There’s a surplus of swag in the NBA today.
The Miami Heat have the best player in the world and the championship trophy. The New York Knicks have resuscitated the world’s biggest city with arguably the world’s best scorer and hard-nosed defense. The Los Angeles Lakers boast arguably the best player of all-time and have given us the most drama on one team since, well…the Lakers.
Nevertheless, the Oklahoma City Thunder are really America’s team. Their young and dynamic super star duo leaves little room for criticism these days, both on and off the court. Let’s be honest, most Americans identify with smaller Midwest cities like OKC. It embodies “the heartland” of this country.
That being said, why do Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continue to ‘mean mug’ opponents during games? It’s not a good look and, frankly, nobody’s buying it. I wouldn’t go as far as to call Westbrook & Durant ‘fake thugs’. I think it’s more like unbelievable thugs. These two wouldn’t hurt a fly and, deep down, they actually don’t want you to think that they would.
Every player is different. Some guys play better when they get all riled up and heated, others get out of sorts when the emotions get high. These two seem to play fine without the Scarface routine.
Kevin Durant is known as much for kissing his mom courtside during games as he is for his unstoppable scoring ability. That’s why it just looks so bizarre when he starts doing his Denzel act from Training Day. In a win at Atlanta last month, KD took over in the second half. Hawks coach Larry Drew was powerless to stop him. As memorable as his scoring tear was that night, I left the game haunted by Durant’s ‘Thug Life’ act in the 4th quarter. Forget his choir boy image, there’s something wrong about a skinny guy like Kevin acting like he wants to eat your children. He’s just as skrawny as he was back at the Draft, when people questioned his strength to play NBA basketball. It’s hardly the kind of physique a grown man would fear in an altercation.
Fast forward to the Thunder’s loss to the Nets at home recently. Kevin Durant was ejected for the 1st time in his career after a routine moving screen by Kendrick Perkins (he does them 3 times a quarter). Not only was it out of character for KD, but it wasn’t believable either. I seriously thought he was joking. It wasn’t until Kevin was in the tunnel that I realized the guy was actually mad. “I think I’m allowed to be frustrated, especially in this league [that's] full of ups and downs,” Durant told reporters. “Players are allowed to be frustrated. It is what it is. [I'll] move on from it.”
Teammate Russell Westbrook isn’t any better. His colorful middle school shirts and over-sized glasses make him look more like a child with down syndrome than an NBA super star at times. That is why it’s funnier than Kevin Hart when Russ angrily turns at guys after routine fouls and acts like he’s strapped. Metta World Peace basically laughed at him in last year’s playoffs. Harden didn’t even frown after getting bowed into a concussion. Westbrook, meanwhile lost his marbles when he merely bumped elbows w/ ‘MWP’ on a loose ball (okay, maybe it was a knee to the head). On Christmas Day recently, Dwyane Wade didn’t even pay Westbrook any mind when he was infuriated by a pretty clean Shane Battier foul (a rarity). Dexter Pittman wasn’t even going to waste a flagrant foul on the Thunder guard. In that six-point loss in Miami, Westbrook took his frustration out on the scorer’s table…netting a technical foul. “Part of the game,” he said afterward. Is it, though?
In my opinion, the Thunder’s scoring duo probably just watched too many rap videos growing up (hey, who didn’t?). I think a little more Sade and Andrea Bocelli on the iPod will get them back in sync with their true selves, back to embracing their true NBA identities. Whether they like it or not, they are America’s darlings.
Kevin & Russ don’t need to pretend to be thugs, anyways.
That’s what the team pays Kendrick Perkins to do.
(Got a comment? Leave it below)