BY JOHN ROHDE
Feb. 10, 2017
Here’s what I hope will happen Saturday night during pre-game introductions when the Golden State Warriors visit the OKC Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena:
Durant receives a standing ovation as he walks through a tunnel of teammates. The public address announcer pauses to allow Durant to soak in the moment for the loudest ovation ever given to an opposing player inside The Peake. The decibel level rises each time Durant smiles and waves to the crowd as he fights back tears. The cheers slowly subside and pre-game introductions finally continue.
Here’s what I expect will happen:
A sellout crowd stands as Durant slowly walks through his tunnel of teammates. No one is able to hear the public address announcer. Though there are some cheers, they are overwhelmed by venomous boos. Durant continues to walk slowly onto the court, avoiding eye contact with the crowd and doing his best to hide his heartache. He does not smile. He does not wave. After only a slight pause, the public address announcer continues with other introductions, unable to be heard over the steady stream of boos.
It shouldn’t be this way, but it’s unavoidable given all that’s been said, written, rumored, implied, twisted and misrepresented since Durant’s decision to leave last summer. Intentionally or unintentionally, Durant ripped out the hearts of locals and, intentionally or unintentionally, he continually has stomped on those hearts ever since.
Durant’s departure from the Thunder has forever changed his legacy as a player. Rather than continuing his relentless work for a championship ring with his original team, Durant instead opted to have it gift-wrapped.
Local folk appreciate achievement that’s gained through dedication and hard work. They embrace those who refuse to surrender until that goal is reached. For eight years in OKC, Durant proved himself worthy, until he did the unthinkable and quit. Rather than finish what he started, Durant abandoned ship and latched onto a life preserver in the 73-win Golden State Warriors.
Durant said he left because he wanted a new challenge, but nowhere in the NBA is winning the championship less challenging than joining the Warriors.
How impressive it would be if Thunder fans were able to take the high ground Saturday night. Being able to rise above the fray and welcome Durant with open arms might do more to enhance this state’s reputation than anything Durant did on and off the court while he was here.
Expecting Thunder fans to not boo and instead give Durant a tear-jerking ovation understandably is asking too much. For them, this entire experience has simply been too painful.
Perhaps Thunder fans could agree to a compromise: During pre-game introductions, nothing but cheers for KD. During the game, nothing but boos. Fair enough?
Hey, Durant will understand that business is business. He is the enemy now, and he’s the one who made it so.