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Durant defends LeBron opt-out: “I don’t think anything that you guys criticize LeBron [about] is fair”

Jun 26, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Miami Heat Getty Images

Even if LeBron James had no intention of leaving Miami — and I’d say there’s a 90 percent chance he stays — he was going to opt out of his contract this summer. There was no way for Pat Riley to improve the Heat roster if all three of the big three opted in.

Still, LeBron opening the door of NBA free agency sent off a frenzy, both among fans and in NBA front offices.

Kevin Durant doesn’t get it.

He really doesn’t get why whatever LeBron does gets ripped by critics. Durant launched the new KD7 shoe line on Wednesday and as part of that spoke to the Washington Post, where he defended LeBron.

“I don’t know what the big deal is,” Durant said, shortly after his “KD7″ was revealed. “You know, as a player, I think that’s the best way to go about it. You can have all your options. It’s better for you as a player to opt-out, because you can get a market deal, you can get more years. You never know what will happen if you pass up on that. So I didn’t know what the big deal was. I’m sure it was a decision he made — something he was thinking about — for him and his family..

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Durant told a small group of local reporters. “I don’t think anything that you guys criticize LeBron [about] is fair. He switched teams; he’s not the first guy to do it. He decided to opt out; he’s not the first guy to do it. Sometimes a lot of people criticize him a little bit too much for doing normal things, doing stuff that everybody has done. [Even] Tim Duncan went into free agency before. He got courted by quite a few teams. We’ll see what happens with me, but everybody’s done the same thing. He’s not the first.”

What’s going to happen with Kevin Durant in 2016? He’s going to opt out. Not because he wants out of Oklahoma City (it’s far too early to have that discussion) but because under the new CBA even if he wants to stay he can get more years and more money if he opts-out then re-signs with his team.

LeBron’s critics were going to rip him no matter what he did here, as they have since “the Decision.” At this point, LeBron could save a child from a burning building and his critics would want to know why he didn’t put out the fire while he was in there. It’s the way of the world.

But opting out was his only real choice. Pretty much the same for Durant in two years, we’ll see if the teflon is off him, by then.

  1. pillsbury13 - Jun 26, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Whatever KD…Lebron is not trying to get a “market” deal. He opted out because he doesn’t want to compete and earn his rings. He wants the EASIEST path to a championship – something YOU didn’t do. And then you reference Tim Duncan who has been with the same team for EIGHTEEN years. Too bad you can’t delete these comments.

    • calkinsrob - Jun 26, 2014 at 11:55 AM

      “He opted out because he doesn’t want to compete and earn his rings” That may be the worst comment ever Ive seen on this website. are you serious?? I agree 100% with KD.

      • chalkruz1989 - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:26 PM

        Agree with you @calkinsrob. Fans get caught up in their emotions too much. Lebron James has the ability to opt-out and entertain his options. Players have every right to leverage every angle they have, owners and general managers do the same thing.

      • dstroi - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        @calkinsrob,Why though?

      • borderline1988 - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:45 PM

        It’s a stupid comment because every player wants to win a championship. Kobe Bryant also wants the easiest way to a championship; for him, it happened to be that staying on the Lakers was in fact the easiest way. He was ready to bolt once the Lakers were crappy (remember that?).

        Most great players would switch teams if that’s what it took to win a championship. If the Bulls roster (sans MJ) sucked like the Cavs did from 2003 – 2010, you can bet your bottom dollar MJ would be leaving in the mid-1990s to win a ring. What about Kevin Garnett leaving Minnesota? Gary Payton, Steve Nash, Karl Malone?

        The absolute greatest NBA players in history (Larry Bird, Magic, MJ, etc) who never left their team also had multiple HOFs on their teams. They never needed to leave. Cleveland’s 2nd best player throughout Lebron’s tenure there was freaking Mo Williams. How the hell do you compare that guy to the likes of Worthy, Abdul-Jabbar, Scottie Pippen, etc.?

      • borderline1988 - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:48 PM

        Also, according to your logic, I should be criticizing Larry Bird for NOT leaving Boston. It was ‘easier’ for him to win a ring in Boston alongside a roster filled to the brim with HOFs.

        Clearly, Larry Bird didn’t want to compete to win a championship so he stayed with the Celtics.

    • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      “He wants the EASIEST path to a championship – something YOU didn’t do.”

      KD only did what LBJ did – extend with the team that drafted him. But it sounds like Durant might be dropping hints about his future intentions…

    • raysfan1 - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      He’s got 2 rings and 4 straight finals appearances. His “easiest path to a championship” is to stay in Miami. That may indeed be his plan, especially if he resigns with them for less than max dollars.

  2. reesesteel23 - Jun 26, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Well. He’s right. Even trolls know he’s right. Now trolls are going to turn on KD and say “take Lebrons nuts out of your mouth” or “Ok, I hate KD now”….so lets hear it folks

    • azarkhan - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      Anti is the official Keeper of the Kings Nuts, not KD.

    • hwatt - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:11 PM

      “KD stop swingin off LeBron’s nuts!” I just wanted to say ‘swingin off [his] nuts’ again like the old days. thx for the opportunity, lol

  3. bankai78 - Jun 26, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    I just glanced at this article. I cant believe LeBron started a fire in a building with a child in it. Typical LeBron.

    • willkill4caffeine - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:31 PM

      thank you for making my day

    • bkbell3 - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      very nice

    • miamatt - Jun 26, 2014 at 4:48 PM

      Yeah, but it was only a 2 alarm fire. He better call those guys from “Backdraft” and learn about starting REAL fires.

  4. bucrightoff - Jun 26, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    Of course he thinks this, when he bolts OKC he doesn’t want the same criticizing of his actions as LeBron got. Still gonna happen though.

  5. ProBasketballPundit - Jun 26, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    Maybe LeBron just wants to be the highest paid player on his team for the first time in his career.

  6. sumkat - Jun 26, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    I agree with a lot of what KD said. Much of LeBron’s criticism is ridiculous. Most of it is because they personally don’t like the guy, mostly due to “the decision”. There were some people who didn’t like him before that, but he make Kobe look like Tim Duncan these days

    My criticism of him is that in the big games, he doesn’t dominate the 4th quarter. It’s great to put up 30 points, but in the NBA, games are decided in the 4th quarter. Outside of a few blowouts here or there, 90% of games come down to a few possessions in the 4th. Who gets the stops, and who gets the conversions. THAT is when the best players need to step up. For all the great things he’s done (and he’s done a lot of great things), IMO, he still has that problem, AND had it this year in the finals.

    I don’t consider that “hating” on him, if anything when I don’t see it happen it kind of disappoints me (My team is awful, and aren’t beating any team LeBron is on anyway, so I may as well root for seeing greatness). But the criticism is still there….but there is still not doubt he’s the best player in the world right now

    • pillsbury13 - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:28 PM

      That’s the thing, you have logical points, but even logical, thoughtful points are considered “hating”.

    • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      I didn’t think people like you existed anymore. You must have a selective memory. You’ve already forgotten about the greatest Finals game in history – Game 6 2013. Miami won that game because headband-less LBJ completely dominated the 4th quarter, on both ends. He did it again in Game 7.

      Games do not get bigger than that.

      You do realize that James hold the playoff record for most consecutive points scored for a team in a playoff game with 25 straight. He scored 29 of his team’s last 30 points – all of it coming in the 4th and OT. It was easily one of the most clutch playoff performances in history.

      • sumkat - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        So out of we’ll say 25 huge games, he’s dominated one of them?

        So has Jason Terry

      • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:06 PM

        One!? You have got to be one of these people that only watches James about 3-4 times a year.

        There isn’t a player who has won 4 MVPs and 2 Finals MVPs by age 28 (or any age) that didn’t regularly dominate 4th quarters of games big and small.

      • seansull83 - Jun 27, 2014 at 3:54 PM

        Anti you have selective memory because I clearly remember him losing in the 4th quarter with the Cavs against Boston. He may have moments, but his weakness is his closing. It’s always been there regardless of one series last year. It’s about when you dominate. When it’s 8 points down with 1:20 left in the game, LBJ hasnt stacked up. And I can name several MVPs that weren’t clutch, KD is one of them.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 27, 2014 at 4:03 PM

        Dude, dude, dude…. It was 1 on 5 when he was on the Cavs, and he still dominated 4th quarters despite that. You have a selective memory if you don’t also remember MJ losing in the 4th quarter against Boston and Detroit for the same reasons.

        When James was at CLE not only did he lead the league in clutch scoring in a few seasons, but he was always a top clutch scorer, and he also set the record for most consecutive points scored for a team with 25. All of it coming in the 4th and OT.

        In other words, it’s a myth. James has always been fantastic in the 4th. He’s always been fantastic in every quarter.

        And it’s crazy for anyone to say James isn’t clutch when he’s 5/10 on playoff game winners under 10 seconds. That’s 50 percent. MJ was 6/13 on those shots for his entire career.

      • seansull83 - Jun 28, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        Every quarter, you just made it official that you can’t hear bad things about James. 4 points and 2fouls in 1st quarter is fantastic. 2 points in a 3rd quarter where in the 1st you dropped 19. I don’t care if in some of those games it was 1 on 5, he is touted as the second coming. He isn’t as great as other closers. It isn’t about scoring, it’s about being clutch, he let an older Paul Pierce rip the ball out of his hands in the ECF. That’s not clutch. He couldnt inspire his team for three straight games in the finals when they were getting blown out, that’s not clutch. You can spit a bunch of individual stats just don’t matter because as I have watched him so far, he has only lived up to his moniker twice. But regardless of what I say, I’m wrong because James is perfect. He created the sun the moon and sliced bread.

        Also it isn’t selective memory to not remember games MJ played when I was 8.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 28, 2014 at 9:21 PM

        Wow. You are lost. LeBron is one of the greatest closers in the history of the game. He is easily one of the most clutch players in the history of the game… his Game 5 vs Detroit, Game 4 vs Indiana, Game 6 vs Boston and Games 6 & 7 vs San Antonio has proven that without question.

        You can’t even name as many famously clutch playoff games from MJ. Jordan’s single most celebrated playoff game is his Flu Game – but he already had 4 rings by that time – so that wasn’t anywhere near as clutch as LeBron in any of the games that I listed.

        In fact, MJ doesn’t have ANY storied playoff games where as much was on the line for him as James did in 2012 and 2013.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 28, 2014 at 9:26 PM

        Wow. You are lost. LBJ is one of the greatest closers in the history of the game. He is easily one of the most clutch players in the history of the game… his Game 5 vs Detroit, Game 4 vs Indiana, Game 6 vs Boston and Games 6 & 7 vs San Antonio has proven that without question.

        You can’t even name as many famously clutch playoff games from MJ. His single most celebrated playoff game is his Flu Game – but he already had 4 rings by that time – so that wasn’t anywhere near as clutch as LeBron in any of the games that I listed.

        In fact, MJ doesn’t have ANY storied playoff games where as much was on the line for him as James did in 2012 and 2013. You can’t name any famous playoff game from MJ from 1991 or 1992 (his first two rings) because they don’t exist. He didn’t do anything as miraculous as what LBJ did against Boston and Indiana in 2012 when his entire legacy was on the line.

  7. getlow81 - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    What a incredibly pouty-like thing for Durant to say, I can even imagine him saying this with a baby voice…I don’t even believe that it’s people being as “critical” about LeBron as he makes it seem, it’s more of everybody having a strong opinion about what he does. Not to mention he’s simply the best player in the game, bar none. Generally, I think everyone agrees that LBJ probably made the right choice to opt out and see his options.

    • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:06 PM

      What KD is probably doing here is asking people not to hate on him too much when he becomes a free agent and tests the waters.

      • raysfan1 - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        …and then resigns with Oklahoma, just like I expect James to do in Miami. It’s the one time a player has real leverage. He can command a max deal or work out a lower money deal to create cap space for another free agent. It would have been dumb of James to not opt out. It will be dumb of Durant to not do the same.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:55 PM

        Maybe, maybe not. Hard to say.

        But if KD is still ringless (and if fans start criticizing him for that) and if he doesn’t like the direction OKC is going… who knows.

      • raysfan1 - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:30 PM

        Okay, yes, much can happen in 2 years. Fans here in OKC are pretty unlikely to turn on Durant. I don’t think the franchise is going to be a problem as of right now. Ringless could easily happen because getting through the western conference is just that hard. It’s my feeling that he has sunk roots here, though, so my money is on he opts out but stays put after using his leverage–which, as I said, is also what I think James is doing.

        On the other hand, if either of them utilize the opt out clause and do relocate, that does not make them some sort of traitor either. They will then have fulfilled the terms of their respective contracts and owe nobody anything.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:38 PM

        Well Durant’s roots aren’t anywhere near as firmly entrenched as LeBron’s were in Cleveland, and Bronny still left.

        But James is a different case. His team didn’t draft well. They were never able to find him a complimentary star like Westbrook or Pippen. And the pressure on James to win immediately was just a tad bit more intense.

  8. thenew013 - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    People only notice the hate. LeBron gets so much love it aint even funny but nobody seems to ever mention that. Probably ate dinner at a nice 5 star Miami restaurant last night…FOR FREE. I’d honestly rather hate on Melo but all you people want to talk about is LeBron.

  9. andrejohnsonforpresident - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    lol nothing new here. Haters gonna hate. Lebron always catches the fire because he’s the best player in the league. I’m happy you all exist. It just makes being a fan of Lebron James that much better. On a side note. If you can’t respect the skill and commitment that he has invested into his craft, as a person. Then you probably have none of your own.

    • pillsbury13 - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      Im happy LeBron exists…it makes watching kawhi leonard outplay him that much better.

      • fanofthegame79 - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:22 PM

        But Kawhi didn’t outplay LeBron….the Spurs outplayed the Heat. I’m pretty sure LeBron’s numbers were heads and shoulders above Kawhi’s. Put it this way, LeBron averaged almost 28 points against the Spurs ………. Kawhi had the highest point total since high school with 29 points.

    • seansull83 - Jun 27, 2014 at 4:25 PM

      I am not a fan of just one player, that’s dumb, and really shows you only like what is trendy. I acknowledge LBJ is a great player, but I don’t have to like him, he is in the eastern conference on the Heat which is a team I despise as a loyal fan of the Celtics.

      It’s such a cop out saying “Haters gonna hate” you only acknowledge you aren’t a fan of the game and not a fan of theHeat by you own admission. You follow LeBron which means you like the Cavs and bought a New Jersey when he went to Miami. He doesn’t deserve my respect, he is paid to play. He’s a professional, but respect is mutual and I am sure he could care less about what I do with my life.

      • andrejohnsonforpresident - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:28 AM

        I accidentally stumbled across your response 54 days later. An i’m glad I never saw it and hate the fact that I just read it. What a waste of time.

  10. loubearkane - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    Maybe KD is laying groundwork for his eventual move to New York

    • fanofthegame79 - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:23 PM

      Or Washington DC.

  11. skinsfanwill - Jun 26, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    Funny how no criticism was thrown at Melo for opting out.

    • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      No one else is held to the same standards. But I don’t mind it as a LeBron fan – playing through unprecedented levels of scrutiny and still dominating is part of what makes him so uniquely great.

      So I don’t want people to back off him, to be honest.

    • gostlcards5 - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:57 PM

      No, it makes sense. LeBron was on a team that basically walked to the Finals. Melo is on a team that stinks. People expected Melo to want to test FA to get himself into a better situation while he’s in his prime.

      All that being said, the criticism of LBJ is ridiculous. Totally agree with KD.

  12. edavidberg - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    Kevin can’t opt out, he wanted to give OKC his commitment for the full five years to help build the team.

    • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      It sounds like he regrets that. He won’t make the same mistake on his next contract.

  13. kb2408 - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    But he takes a totally uncalled for shot at the dude that just beat LeBron and won Finals MVP. Just shut up, KD, and do something Kawhi has already done.

    • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      What has Kawhi done? Get traded and ride coattails?

      • cantonbound13 - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:01 PM

        Kawahi won the MVP award that you pathetic bandwagon fans predicted LeGina would get. That’s all Kawahi did.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        So… not much then. He rode Duncan’s coattails and was given an award he didn’t deserve. Hey, that last part is just like KD. So Durant has done what Kawhi did.

      • tved12 - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        Ok, from such a LeBron apologist, you should be more wise about your choice of criticism. Many people say the same about LeBron.

        “What has LeBron done? Join a team of superstars and ride coattails?”

        PS, I like LeBron too. You just can’t give anybody else credit your so obtuse.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        Of course we’ve all heard that nonsense – but those people don’t understand what coattail riding is. When you’ve won 4 of the last 6 MVPs/Finals MVPs & 6 of the last 12 MVPs/Finals MVPs, people are only hitching their wagon to your star. You’re doing all of the heavy lifting.

        Kawhi Leonard is not even the 3rd best player on his own team.

      • tved12 - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:01 PM

        Is that why LeBron couldn’t get any star players to come to Cleveland? Because everybody was trying to hitch to his wagon?

        I get it dude, LeBron is great. That doesn’t make all other players bad.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:14 PM

        Star players tried – but CLE management preferred the cheap route. This did not please the King.

        But it’s why Wade and Riley begged him to go to Miami – so they can hitch to his wagon.

        And who said all other players are bad? I don’t even know where you’re coming from with that, guy.

      • bbbmf - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        So I’m just scrolling through comments, occasionally shaking or nodding my head when I see this, “…and was given an award he didn’t deserve.”

        You call yourself a basketball fan? Do you have any knowledge of the game? Ever played? Coached (8yo y-league doesn’t count)? Heck, have you ever even really watched a game without biased goggles? Leonard is [and has] been an integral part of San Antonio’s success for the majority of the past two seasons. You may/may not see him in the box score but his presence on the floor is huge!

      • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:03 PM

        Yes, not only have I played but I was good enough to play in college. I started at SG.

        I didn’t say Leonard wasn’t integral to San Antonio’s success – I said he didn’t deserve Finals MVP. I’m not the only one who thinks that.

        If anyone on the Spurs deserved Finals MVP it was Duncan. The Spurs probably could’ve won the series without Leonard, but they could not have won without Duncan’s defense at the rim.

      • loungefly74 - Jun 26, 2014 at 4:27 PM

        hmmm…i don’t remember it being Wade/Riley hitching their wagon to James. In fact, a lot of the hoopla was it was still Wade’s team. Obviously, things have changed…but it did come off like James was fleeing to miami, in which he had every right too, to be with a strong cast. hey, to each his own. a lot of criticism comes from the fact that James is one of the greatest ever to play but he had to go somewhere else…it’s a stigma that will follow him for the rest of life (well, more so the fan’s lives)

      • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 5:46 PM

        Riley went all the way to Cleveland with a bag of rings in the hopes of luring him. Miami came to him.

        The only people who have a problem with James leaving Cleveland were people who never wanted him to win a ring. So that means every Kobe fan on the planet. Everyone else thinks it was the right decision – and it was.

      • loungefly74 - Jun 26, 2014 at 8:53 PM

        Kobe fans? I think you missed the mark there. Having lived in Ohio now for a while, I can tell you the epicenter of hate originates from here…where we worshipped him…

        Sure Miami lured him…but it was like a kid being tempted with candy. He left. Point is…even though he had every right to leave, it came across as a bad mark on his legacy. Maybe it may be difficult for a person overseas to understand, but its the consensus here in the US.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 26, 2014 at 9:05 PM

        I didn’t say you were a Kobe fan. I’m saying that Kobe fans didn’t want LeBron to win a ring. Well, let’s put it this way – the only people who criticize him for leaving are those who have no interest in being objective.

        I’m not overseas now – I was born overseas. And it’s definitely not the consensus here that it’s a “bad mark on his legacy.” Winning rings and MVPs in Miami has only helped his legacy – tremendously. After his 2nd ring pundits like Simmons and Magic put him in the top 10 all-time. Clyde Drexler named James as the best ever. So much for the black mark.

        The real consensus is that people understand why he left Cleveland because the consensus is that Cleveland doesn’t know how to manage a basketball team.

      • seansull83 - Jun 27, 2014 at 4:44 PM

        Anti you have zero objectivity. Did LBJ win ths year? No and he is the leader. Does he deserve the criticism, yes because he asked for it. This was the first year I saw him humbled. He is capable of dropping 40 a game, but they single covered him most of the time. Most teams double him, so the Spurs and Kawhi did the job, stop LeBron. He was never in control for more than quarter of the game, very unlike him from recent history.

        You can fawn over him all you want but the truth is he was a non factor. I could car less about his MVP awards, it’s a award voted on pundits. His stats are individual accomplishments, but he has only gone the distance twice.

      • antistratfordian - Jun 27, 2014 at 5:16 PM

        LeBron accounted for 37.8 pts a game. In Games 2 and 5 he accounted for 42 total pts. In Game 3 he accounted for 39 total pts. His lowest offensive point output of the series was 32 from Game 1 when he missed most of the 4th.

        So what delusional world do you live in where you think a player who plays 38 min a game, puts up that much offense, shuts down the Spurs best offensive player (Parker), and lays down a 32.2 PER is a non-factor!?

        Mario Chalmers was a non-factor. Dwyane Wade was a non-factor. LeBron was the only factor Miami had. The Spurs only stopped Miami’s guards; they definitely did not stop LeBron. So, on the contrary, you are the one showing zero objectivity here.

  14. trickybastard - Jun 26, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    Yeah I don’t feel sorry for people that make $50 mil a year. Give me $50 mil and criticize me

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:07 PM

      Amen. I’d be on a nice small island in the Caribbean somewhere living a comfortable, simple, stress free life.Sun, sand, surf, fishing, sunsets, seafood…

      Ya’ll could complain about me 24/7 and I’ll still include ya’ll in my prayers each night… here is an example…

      Dear God,

      Thank you for my children, my health, the $50 million, the chance to help others with it, thanks for beer, seafood, tiny bikinis and please help those poor souls posting on PBT to feel better about themselves…


  15. sportsfan18 - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    KD can reapply a huge protective layer of Teflon by winning a title…

    AND should said title come in the summer of 2016, none of the Thunder fans will mind that he opted out to get a better deal with the Thunder going forward per the CBA…

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