Like any player that is considered to be one of the best players in the history of a sport, the narrative of his or her career always changes. It doesn’t matter who the player is or what the sport is. Golden State Warrior forward Kevin Durant is no different. Durant’s narrative has changed multiple times. After last night, his next change will be the biggest one of his basketball career.
A narrative change in sports is similar to a professional wrestler. A wrestler over their career changes their character multiple times. They go from being loved by fans to be booed by fans and vice versa. This change happens a lot and it’s very common. In basketball, it happens just a much. For example, take a look at LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers for example.
James came into the league as the local born legend who’s goal was to bring a championship back to a city that was starving to win after years of failure in all sports. After 7 seasons and one NBA Finals appearance, Lebron left Cleveland for Miami and joined up with two other all-stars (Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh) to attempt to win a championship. Something he couldn’t accomplish in Ohio.
The fans of the Cavaliers and many people every where turned on him. They burned his jersey, booing him at every turn and considered him as a “traitor”.
Kind of like this exact same moment in World Championship Wrestling history?
As Miami won, James embraced the role and there was nothing anyone could do. But there was one thing he left to do at that point. Go back home an finish what he started. That was his new narrative, win the championship for Cleveland. He went back to Cleveland, won the championship and the rest is history.
But what does that have to with Kevin Durant.
He was loved in Seattle and Oklahoma City and was one of the reasons why basketball became an attraction in the middle of America. Oklahoma City built through the draft and young players. Durant was one of the main pieces of a one of the most talented groups in the entire league. The Thunder made the 2012 NBA Finals. They were defeated by James’ Heat team in 5 games. The future was bright and Durant was in right in the middle.
The narrative changed that summer when Harden was traded to Houston and Durant was becoming a superstar. But over the next 4 seasons, Durant fought injuries to himself and had to attempt to lead the Thunder with Westbrook dealing his own injuries and they never got back to the finals. His last playoff series with the Thunder, was against the Golden State Warriors.
With the Thunder leading the series 3 games to 2 and winning in the fourth quarter at home in a closeout game, Durant and his Thunder teammates couldn’t put away the Warriors. The Warriors ended winning Game 6 and won Game 7 at home and Durant’s narrative had changed to the best player in the league who can’t win a championship.
That summer, Durant was a free agent and most people thought he was going to re-sign with the Thunder and try to get them back to the championship. He decided to change his own narrative. In his well documented Players Tribune article he told the world he decided to sign with team that just beat him weeks earlier in the Western Conference Finals. He became public enemy Number 1 in the eyes of NBA fans everywhere.
Two championship, 2 Finals MVP’s and 3 NBA Finals later, Durant is still a target for NBA Fans across the league. He’s been called a “snake”, “soft”, a “traitor” and other things you can’t write in an article. Some of it he’s earned with burner twitter accounts and responses to fans. But the one thing you can’t question is his basketball ability on the floor. But with one basketball move, his narrative once again has changed.
Durant injured his calf during Game 5 of the Western Conference semi-finals against the Houston Rockets. He ended up missing the rest of the series and the entire Western Conference finals. Golden State ended up winning the next 5 full games on the way the NBA Finals. Even though Kevin is considered one of the best overall players in the league, many thought that the Warriors are better team without him. With a team that has 3 other All-Stars and another one that was recovering from an injury, it’s an interesting idea a team is better off without a player like Durant. His new narrative became the star player that is great, but is not needed to win the NBA championship.
Even though they could have used him, they didn’t need him. The Warriors split the opening two games of the Finals. But when you watched them, you could tell they could have used him. He ended up missing the first 4 games of the series. Golden State fell down 3 games to 1. Once again his narrative changed, he went from the guy that wasn’t necessarily needed to the player that could save the Warriors.
With the season and a three-peat on the line, Durant was finally cleared to play. How healthy he really was is only to known to Durant and the Warriors doctors and front office. But he suited up and was in the starting lineup. On the court, he was the dynamic player we all knew. The Warriors were looking like the team that was ready to take back the series to Oakland.
But again a basketball move changed his once narrative again. Kevin was attempted to take the Raptors Pascal Siakam off the dribble early in the second quarter. He went one direction and he ended up on the floor grabbing the lower part of his right leg. After being helped off the floor and screaming a word that can’t used in this article, everyone knew it was serious. Durant injured his Achilles and if the results of the MRI comes back torn, he could miss the entire 2019-2020 season.
With Durant turning 31 in September, a new narrative has now been created for one of the best players in the NBA. Can he be the man who could overcome? Can he overcome an injury that hasn’t been kind to players who have suffered it?
Who Were Never The Same After The Injury?
- Gerald Wilkins
- Maurice Taylor
- LaPhonso Ellis
- Christian Laettner
- Wesley Matthews
- Mehmet Okur
- Anderson Varejo
- Vashon Leonard
- Elton Brand
- Brandon Jennings
The players never put up numbers close to the averages they had before the injury. Most didn’t even play more than 3 or 4 seasons after the injury.
Players At An Advanced Age when the injury occurred.
- Kobe Bryant
- Patrick Ewing
- Elgin Baylor
- Chauncey Billups
These players above were 34 years old or older when it happened to them. Thirty-four is the normal age where players start to hit a bit of a decline.
Never Played Again:
- Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas
Jury Is Still Out:
- DeMarcus Cousins, who has played less than a year since his tear.
- Rudy Gay (Had his best shooting numbers of his career last season as he averaged 13.7 points and 6.8 rebounds this season). He is still recovering and doesn’t have all of his athleticism back at this time.
- Dominique Wilkins (2-time All-Star and scored 29.9 points a game in his first season back). Wilkins injured it at 32 and when he started his decline, it was around the normal age where players start to decline. He played in the league until he was 39 years old.
So What Does All That Mean?
As you can see, this is not the injury where a normal player returns to form. Only two players have played at a level that was close or right at the level they were playing when the injury occurred. This is an injury that is caused by extreme use and/or over working of that tendon. Durant has a chance to do something that no player who has had this injury has done. Be the same player he was before the injury occurred.
Where Does He Do It?
Kevin is a potential free agent on June 30th at 6 pm. Even though he has a $30.1 million player option to stay with the Warriors. He had been linked with the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets and even the Lakers as a prospective suitors for his services in free agency. The Warriors would want him to stay and get his redemption in the Bay Area next season, should they lose the finals.
If he decides to start over somewhere else, any team that has the chance to give him every single dollar possible, should do it with no questions asked. No matter the history of the Achilles injury, if anyone can overcome it and become better than he was before, it’s Durant. Because if anyone can outperform the narrative that is placed on an individual, it’s Kevin Durant.