Love them or hate them, on paper, The Golden State Warriors are one of the best teams in the NBA. With their acquisition of superstar small forward Kevin Durant from The Oklahoma City Thunder, they have become the team to beat.
KD opted to end his relationship with OKC and take his talents to the Bay Area when he entered into free agency at the end of last season. The move came with a heaping helping of controversy. It seems like everyone and their mother had something to say about the move.
Amidst all the chatter off the court, the Warriors and KD have been able to focus on the job of getting into their rhythm on the court. Kevin Durant has managed a smooth transition by doing three things that set him apart in a world where overinflated egos are the norm in professional sports.
- He owns his decisions.
- He acts as a professional, and
- He always allows his effort on the court to stand as his answer to his haters.
The highlight of the 2016 – 2017 NBA season thus far was the first encounter between The Warriors and KD’s former team, The Thunder, on November 3rd. This was obviously the most anticipated game of the season for a number of reasons, but what makes the outcome great is not the fact that the Warriors beat the Thunder by 20 points, or that they led by as many as 30 points.
What makes this game special is what we can learn from Kevin Durant about how to own your decisions and not crack under social pressure.
In the months between KD’s announcement to leave OKC and the November 3rd match up, the media had been in a frenzy trying to contrive a negative storyline between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Westbrook and KD were an outstanding duo that led OKC to a handful of Finals appearances. Their bond on and off the court was strong, and KD’s move seems to have had a strong impact on Westbrook.
After KD made his announcement in July, Westbrook initially remained quiet about his feelings about the decision. When Westbrook finally expressed his feelings, he chose to take a more subliminal approach.
Prior to Durant’s departure, OKC had an internal joke to refer to players who were “soft.” They would refer to these players as “cupcakes.” No one thought it was a coincidence that images of cupcakes started appearing on the social media accounts of various OKC players, with Westbrook leading the charge. In addition to confectionary photography, Westbrook showed up to Oakland, on November 3rd wearing a bright orange smock that read “Official Photographer.” This was a shot at KD’s love of photography (Durant was a sideline photographer for last year’s Super Bowl). When asked about the smock, Westbrook replied he thought it looked cool and that it had nothing to do with Durant.
As noted above, the media may have fueled much of the vitriol, but what remains clear is that Westbrook does not support Durant’s move. What was even more clear was the bravado and trash talk dished out by OKC on November 3rd. Amidst all the noise, Durant managed to score a season high 39 points, matched his career high with 7 three pointers, came up with a huge block, and made 2 assists (here’s the full gamelog). In all of the press conferences and post game interviews he did, he refused to play into the media machine that wanted him and Westbrook to express loathsome feelings toward one another.
At the beginning of the regular season, Kevin Durant’s new teammate Draymond Green said in an interview that there is a business aspect to being a professional athlete. Players are their own franchises, they are the CEO’s of their own businesses, and Kevin Durant made a decision that made sense for his brand.
Whether you agree with KD’s move or not, he’s proven three things to us. First, in any circumstance, you should always make decisions based upon what makes sense for you and your family. Second, if you’re a professional, in any industry, you should always act as such. Third, you should always let your work ethic and passion for your craft speak for itself.