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Durant says his focus is on title but he’s not changing who he is to get it

Oct 28, 2013, 11:22 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Durant reacts during NBA Global Game against Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul Reuters

Last season Kevin Durant picked up 12 technical foul, which was pretty uncharacteristic of a guy cultivating an image as the nice guy around the NBA. He was yelling at teammates, referees, pretty much everyone but Rumble the Bison.

The reason was his title obsession, Durant told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman in a very honest interview.

“Last year, I was obsessed with it,” Durant said of winning a title. “Like, I wasn’t going to sleep because I wanted to win so bad. I was screaming at my teammates, at the refs, at the coaches. I got mad because I thought ‘if we have a bad game here, we’re not going to win a championship.’”

Durant said he basically went Michael Jordan/Kobe Bryant — obsessed with winning to the exclusion of all else. “If I miss a shot, I’m going to miss this shot in Game 6 of the Finals,’” kind of attitude.

And when Durant looked in the mirror after the season, he did not like who he saw.

That’s not him. He’s competitive — you don’t get to be the second best player walking the face of the earth without some fire inside you, without incredibly long hours working on your game — but he is not built in the Kobe/Jordan mold and doesn’t want to be.

He’s looking at the world differently this season.

“So I’m not going to let that overtake my mind,” said Durant of his championship chase. “I mean, of course I want to win it, but I’m not obsessed with it. I’m going to put in the work to help my team, but I’m not going to be obsessed with it because that’s when I compromise myself, and most of the time it doesn’t work out…

“Maybe it’s not (a bad thing),” Durant said of the obsession. “But for me, it was just, like, I wasn’t enjoying it no more. It was more like a job more than just going out there having fun playing the game. I never want to lose the love. Once you lose love of something and you make it into a job then …”

It flies in the face of the myth we’ve built up around winning in a post Jordan world, but Durant is right. We in Western culture gravitate to people who are single-minded in their devotion and focus, whether it is music or sports or making sushi. We idolize people who obsess over one thing and succeed. But there has never been one road to success anywhere, including in the NBA — Shaquille O’Neal has four rings, is a lock first-ballot Hall of Famer, he played hard on the court, but would you call him obsessed?

There is no single personality that can win titles. LeBron James won the last two and before that his critics said he lacked a killer instinct (some fools still do) but because he doesn’t go Jordan doesn’t mean he lacks drive or focus.

Durant is a joy to watch because he seems to just be having fun on the court, because he has a love for the game that is genuine. It’s different than Kobe or Jordan, but so what? You can win other ways and Durant needs to find his own path there. He just turned 25, he’s got time.

  1. letangusespertplus - Oct 28, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    It’s going to happen this year or next.

    • cg2424 - Oct 28, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      From a Thunder supporter…No. There just isn’t enough fire power to make it through the loaded Western Conference and knock off what will probably be LeBron searching for a 3peat in the Finals.

    • redbaronx - Oct 28, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      @letangusespertplus – It could happen, but I think they still need another piece. Too bad they couldn’t resign Harden.

      • adamsjohn714 - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:56 AM

        All they need to do is bench Perkins, play Ibaka at center, Collison at PF, Durant SF, Thabo SG, Westbrook PG (when he comes back). They’re instantly way better on the glass, defensively, offensively, etc.

  2. farvite - Oct 28, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Thanks to all the retards involved in letting the Sonics leave Seattle.

    • redbaronx - Oct 28, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      @farvite – I loved the Sonics. They always had entertaining teams and great players. If you want to blame someone, you should probably point the finger at David Stern. They could have advised owners not to accept the ownership group that moved to OKC. That group kept saying “no we’re not going to move them” when everyone knew that was EXACTLY what they wanted to do.

      • asimonetti88 - Oct 28, 2013 at 3:16 PM

        A good amount of the blame falls on Howard Schultz, the former owner of the Sonics, Greg Nichols, former mayor of Seattle, and the Washington State Legislature as well. And Mr. Bennett as well of course.

  3. antistratfordian - Oct 28, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    “I want to win, but I’m not obsessed with it.”

    He could’ve worded that better. If LeBron said that… yikes.

    And what if who Durant is can’t win a championship? He’ll probably change then.

    • adamsjohn714 - Oct 29, 2013 at 12:57 AM

      I don’t think it’s Durant who’s holding the Thunder back.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:00 AM

        That would be Scott Brooks, ultimately.

      • adamsjohn714 - Oct 29, 2013 at 1:01 AM

        Correct. He should just own up to whatever he did so Perkins can’t blackmail him into a starting spot anymore.

  4. zebra1020 - Oct 29, 2013 at 4:05 AM

    Mr. Helin:

    I haven’t heard anyone argue that Lebron doesn’t have a will to win. The argument was and is that he doesn’t have the “clutch gene,” meaning he often tightens up or gets a “deer in the headlights look” at crucial points of games, as though he can’t handle the situational pressure or is so worried about the consequences of missing a big shot at a big moment in a big game that he has often seemed afraid to even take the shot, especially in comparison to other superstars or current/future Hall of Fame players, (The exception is when he can get to the basket for a layup or a dunk, which is almost impossible at the end of most big games.)

    Although he has shown improvement in this area by displaying an increased willingness to at least take an open jump shot to win or lose a game (in contrast to his “hot potato – don’t give the ball to me” passing in the finals against Dallas), he still tends to shoot much less effectively and make more boneheaded plays at crunch time in very important games (as evidenced by the turnovers and bricks he shot at the end of game 6 of last year’s finals, including the one that led to Ray Allen’s miracle shot) than one would ever expect of anyone who’s even in the discussion for best player in the league, let alone best player ever. In fact, he was so close to being the goat in last year’s finals that I felt bad for him and the criticism he was about to face when they started bringing out the yellow tape for the Spurs victory celebration. Until his fearlessness and skill at the end of close, big games are reasonably comparable to what he displays at other times in other games, he should be left out of serious best-player-ever discussions. Is he one of the most physically gifted and unselfish superstars ever? Absolutely. Will he eventually display the crutch time courage consistently enough to be the best player ever? Maybe. But to anyone who’s watching objectively, he’s not there yet.

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