There’s a divide between NBA players and the media who cover them, even when it comes to award season. Only last year were NBA award votes made public — thank Adam Silver for the transparency — but it’s still crendentialed media members who decide things like MVP. Kevin Durant believes it’s the players themselves who offer the best chance at a meritocracy, rather than sexy, often redundant narratives that can infect the voting process.
Durant was with every other NBA All-Star at today’s media session in the Manhattan Sheraton Ballroom. During the crush of the media onslaught, we were there, Kevin Durant attacked the discrepancy between knowing a player because you have to play with or against — him, and knowing a player because you’re watching him from press row.
By way of the Oklahoman comes KD’s soliloquy on media to the media:
“I mean, you guys vote on the MVP. I think MVP is a lot about narratives and what may happen during that time. It’s a lot of guys that have been playing extremely well for years and years and just starting to get MVP consideration. But I think that consistent play gets a little boring to people. But if you look at a guy like James Harden, he’s been doing it for three years and it’s the same thing but people are starting to act like it’s new. Steph Curry‘s been doing the same thing for three years. And I guess the narrative around their team and what he’s doing is new to everybody.
It’s not like they came out of nowhere.”
When Durant continued, it was easy to imagine him saying the same thing to his nodding fellow All-Star teammate, Russell Westbrook. #WhyNot Russ overtly derided an Oklahoman reporter on camera earlier this season, and it led to a lot of back and forth about the media’s role when covering an athlete.
“Yeah, I think media and guys get too much power to vote on stuff that quite frankly I don’t think you really know a lot about (or) as much as we (players) know about it,” Durant said. “So, yeah, we play against these guys every single night. We battle against these guys. We know what they say on the court. We know how they handle their teammates. We know how they approach the game, and our vote should count. Our opinions should count. Like I said, I don’t think you guys know as much as we do, and I don’t see why you have more power than we do.”
“We really know these guys inside and out,” Durant said of his fellow NBA players. “It’s a lot of guys that deserve Defensive Player of the Year or Sixth Man of the Year. But they’re not the sexier names. I think a lot of people see the names of these players but really don’t get the other guys that contribute to our game as well. You guys are not in the scouting reports. You’re not in the team meetings and film sessions to really break down these players’ games. And I don’t see why you have more power in voting than we do. I mean, we’re out there on the court playing with them. We appreciate how you guys blow the game up and how much you bring attention to the game. But at the same time, to keep it pure the players should have more say in that stuff.”
Professional athletes — particularly the much smaller, and therefore more exclusive club of NBA players — are human beings, with just as many peccadilloes and insecurities as the rest of us. Likewise, they can be just as churlish, disingenuous and biased as some of our fellow media brethren. So if the players voted, the same issues that make every one of us human would still be in play.
The media bias towards own’s own players or team was discussed at length by Kevin Draper at The Diss last April after media voting first became public knowledge. The results largely align with what Durant said today, but we’ll add the caveat that all humans are fallible. Maybe computers should decide — cue a Chuckgasm
Still, Durant has a point. Beat reporters and national writers can only glean so much from repeatedly watching a team play. There are going to be players and teams who fly under the radar of even the most circumspect writer or analyst. Players might have a better barometer for dominance or superior play, but they’re also in the thick of competition, and cursory, or undeveloped, impressions can still play a role — just like they do with the media.
Case in point, Dwight Howard, who KD repeatedly called a “p*ssy” while on the bench with a foot injury earlier this season, might come up for an award at the end of the season (OK, Howard won’t this year, but he could in the future, and this is a hypothetical so save your breath if you’re eager for some Dwight bashing)
Can Durant be expected to be objective if Howard is up for a end-of-season honor?
We’re all human, but Durant has a point. Should players get an equal vote in NBA awards?