Photo via 3030FM
There’s an old adage that says ball players want to be rappers and rappers want to be ball players. But what happens when a ball player utilizes the grassroots initiatives most notably seen in Hip-Hop? Since the Finals ended and the draft subsided, the words “good news” and “NBA” have become the sports world’s version of oil and water. Still, Kevin Durant seems to be making lemonade out of the lemons David Stern and Billy Hunter are handing the rest of the world while creating an entirely new image for himself in the process.
Think back to the summer of 2006 and what was then known about Lil Wayne. A star indeed who was on the heels of his critically acclaimed Tha Carter II, Wayne had yet to truly crack the seal as a crossover superstar; he wasn’t even invited to the Grammys. What surfaced over the next few months was an onslaught of material that ultimately defines his legacy to this day. Wayne released a mind-blistering number of features and mixtapes including I Can’t Feel My Face, Da Drought 3 and, most notably, Dedication 2. The momentum and work ethic eventually propelled him into what would become his most successful album to date, the Grammy award winning Tha Carter III.
This brings us back to Kevin Durant, who happens to regularly speak about music on his @KDTrey5 Twitter page and even appeared on Wale’s More About Nothing mixtape. Already widely considered a top five player in the league, and the world’s best scorer, KD’s visibility still trailed behind the likes of Kobe Byrant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. What a difference one summer can make. Durant seems to have adopted Hip Hop’s method of creating a buzz by releasing a maelstrom of viral videos that show him touring the world and hooping at different spots forming a genuine frenzy around his name. He’s not just a superstar seen on TV for a few months out of the year anymore. This guy could literally show up in your city, ball at your court and blend right in. As fans, we appreciate stuff like that. We love it, actually.
It’s part of the reason Michael Jordan’s icon is what it is. Never mind his NBA accomplishments, the urban legends of Mike popping up at gyms in Chicago, North Carolina and everywhere in between to ball with whoever was in the gym helped spawn this larger than life, “we-can-actually-reach-out-and-touch-this-guy” type aurora. What Durant’s currently in the process of doing may not be Mike’s “for the love of the game” clause, but it’s pretty damn close. The Durantula even has a slight advantage over Mike because, unlike MJ’s scrimmages, K.D. has the luxury of social media on his side. His feats are captured on flip cams and uploaded for millions on YouTube pages and, subsequently, sports channels across the world. Like Weezy, Durant is using the Internet and the ability to spread his greatness to the masses for free to his advantage. Maybe his 66 point game at the Rucker was Durant’s version of Dedication 2. Maybe it wasn’t. But either way, like the tape, you knew it was something so legendary that as it soon as it happened, “instant classic” was about the only proper description.
Branding himself, like possibly starring in Space Jam 2, is one thing. More than that, however, Durant’s summer takeover creates added interest in his small market Oklahoma City squad as well as the NBA as a whole. There’s this sort of star power in Durant that isn’t yet found in other pro ballers who’ve been making names for themselves this summer like John Wall or Brandon Jennings. The different is, #35 is once in a generation special. His Herculean summer scrimmages have NBA fans foaming at the mouth to see how far his game elevates next season.
While the release of Durant’s next album (season) remains up in the air, if he cashes in on the hype in June of 2012 the same way Wayne did with C3 in June of 2008, the residents and fans of Oklahoma City will scream to heavens Durant is the greatest player alive. And really, wouldn’t their claims hold a significant amount of weight?
Meanwhile, Portland and Seattle will pray this doesn’t happen for completely different, yet painful reasons. Like Hip Hop, in sports, it’s impossible to please everyone.
Throwback: Kevin Durant Is The NBA’s Next Big Superstar