Kevin Durant’s Legacy is The Only Thing that Matters

Kevin Durant has agreed to join the Golden State Warriors. It seemed absurd that this could even happen, but the rumours were indeed true after all.

There will be a plethora of hot takes on Durant’s move over the coming days, now that he’s made his decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in what Forbes has already described as a “smart business/basketball decision.”

Here’s the thing: Durant could have taken a one-year extension and stayed at Oklahoma, a team that came ridiculously close to edging out the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Make no mistake: OKC was a genuine title contender. They made a three-man trade for the declining Serge Ibaka that many viewed as a good net win. They just had to convince Kevin Durant to stay the course and stick things out. And they couldn’t even do that. How is it even possible?

Well, here’s the thing. Durant is being driven by a thing called “legacy”.

The dictionary definition of “legacy” is quite modest, in that it basically refers to a) something (such as property or money) that is received from somebody who has died; b) something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past. However, when viewed as a social construct, the importance of “legacy” suddenly makes a lot more sense.

“Legacy” is something that is usually, but not always, viewed after-the-fact. US President Barack Obama is currently in his own legacy-burnishing years, hyper-aware that every decision he has made will be framed within the context of how it will look to historians 50 years down the track. He’s got plenty of rings to his name: Obamacare, the Paris Climate Deal, ordering the raid that killed Bin Laden, etc. In politics, one must collect as many “rings” as possible, and deflect to these throughout the remainder of your life whenever questioned about your tenure (Howard, J, on gun control, etc).

Obama is all about legacy
Obama is all about legacy

High-profile athletes take a similar stance in regards to the importance of legacy. We are in a fast-moving social media world, where people can air their unfiltered thoughts via smartphones and have that message communicated globally. 

Everyone has an opinion on who the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) is, whether we’re offering a POTUS power ranking, or picking our top five point guards. It’s the easiest thing to do. So you think that Michael Jordan is the greatest athlete of all time? Why not Bradman, who statistically was a more dominant player in his chosen sport? And so on and so forth. It’s silly and unscientific, but nonetheless enjoyable.

On Bradman, it’s difficult to imagine he was conscious of the legacy he would be leaving in 1948, when he was dismissed for a duck in his final test. But then again, perhaps he was thinking about it, after all? An average of 99.94 has a certain symmetry and assonance to it, and perhaps the Don knew, even then, that this imperfect yet pure number would secure his legacy forever. 

That said, the idea of “legacy” does seem to be a distinctly 21st Century phenomenon. It has coincided with the uber-professionalism of sport (i.e. money) and the ubiquity of social media. Players make official written statements when they leave their club to justify the move in terms of their career, and to keep themselves from appearing the villain.

Kevin Durant released a statement on the Players Tribune website entitled ‘My Next Chapter’. In a bid to get on the front foot and control the message, he gave the following explanation for his decision.

“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player — as that has always steered me in the right direction. But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth. With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.”

chapter

Durant’s effort to categorise this move as not just a career decision but one based on “personal growth” and “my evolution as a man” is a commendable attempt to spin this in a positive fashion. Of course, this is corporate comms 101. He can’t exactly come out and say “I don’t think I can win at Oklahoma with this current roster. My best chance is to go to the best team in the Western Conference and win titles there. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Even though this is obviously the reason for his departure, he cannot actually say that. We’re not quite ready to hear that, yet.

It’s perhaps unfair that Durant has always been lumped alongside “one-club men” like Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, as someone who would play out their career for the team that drafted them. But it’s worth noting that all those players managed to win a championship. It’s this fear of missing out that has driven Durant to make the move to the Bay Area. What’s the point of being a “one-club man” if you can’t win a ring there, in a world where rings mean literally everything?

Like Obama, we see in Durant what we wanted to see. Durant was a friendly, polite young man with bucket-loads of integrity. But based on events somewhat out of his control, Durant has made a difficult decision based on realist principles (i.e. the relentless pursuit of championship rings), which will ultimately shape the way he is viewed both today and after his career is over. In short, the ruthless world of modern professional sport is no place for an idealist.

The fans and media cannot fault Durant for taking this opportunity even if it clashes with their desired perception of him as a loyal franchise player, for it’s the fans and media themselves who have forced players to carefully consider their legacies. The word “legacy” is a socially constructed idea that is influencing athletes to consider their careers in binary terms. If Durant doesn’t win a ring at the Warriors, he will be considered one of the great failures.

It’s reductive reasoning, sure, but sadly true.

By Dave Edwards

The Public Apology streams live blog: Miami v Dallas, Game One

The Public Apology‘s editorial team sat down for game one of the Miami v Dallas finals series, in separate locations, armed with laptops, popcorn and a sixer of beer. Mike Davis, known in web circles as Miked12, streamed the match via his NBA league pass subscription, while Dave Edwards, known on this blog and in R18+ web chat rooms as Edmachine23, settled for a lousy delayed ESPN coverage on Foxtel.

Read below for the live blog transcript:

First Quarter:

Miked12: Lebron doing his usual pre-game routine. Slapping it up with everyone within a ten metre radius.

Edmachine23: And Miami wins the tip-off. They’ll win from here.

Miked12: (11:42) Bosh straight to the free throw line. Knocks down the first points of the 2011 finals.

Edmachine23: Clearly buoyed by his recent signing with ThePublicApology as our food and wine critic/literary editor.

Miked12: Joel Anthony on Dirk? This could get funny.

Miked12: (10:00) Every team has an ironic value starter. For the Mavs it’s gotta be DeShawn Stevenson. He’ll probably get hot now…

Edmachine23: Why is there such an abundance of light-skinned black guys with copious tattoos in the NBA? It’s almost as much of an epidemic as the NRL’s ‘arm sleeve’ situation. Watch this space for future blog post…

Miked 12: (9:14) Dirk to the line. Automatic two points

Edmachine23: Yeah don’t let Dirk get anywhere near that free throw line. He’s like the child predator of free-throws: all he needs is a sniff.

Miked12 (8:20) Our resident food critic feeling the mid range jumpers.

Miked12: (7:48) Bibby jacks up a brick from behind the arc. Everything according to script so far.

Edmachine23: Is it just me or does Bosh look like he’s got his next ThePublicApology article on his mind? He was meant to submit that article to us at 10pm last night for publishing.

Miked12: Lazy cunt. Probably too busy e-reading Updike on his iPad.

Edmachine23: (6:20) Kidd is looking really old these days. Did I just blink and miss him age five years?

Miked12: (5:30): Lebron 1 Dirk 0. Early days though… Nice finish for the 3 point play.

Emachine23: Fucking ESPN just skipped six minutes of the first quarter in preference for a lame Erik Spolestra profile piece – fuck that, fuck American commercialism, fuck ESPN.  Thanks Stuart Scott, you cross-eyed bastard.

[meanwhile, across town at ThePublicApology headquarters…]

Miked12: ThePublicApology is loving NBA league pass. No ads. That means the Miami Heat dancers! Caliente!!!

Miked12: Everyone’s favorite midget (with inflated height listing) checks into the game. Barea on LeBron! Haha, JJ cops one in the mouth.

Edmachine23 (0:37): Yikes, LeBron nearly killed Jason Terry – who looks like a fitter, younger Martin Lawrence. Two fouls for King James, but he’s not getting taken out of the game yet. Because he told the coach he wanted to stay on. No-one tells the King what to do.

Miked12: Like to give a shout out to a Southeast Asian brother, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. Best Filipino coach ever. Plenty of competition in that field.

Achtung baby!!

Second Quarter:

 

Edmachine23 (11:20): Geez, Nowtizki went harder to that basket than Hitler went into Poland.

Miked12 (10:24) Miller decides to wake up for the finals. Someone other than the Three getting in on it.

Miked12 (9:40): Loving the up tempo small Mavs backcourt of Barea andTerry. Great to watch.

Timeout

Miked12: Heat cheergirls giving away free tees.

Edmachine23 (09:02): Barea gets to the ring around a tidy screen, goddamn this midget is fast.

Miked12 (8:30): Dirk needs to “fire up”. Where have I heard that before?

Miked12 (6:54): Commentators discussing how JJ Barea couldn’t get past security at arenas because no one believed he was a player. He is also dating a (recently) former Miss Universe. No joke.

Score update: 26-25, Dallas.

Edmachine23 (6:16): My God, Bosh’s facial hair is amazingly manicured tonight, reminiscent of George Michael circa-2004. Guy has style. And he hits the two free throws, nice.

Edmachine23:Heat president Pat Riley looks like Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street. Wearing a suit and everything.

Riley rocking the cover of GQ back in the day.

Miked12 (3:40): The Book Worm hitting ‘em from everywhere… By the way American Airlines is getting some mad naming rights/sponsorship exposure. Heat home court: American Airlines Arena; Mavericks: American Airlines Center.

Miked12 (3:00): Dirk taking Gasnier’s advice – massive three! Fire up you sad (insert expletive)!

Edmachine23: Yeah for a moment it was looking like it might be Dirk No-Ring-Ski yet again, good to see him fire up…

Edmachine23 (2:40): Wade totally got fouled then. He has got to be the most fouled guy in the NBA… he’s always leaping around and getting axed mid-air.

Edmachine23 (1:12): Kidd throws an alley-oop to Chandler, wooshka! Nothing better than seeing a small white guy distribute an tight pass to an enormous black guy who subsequently dunks the shit out of the basket. And its a foul!!

Miked12: Arrrrgh!!! (basketball is the only sport that makes you yell like that)! Fuck what a play!!

Miked12 (0:25) 0.25 Chalmers again! From downtown. Playing the pest to perfection! PS I know it’s hot in Miami but Mark Cuban is one sweaty human.

 

Kidd in harder times…

Third Quarter

 

 Edmachine23 (10:29): Shit Dirk made that 16-footer look easy.

Miked12: Yeah Mavs out to a quick start to the second half. Suddenly up by 8.

Edmachine23: Fine Foxtel, let’s spice up the coverage with some shitty Australian ads. What the fuck is this betting advertisement for Tom Waterhouse (tomwaterhouse.com): “four generations of betting in my blood…” Yeah, and an equal measure of jerk. Stop instructing me to bet. Why are you trying to make gambling look like a high-class pursuit, do you think your artfully shot black-and-white TV ad is going to resonate with the average basketball watching punter? Fuck off!

Edmachine23 (9:30): What was that gay little eye-roll by Stevenson … fouling Dwayne Wade. Yeah, you did foul him.

Miked12 (9:00) Bosh is playing like a beast! Signed with The Public Apology last week. Coincidence?

Edmachine23 (8:00): Haywood takes his fanny pack off after being subbed on. What the fuck is he wearing a fanny pack for – he’s not a 60-year-old European tourist in Buenos Aires…

Miked12 (8:00) The Masterchef again! Chandler might be in a bit of foul trouble…

Edmachine23 (7:20): King James hits a three; he seriously had time to make a cup of tea then, where was the perimeter D?

Miked12 (6:28): Ever seen a 7 foot guy miss a dunk? Brendan Haywood just did.

Edmachine23: Yeah that’s terrible for a centre. What kind of a name for a black guy is Brendan Haywood, anyway? Nearly as bad as Steve Erkel. Was he adopted and raised by a middle class white family? Explains the fanny pack, possibly. And he has no tatts. Such a white kid.

Miked12 (5:56) Someone finally rejects the shit out of Barea. Stay out of Bosh’s kitchen.

Edmachine23: Yeah that was mean of Bosh

Edmachine23 (4:36): Wade hits the floor again.

Score update: 57-57

Miked12 (2:49): Dirk taking a breather. Bad Mavs turnover.

Edmachine23 (0:32): God, Juwan Howard is still playing? 17 seasons in the NBA. Knows how to hit his free-throws too, which comes with experience.

Edmachine23 (0:16): Dirk milked the shit out of that drive to grab a foul, Gasol-style. Let out the obligatory grunt to go with his flailing limbs and bulging eyes. Hits his two free-throws as well, of course. 6 from 6 in the game; 93% free throw this playoffs.

ThePublicApology’s food critic

FINAL QUARTER:

 

Edmachine23 (11:30): No Bosh, that alley-oop wasn’t for you. It was for King James. Next time just let him accept the pass, ok?

Miked12 (10:58) You know you’re up against it when Mike Miller is dropping threes on ya.

Edmachine23 (10:58): Yeah, he looks like some punk lad from Marrickville. Nice three pointer though.

Edmachine23: Commentator just said “Kidd is playing with the energy of someone in his 30s.” He is 38.

Miked12 (9:15): Barea doing everything right but can’t finish tonight.

Miked12 (6:40) Heat dominating the boards. How many cracks do the Mavs want to give them? Yep, Haslem makes them pay.

Edmachine23 (05:50): Terry goes for three and gets psyched by the Miami bench. Love how close they are to the action in this sport.

Miked12 (5:00): Mavs can’t buy a bucket.

Edmachine23 (4:34): James literally charges into a screen by Chandler. Two massive humans colliding; that’s KJ’s 4th personal.

Miked12: ThePublicApology wants to go to Miami. Caliente!!

Miked12 (3:58): Massive three point play for Shawn Marion. Couldn’t time it any better. Hits the weird free throw.

Miked12 (3:24) Great D, um D-wade… And he hits it down the other end!! Too much star power. Can anyone stop them?

Edmachine23: Yeah that is some serious end-to-end basketball…

Miked12 (2:56): We’re now in Dirk shooting free throws territory. How many trips will he make?

Edmachine23 (2:35): Holy shit! LeBron just pulled a mad crossover and an epic dunk – and 1. Love the onomatopoeia that comes with a LeBron dunk! Nowitzki’s mid-rangers are all that’s keeping the Mavs in this at the moment…

Edmachine23 (1:36): Stop fouling Nowitzki and giving away an automatic two points. The guy will not miss a free-throw. It’s like fucking clockwork.

Miked12: Yeah, Dirk, doing the usual… Auto-pilot.

Edmachine23 (1:08): Bosh dunks on a Wade steal and it’s a Dallas timeout. “Well we’ve lost this one boys, let’s just have a good last minute and look ahead to game two.”

Edmachine23: Love the final 50 seconds of a match when the crowd knows they’ve got the match in the bag…

Miked12 (0.38): Lebron just put the icing on the cake. Ouch…

Edmachine23: Yeah, mad LeBron alley-oop, great pass from Wade; he’s just fucking around now. This guy has more hops than James Squire.

Miked12: That’s it, it’s fizzled out. Great home win for Miami.

Edmachine23: Great win – and good to see the Big 3 hug it out after the whistle. Plenty of man-love there.

 

FINAL SCORE: Miami 92 Dallas 84

high fives all around...

By Dave Edwards and Mike Davis