The knock on Kevin Durant has always been that he lacks the ever-elusive NBA Championship ring.
And it’s true.
That small – or not so small – piece of jewelry is more than just a fashion statement. It establishes relevancy and validity of an NBA career.
Look at Charles Barkley. The now-TNT analyst won an MVP award in 1993, led the Dream Team in scoring and was an 11-time All-Star. Despite those achievements, his lack of a championship looms over his career and taints it.
Durant, like Barkley, has been to an NBA Finals, but couldn’t capture it – falling to the LeBron-led Miami Heat 4-1.
The 6-foot-10 giant from the University of Texas has always been a force on the floor. He has won the scoring title, won an MVP and, as previously mentioned, is a Western Conference champion, but he has always lacked something – an edge.
He has never had that killer mindset which many of the greats – Jordan, James, Bryant, Bird – have all possessed.
He’s a nice guy. You don’t have to watch more than five minutes of his MVP speech to find that out.
But this seems to have always held Oklahoma City’s star back.
The 2016 Playoffs seem different, though, and Durant and his sidekick, Russell Westbrook, seem to both have an edge this year.
In the team’s opening series, Durant was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul on Mavericks rookie Justin Anderson and also was caught on camera elbowing a Mavericks player to the floor while boxing out on a free throw.
It was rare to see this from Durant, but gratifying at the same time.
His teammate, Westbrook, has always had this edge and continued to display it in the team’s opening series, as he was fined for inappropriate language directed towards a fan.
In the opening round, the Thunder went from being loveable losers to despised brutes and many didn’t like what they saw.
I, however, loved it. It’s what Durant needs to do to establish and validate himself as one of the greats – which he is.
The hostility and violence continued a few games later, but this time between both Westbrook and Durant.
The two were seen at a timeout arguing with each other, as Durant was clearly displeased with something his point guard had done or said.
But that’s healthy. That’s what teams do. They communicate.
The two expressed what they needed to and were seen moments later after an OKC run high-fiving, their relationship no worse for wear.
The Thunder are currently tied with the Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals, but have to be considered legitimate contenders to win this series after their game two win in San Antonio.
Durant has always been a nice guy with superstar talent, but we all know “nice guys finish last,” and Westbrook and he seem to be finished living by that mantra.