Kevin Durant is the reigning league MVP and scoring champion, and is someone who was widely discussed as being one of the top two players in the game at the conclusion of last season.
The fans, however, seem to have a very short memory.
Durant has appeared in just 19 of his team’s 42 games this season, and as a result, has remained largely invisible from the national spotlight. He finished just fifth in the West in All-Star voting for frontcourt players — more than 800,000 votes behind Anthony Davis, and almost 250,000 votes behind Marc Gasol.
There’s technically a question about whether or not he’ll make the team at all, even though it would be difficult to see the coaches shutting him out. For his part, Durant seems unconcerned with it all, at least on the surface.
Reigning league MVP Kevin Durant says a drastic drop-off in fan votes that cost him a starting spot in next month’s NBA All-Star Game won’t serve as any extra motivation as he tries to lead Oklahoma City back into the playoff picture.
“I don’t need the All-Star vote to validate me as a player,” Durant said Friday when asked about the perceived snub. “I’m always motivated. This is my eighth year in the league. I’ve been on All-Star teams before. I’ve done things in this league. I don’t need that to validate me.” …
“It is what it is. I’m also motivated because I love playing basketball,” said Durant, who is averaging 25.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists this season. “Honest, I haven’t played a lot. So it’s all good.”
Durant’s poor showing in the fan vote is a direct result of him playing in Oklahoma City.
The Knicks have been the worst team in the league record-wise, and Carmelo Anthony has missed time with a knee issue. Yet he (by virtue of playing in the nation’s largest market) managed to get voted in as a starter. Kobe Bryant, in the midst of a similarly down season with the Lakers, was also voted in by the fans, though largely as a legacy selection because he likely only has one or two more years left.
Durant, however, despite being better that both of them at this stage of their respective careers, couldn’t benefit because he himself wasn’t at all in a similar situation.
None of this matters that much in the grand scheme of things; Durant gets plenty of publicity as one of Nike’s four signature basketball athletes, and will continue to get plenty of recognition the more he plays this season.
But there’s a very real possibility that the Thunder miss the playoffs this year due to the slow start they suffered because of the injuries to Durant and Russell Westbrook. Should that happen, the team will likely be in the market for a new head coach, and will have just one year to show Durant that OKC is a market capable of sustaining long-term success before it’s time for him to make his free agent decision.
A lot can and will happen between now and then. But this year’s All-Star voting — or more importantly, the lack of votes from the fans he received — may serve as a subtle reminder that his star may be able to ultimately shine brighter somewhere else.