To truly experience the greats play basketball is to be consumed by it.
Growing up, I was a very aloof kid. I lived most of my life in my head. Which explains why I never really noticed spring until I was in the sixth grade. We learned about it in school, I knew what it was and understood all the science behind it, but just never paid any attention to it while it was actually happening around me.
Until one day, I noticed it.
I saw the blossoms blooming in the dogwood trees. I saw the fresh honeysuckle in the bushes that separated my home from our neighbors. I saw its beauty. Everything felt alive around me. I was running around in my front yard and it literally stopped me in my tracks. I sat down for what was probably 15 minutes, but it felt like hours, and I just stared. I thought to myself: I will never forget this moment. I was 12 years old and I still haven’t. I can see it all, right now.
That moment consumed me. And that’s exactly how I felt watching Kevin Durant in that Bucks series.
Durant’s game has always been captivating. A 7-footer with handle, who moves and scores the way he does isn’t just anomalous, it is incomparable. We’ve never seen anything like it. But to witness an inimitable basketball player take their game to a place we had never seen before was truly something to behold.
Kevin Durant is the best basketball player in the world.
That’s what we call players who can reach levels no one else can on the court, right?
It’s hard to imagine how anyone who witnessed Game 5, a historic night where he played every single tick of the clock, putting up mind-numbing numbers, can convince themself otherwise. Then, we watched Durant battle in Game 7, hardly resembling a mortal until overtime when his mind couldn’t push his body past its human limitations.
After missing the game-tying shot, he barely had enough energy to express disappointment. Even in a loss, it was a special performance.
I don’t know how it felt to be Kevin during his stint with the Warriors, but I imagine it’s rough when it seems like the entire basketball world is set on minimizing you and what you’ve accomplished. In 2019, he carried the Warriors in the playoffs, dropping 32 points a night on 51% shooting and 44% from 3-point range.
He was inarguably superior to anyone he shared the court with, but that didn’t matter to most. Until he ruptured his Achilles and all that mattered was whether we’d see him be the player we went out of our way to undermine.
This season has been redemptive to an extent. His return has been miraculous. He’s also having fun on social media, leaning into the hate, heating up anyone who dares approach him with dissent. Whether you’re a Twitter troll, living in a basement whose sweat smells like saliva, or Scottie Pippen. Anybody can get it.
Yikes — but also facts.
He’s also decided to participate on the United States men’s basketball team, leading a solid squad that includes Damian Lillard, Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal in the Tokyo Olympics. It would have been more than understandable for him to pass, with the injury he’s returning from and many of the league's biggest stars choosing to focus on rest after this particularly difficult season. But he chose to hoop.
Kevin Durant is back. And maybe better. Hopefully this time, we don’t take him and his abilities for granted.
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