One of the consequences of player empowerment — there a lot of them — is the willingness of players, particularly stars, to voice unpopular opinions without fear, to express themselves like they never have before.
Then, there’s Kevin Durant’s phone...
In the past couple of days, KD has returned fire against criticism directed at him by Hall of Famer and six time NBA champion Scottie Pippen. It’s not something stars have done in the past, but Durant, as he’s often said, isn’t going to leave well enough alone. As he wrote back on Twitter in response to rapper Glasses Malone...
There’s No relax champ. No relax when I’m on Twitter. I’m on 10 until the second I close the app. You relax!!— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) March 23, 2021
Yeah, it’s gotten him in trouble in the past with burner accounts and in his back-and-forth with Michael Rapoport, who was most recently and most accurately called a “professional loud mouth.” But as Kendrick Perkins, Shannon Sharpe and Jay Williams learned and as GQ wrote recently, Durant’s feed is not “sanitized sponsored posts from a corporate partner or copywriter-approved tweets promoting their latest project.” It is also a lot of fun.
Which brings us to this week and his tete-a-tete with Pippen. It started with Pippen, now 56, offering his thoughts in a lengthy interview whose main purpose was pushing his new signature bourbon and an autobiography. Pippen said the Nets lost to the Bucks not because Kyrie Irving was out with a severely sprained ankle or that James Harden was playing on one leg. No, he said, KD didn’t have faith in his teammates as he broke individual scoring records with 49 points in the Game 5 win and 48 in the Game 7 overtime loss. Pippen also compared Durant unfavorably to LeBron James.
“James is a complete team player who understands team and winning. Has [Durant] gotten to that level yet? He went home,” Pippen told Yahoo Sports. “I think he still has some learning to do in terms of what it takes to will a team to victory.”
When asked if Durant had elevated his game in the 2021 post-season, Pippen compared Durant to James. That is a no-no for Durant who has repeatedly said he wants his game to speak for itself, not compared with another player, past or present.
“I feel like [Durant has] always been this player,” Pippen said. “But I see a lot of a talk now going on about, ‘Has he surpassed LeBron James?’ Surpassing LeBron James takes a little bit more than an individual’s effort.”
And KD took it personally.
Less than 48 hours after Pippen critiqued Durant, the Nets superstar went on the offensive and went on Twitter...
Didn’t the great Scottie pippen refuse to go in the game for the last second shot because he was in his feelings his coach drew up the play for a better shooter??— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) June 24, 2021
In the 1994 playoffs, in between Michael Jordan’s two three-peats, Pippen did indeed refuse to play at the end of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals when Phil Jackson designed a play for Toni Kukoc instead of him. The incident was caught on video. (In an interview this week that was also timed for the publication of his book, Pippen calls the play, which resulted in Kukoc winning the game, a “racial move” designed to boost Kukoc’s confidence.)
KD vs. Scottie didn’t end there either. Durant, whose knowledge of the game’s history may be unmatched among current players, also contended that Pippen had once timed a surgical procedure so that his rehab overlapped with the start of the next season...
This guy Scott also wanted to enjoy his summer so he chose to rehab during the season lol yo @ScottiePippen THEY FOLLOWED PHIL, NOT YOU!!!— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) June 24, 2021
The back-and-forth can’t be characterized as a conversation. Pippen hasn’t responded. Others have, with criticism of Durant. That is not likely to deter KD now or in the future.
And in fact, Durant was at it again Friday. Jackie MacMullan, the respected ESPN writer, talked to Bill Simmons about what she said KD’s plans for a legacy in Brooklyn...
Jackie MacMullan on Kevin Durant’s desire to leave a legacy in Brooklyn:— Jac Manuell (@TheJManJBT) June 25, 2021
“I do think in talking with him, his genuine goal is to win three championships in Brooklyn.” pic.twitter.com/w6DAn0e9kU
KD took exception to MacMullan...
Once again, I don’t even talk like this…plus I don’t have a relationship with Jackie for us to have in depth conversations about my intentions as a basketball player. I get she plays an opinion based sport but she framed this like we are friends. We are not.. https://t.co/0D2GszSwhA— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) June 25, 2021
How does the NBA feel about these Twitter confrontations? You might be surprised. Matt Sullivan in his new book, “Can’t Knock the Hustle,” suggests the league is fine with it. It’s part of fan engagement. He writes...
“The NBA and its corporate partners wanted players like KD posting in the comments sections and clapping back at random fans on #NBATwtitter, to leverage that irresistible combination of live programming and personality, chasing a generation of cultural consumers who were running from institutions toward individuals. The business model was a 24/7 reality show.”
Meanwhile in an unrelated conversation, Steve Kerr, who played with Pippen and Jordan and coached Durant, spoke about the Nets forward. He compared KD to MJ calling his former charge “more gifted” than his former teammate.
“He just showed he’s the most talented basketball player on earth, if not of all time. I think he’s more gifted, I really do,” Kerr told NBC Sports’ Raj Mathai. That’s saying something, but Kevin (Durant) is a different … entirely different breed. He’s 6-11 with guard skills, unlimited 3-point range, passing, shot-blocking — His shot-blocking at the rim, it’s just stunning. Watching him this year was really, really gratifying to see.”
Here’s the video, via Twitter of course...
Steve Kerr says Kevin Durant @KDTrey5 is more gifted than Michael Jordan pic.twitter.com/O7kJw8yBEd— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) June 23, 2021
So there you have it.
Durant doesn’t appear to be consumed by the online confrontation. He has been going about his business, having a good time watching a Mets game on Wednesday night, a Liberty game on Thursday night with Joe and Clara Wu Tsai. He’ll let his words speak for themselves ... and lay in wait for the next opportunity to have fun on Twitter.
Get up every morning lol— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) June 27, 2021
In other words: You know who he is. He is Kevin Durant.
- Kevin Durant has perfect response to Scottie Pippen’s leadership dig - Jared Greenberg - New York Post
- Kevin Durant ‘still has some learning to do’ after playoff exit: Scottie Pippen - David Lazar - New York Post
- ‘They followed Phil, not you’: Kevin Durant claps back at Scottie Pippen - Tory Bannon - ESPN