a hit-and-run incident.
Cue wild backtracking from the hapless Hinton. He meant to send the texts to someone else working the case.
He stressed that attorney client privileges ensure the details must not be divulged in public for fear of destroying the case. Threats of lawsuits were even dished out.
Too late for that. The damage had well and truly been done.
The @NFL suspends QB Johnny Manziel 4 games for violating league policy on substances of abuse. Another blow to any chance at returning.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 30, 2016
Johnny Manziel's 4-gm suspension only applies to substance abuse. If he signs, he's subject to the personal conduct policy (his legal case)— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 30, 2016
So what now for a sportsman who seems far more suited to spectacularly throwing a career away instead of launching footballs for game-winning touchdowns?
Some believe the four game ban could be the tipping point.
A wake up call after the wake up call after the wake up call.
There’s even been talk of staying off the drink in July.
Big words which started shrinking when photos flooded the internet on Thursday of Manziel and a gaggle of women hanging out in a swimming pool in Mexico.
It didn’t look like party time was over. Far from it.
He has no agent – his last two ran for the hills – and has little hope.
There are also looming financial hurdles to clear.
An LA rental home was trashed. A rental car was written off in a crash earlier this year. Both could need paying for.
Legal bills are mounting up – how he could do with the $8million of endorsement fees which are now nowhere to be seen. The self-destruct button has been pressed so many times, it’s almost worn out.
And, unfortunately, there’s no-one to blame but poor old Johnny Football himself.
Durant, the most coveted NBA free agent, announced his move on the Players’ Tribune website after what he described as the “most challenging few weeks in my professional life.”
The 27-year-old forward said he was joining the Warriors to enhance his growth as a player and a person.
“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction,” Durant wrote.
“But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth.
“With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.”
The capture of Durant, a seven-time NBA All Star and the NBA’s MVP in 2014, is a huge boost for Golden State as they build towards next season.