“Everybody can tell you how to do it, they never did it…” – Jay Z, “Already Home”
Tonight’s a big stage in the NBA with three Game 6’s, each with a different storyline attached.
For Oklahoma City and Memphis, the spotlight falls directly on Kevin Durant. The expected MVP hasn’t resembled the guy who scored 25 points in 41 consecutive games. The cause? A host of reasons from no true offensive scheme, his own confidence dipping with un-Durant-like shooting splits, Tony Allen’s defense or, most popular amongst the kids, Lil B’s hex.
The Daily Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel is so fed up with Durant’s slide in production he’s referring to him as “Mr. Unreliable” until further notice.
Allen is inside Durant’s head. Durant is dazed and confused. Hesitant and docile. The Memphis Doberman has turned Durant into mere mortal this Western Conference playoff series. The Thunder is on the brink of elimination, and if Durant doesn’t return to something approaching the Slim Reaper in Game 6 Thursday night, Grim Sleeper is going to be more like it.
Durant has made just 40 percent of his shots against the Grizzlies. Allen’s been in Durant’s sneakers. Meets him at the bus and tucks him in at night. Then haunts Durant’s dreams.
Remember when the media would throw Jordan under the bus because a great scorer would never win a title? Or when Magic was dubbed “Tragic Johnson” after losing the 1984 NBA Finals? Then Shaq because he was hailed as the next legendary big man, but was swept in playoff series five times between 1993-1999? Then Kobe because he’d never do anything without Shaq? Then LeBron because he wasn’t clutch, didn’t have the “will to win,” or if you gave him a dollar he only give you three quarters back? Cold world, but it’s part of the game and the oenology of greatness.
Basketball is a team sport, but one marketed and heralded by its supreme, once-in-generation superstars. That’s KD. Losing tonight doesn’t tarnish his legacy given Kevin’s only 25, but pride is a totally different monster altogether. The innocence and curve he was once graded on is nearing extinction, as it has for every great before and will after him. It’s almost as if KD has hit basketball superstar puberty or something. Needless to say, Game 6 isn’t to the level of Bron’s Game 6 in Beantown in 2012, but without question a pride moment for Durant, a guy who played with a chip on his shoulder since high school.*
I tell you this, though. As if Game 6 in Memphis wasn’t already a must-watch, it sure as hell is now. You know where to find me at 8:00 p.m. EST on TNT.
Update #2: KD responds.
“It’s all good. I don’t really care. Coming from my paper back home, that’s what they’re suppose to write. I didn’t come through for the team so they gotta write that type of stuff. As a player, as a competitor, there’s gonna be good and bad days. People are going to build you up and tear you down. But it’s all about how you stay even-keeled and I think that’s what I am. My teammates love me, my family loves me. So that’s all that really matters to me. It is what it is. We have another opportunity tonight.
“That’s apart of their [media] job. It’s all about ‘What have you done for me lately?’ so I understand that. It really doesn’t matter to me. I know our fans don’t feel that way. I mean if someone do, that’s cool. But my teammates, organization, my family, my friends don’t feel that way. I don’t really care. I don’t read the newspapers at all. I don’t read Instagram, Twitter or none of that stuff. But it’s all about, “what have you done for me lately?” and I understand that.”
Update: Daily Oklahoman apologizes for their headline, saying that it “missed the mark.” Clearly an attempt to apply salve to the wound created for fans and Durant’s family, his brother letting his thoughts be heard via Twitter.
@DaveyRudolphKSR what? U sound dumb
— IM ME!!!!! (@LifeOfTonyD35) May 1, 2014
* – Because I know for a fact he doesn’t want to accept his MVP trophy already at home, a la Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.