This past weekend, Kevin Durant, the one-time NBA darling turned bitter front-running villain, returned to his old home court to a much-deserved, nasty homecoming. His welcome-back presents were a chorus of boos and profanities from his old fans, and a bevy of hard fouls and harsh words from his old teammates. The antagonistic reception was to be expected, regardless of Durant’s lengthy resume of past exploits for the team, after the biggest superstar in franchise history abandoned ship to join the one squad that had prevented the franchise from returning to the NBA Finals.
Kevin Durant and his supporters will maintain that KD’s only obligations in his free-agency decision were to himself and to his family, and that he had the right to go wherever he pleased. This is certainly true and it’s difficult to imagine how anyone could argue this point. It’s also true, however, that those betrayed OKC players and supporters are similarly only obliged to support members of their own franchise, and they maintain a right to react to KD’s abandonment however they please. Considering the self-serving decision that Kevin Durant made, one that bucked every tenet of the spirit of competition, as well as the circumstances in which he made that cowardly choice, it would be surprising if KD is ever able to return to Chesapeake Energy Arena without getting heckled and chastised. If that was my team, and sixty years down the line Kevin Durant came back to town for a Throwback Thursday night, I’d be sitting front row donning a cupcake t-shirt, with a “F*** KD!” sign taped to my walker.
Fortunately for me, I’m not an Oklahoma City Thunder fan. Nope, I’m a Washington Wizards fan and I’m rooting for John and Brad and Jason Smith right now as write this while watching the two teams match up tonight. (BTW who would have thought when OKC was 1 game away from returning to the Finals and the Wizards had been out of contention since early April, that just 9 months later it would the WizKids who had the brighter future??) But even though I wasn’t personally betrayed by Durant teaming up with the basketball equivalent of the Galactic Republic, I was completely repulsed by the choice all the same.
Two weeks from tomorrow, Kevin Durant is scheduled to visit another one of the towns he previously called “Home” for his first time as a Warrior – in what is currently 2nd to only Kobe’s last game in DC for the most ridiculously over-priced basketball ticket in Verizon Center history (It is beyond me how anyone can justify paying $200 for the worst Lower Level seats when the same seats consistently go for under $20 at other games!!) With the exception of the boos he induced last year with his comments deriding the #KD2DC fervor, Kevin has generally enjoyed a warm reception when he’s returned to his native DMV to play professional basketball games. But just as KD is no longer welcome anywhere in the state of Oklahoma, the image of the Bay Bridge on the front of his jersey should also preclude KD from being treated as anything less than an enemy at the Phone Booth. Durant has been beloved as the basketball pride of the region, and therefore it’s easy to imagine that arguing to heckle the man could be considered a hot take. But here are some quick thoughts on why it should instead be considered an obligation for any true Wizards fan.
Shame the Bandwagoners
As anybody who’s been to a Wizards game knows, the city is full of fans from other NBA teams. No matter what game you go to, from a tilt versus the Memphis Grizzlies to one against the Portland Trailblazers, there will always inevitably be a sizable contingent of fans in the Verizon Center rooting for the road team. Being that DC is a mixing pot of folks from all over the country who move to the city to work in government or politics, the presence of away fans is a fact of life.
When this becomes a problem is when sports fans born and raised in the District jump on the bandwagon of the day rather than root for the hometown team. Over the past decade, the Wizards have seen its fan base dwarfed by the likes of the Lakers, then the Cavs, then the Heat, then the Thunder, then the Cavs again, and now the Warriors. (Why do you think these tickets are so damn expensive?) The band wagon obsession is more than a problem that has afflicted our city; it’s a virus. Bandwagon n***as marry bandwagon b*****s and have bandwagon kids. Now, Kevin Durant, who is supposed to be our hometown hero, and whose presence on the Thunder made it the one team outside of the DMV acceptable for DMV residents to root for, is following the same trend as all the pathetic flakes who buy themselves and their kids jerseys that say Curry and Thompson on the back rather than Wall and Beal. Us Wizards fans don’t accept this behavior from our fellow basketball fans, so why should we accept it from the biggest basketball figure to come out of this area? What’s worse, it’s all too obvious that bandwagon fans from DC will conveniently site their support for KD as the reason they suddenly support the most talented team in NBA history. The same way that we use the jumbotron to tease those DC fans with too little inner fortitude to rock with the home squad, we need to mock the NBA player too scared to fight for a championship with anyone but the most stacked team ever.
Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City?
While DC has always showered Kevin Durant with much love and respect, he’s never exactly returned the favor. And now, his latest decision shows how little concern he truly has for this town and its fans. As Wizards fans, we can’t begrudge Durant for not coming home to play for the Wizards. Having lived here, he must know all too well how quickly promising dreams turn to dashed hopes within this city’s sports scene. It happens every year and in every sport. That’s precisely the reason why every self-respecting Wizards fan is enjoying every moment of the team’s recent success, but not yet visualizing even a game past the first-round of the playoffs. Still, couldn’t KD give just a little bit of acknowledgement of our support for him? You mean to tell me that he couldn’t even take the time to take a meeting with the Wizards, even if it was just to politely say no thanks? If for nothing else, than to validate that all the time we spent tagging our tweets with #KD2DC was not totally in vain?
Nope. Durant had no time to entertain the dreams of his hometown fans. In fact, the only comments we ever got about his view on playing for the Wizards was a rebuke of the fans around here. Not only that, as an extra insult to Washington fans, Kevin opted instead to hear the pitch from the Boston Celtics, the recently buried, new DC rivals. Seriously, KD!? That’s how you feel? You’d wear that ugly green jersey, sell your soul to Tom Brady, and go play for those Massholes before you’d play for the city that raised you? Damn, bro.
Partially, this is our fault for always being a little too eager to reunite with Durant; for being a little too available. Just like juvenile boys like Durant have been doing to naïve girls since the beginning of time, KD teased our interest, soaked up our affection, and then ultimately left for the sexier suitor, leaving us heart-broken with nothing to show for all the time we spent trying to make this relationship happen. If Kevin isn’t going to realize what he had with our support until it’s gone, then let’s show him how far gone it really is: with boo-birds every time he touches the ball.
Not My Precedent
The final reason that fans of the Washington Wizards have a duty to deride the Hell out of Kevin Durant when he visits in two weeks is a self-serving one. The example that KD is setting for NBA players, one of taking pay cuts to leave the teams that drafted them in favor of diminished roles and pressure on super teams, is a dangerous one for second-tier franchises like our own.
The Wizards have a former lottery pick up for a new contract this summer in Otto Porter. A few years down the line, it will be John Wall’s turn to test the waters of free-agency. Looking even farther ahead, we’ll eventually draft another franchise player who will one day have to decide between taking the harder route of pursuing a championship in Washington or opting for the easy route of joining a team full of All-Stars. Granted, our players like John and Otto are too valiant and have too much pride to make the same gutless decision that Durant did. Still, with our sports luck, we can’t rule out any tragedy, and we have to do what we can to get ahead of such an unfortunate situation.
Therefore, it is imperative that we set the tone now for how our fans are going to reproach the players who ditch this team versus how we’ll reward the players who make a commitment to our fans and to our city. Every player in the league, and especially those that wear the letters “dc” on their shorts, needs to see first-hand how the nation’s capital reveres athletes who stay loyal to the city and abhors endlessly those who do the opposite.
That all starts with Kevin Durant in two weeks’ time. When everyone sees how mean we are to a player who turned his back on a team that isn’t even ours, they’ll start getting the picture for how serious we take loyalty in DC.
There you have it. That’s my plea for why we have to make Kevin Durant’s next return to DC one of his most combative encounters yet. This goes further than simple discontent with KD’s free-agency decision. This is more about protecting our turf and demanding to be taken seriously as NBA fans.
Now, I’m not saying KD should be doomed to eternally be derided whenever he comes to DC. But though Durant is the DMV’s native son, like all children, he needs to be disciplined. Maybe one day, KD, like Lebron did for Cleveland, will realize his transgressions against his hometown and work to right them. If and when that day comes, I’ll be the first to say we should forgive him and welcome him back into the DC fraternity. After all, hand in hand with parental discipline, comes the opportunity for mercy and redemption.
That being said, for the time being, every Wizard fan with tickets to the Wizards-Warriors game on February 28th should be rocking a red and blue cupcake t-shirt and a stockpile full of insults and boos for Kevin Durant.