Somewhere between Oklahoma City and Oakland, Kevin Durant went from Mr. Rogers to Mr. Hyde.
In 2014, when Durant won the MVP award, he captured America’s heart by crying at the award ceremony and calling his mother “the real MVP” in heartwarming fashion.
In 2018, Durant was tied for third in the NBA in technical fouls behind only league leader Dwight Howard and his teammate Draymond Green, two of the most infamous hotheads since Rasheed Wallace.
So what happened? How did mild-mannered Kevin Durant turn into a monster?
Turns out, according to the man himself, he was a monster all along.
In 2016, Durant gave the kiss-off to Oklahoma City after the Thunder blew a 3-1 Western Conference Finals lead to the same Warriors team that would go on to blow the same advantage against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
He told Russell Westbrook at the time that “it’s time to be selfish.”
And now, Durant’s out there texting Chris Broussard seemingly out of the blue just to keep his name in the spotlight.
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) August 1, 2018
“The guy you see now is the real me, the guy in OKC was the phony,” he said. “I was just trying to please everybody.”
Which, when you think about it, just makes Durant’s weird offseason the flip side of an already well-documented coin.
Durant is notoriously thin-skinned. He got in an Instagram beef with a teenager who insulted him, a display that just made Durant look petty and childish.
And if someone is sufficiently insecure, there’s really a binary response — they can try to be a people-pleaser and hope everyone likes them, or turn heel and feed off the negative energy.
It’s a broader symptom of Durant’s weird inability to deal with other human beings in a manner that’s socially acceptable, something Zach Baron of GQ noted way back in 2015.
“I had a fiancée, but … I really didn’t know how to, like, love her, you know what I’m saying? We just went our separate ways,” said Durant.
The fiancée in question was Monica Wright, WNBA player, whom the young Durant admired more like an adolescent than like an adult. His wedding proposal took a page right out of a Hollywood rom-com.
Durant continued, “We was just hanging out, chilling. And I felt the energy. I felt, I need to do this right now. And I just did it. I was like … We’re engaged right now? We’re about to get married? So I was just like, cool! I love this girl. But I didn’t love her the right way.”
The bottom line is that Durant is tired of trying to be the nice guy, and it’s clear that the misanthropy just beneath the surface has finally boiled over.
And rather than try and suppress those feelings, Durant’s embracing them, and for the first time in his life, he seems bizarrely comfortable in his own skin.
So hate on him all you want. He’s got two Finals MVP awards and the rings to go with them, his personality is perfectly suited to being the cold-blooded mercenary on a Warriors team that occasionally loses the eye of the tiger, and he drinks the haterade with his breakfast to make himself a better basketball player.
If nothing else, he’s taking the advice so often given to the socially awkward.
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