Kevin Durant has already trashed the Thunder.
Everyone missed the message, because of the medium – third-person tweets that looked like they were intended to come from a burner account. Even after Durant said he intended to send the tweets from his own account, little attention was given to the content.
Now, Durant is ensuring his spite lands.
At his first game in Oklahoma City as a visitor—February 2017—fans yowled for blood and brandished cupcakes, because Durant was supposedly soft. “Such a venomous toxic feeling when I walked into that arena,” he says. “And just the organization, the trainers and equipment managers, those dudes is pissed off at me? Ain’t talking to me? I’m like, Yo, this is where we going with this? Because I left a team and went to play with another team?”
His mother recalls one particularly appalling piece of video: a Thunder fan firing bullets into a No. 35 jersey. Bullets—after she and Durant and half his extended family relocated to Oklahoma, after they embraced the community, after Durant gave a million dollars to tornado victims.
“I’ll never be attached to that city again because of that,” Durant says. “I eventually wanted to come back to that city and be part of that community and organization, but I don’t trust nobody there. That shit must have been fake, what they was doing. The organization, the GM, I ain’t talked to none of those people, even had a nice exchange with those people, since I left.”
Thunder fans were vicious in Durant’s return to Oklahoma City. The shock factor probably made it feel worse.
It shouldn’t have.
Durant was naïve about how his decision to leave for the Warriors would be perceived. Of course Thunder fans would resent him. The national backlash wasn’t quite as predictable, but it wasn’t surprising, either. After how LeBron James was viewed for leaving the Cavaliers for the Heat, Durant should have been better prepared for the outcry.
It’s fine for Oklahoma City fans – who grew an attachment to Durant, which trickled up to his enormous salary – to loathe Durant as a character in the NBA drama. There are lines, though. Threatening violence is unacceptable. (I’m not sure whether the bullets video was threatening or just symbolic.)
Likewise, if Thunder employees want to give Durant a cold shoulder, that’s fine, too. It’s not nice, but let’s not make a federal case out of people not being nice.
But I’m sure those fans and employees never indicated to Durant they’d treat him that way if he left. While he played in Oklahoma City, they surely made it sound as if they loved him as a person, not just a basketball player. Durant found out the hard way that wasn’t the case. His response is completely justified.
That said, time heals most wounds, likely including this one. Durant and the Thunder accomplished so much together. I suspect he, general manager Sam Presti and other members of the organization will eventually make peace with each other.