Watching the media hype about the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of this year's NBA playoffs had to flat out suck for almost any Seattle basketball fan who suffered through Kevin Durant's 20-62 rookie season with the Sonics.
Whereas Durant would have been a beacon of hope in almost any other situation, his obvious talent was almost a final dagger in the heart of loyal Sonics fans who caught a glimpse of someone else's future. The realization that some other fan from Oklahoma might reap the rewards of Seattle's suffering only added to the anxiety of the team's anticipated departure.
Here was this clearly gifted -- though badly mishandled -- young future star who hadn't even scratched the surface of his potential, but had already managed to prove the validity of the Draft Kevin Durant blog. The pain of watching Durant and the Sonics being stolen away even came before widespread acknowledgment of Durant's status as a basketball dork whose genuine passion for the game either feels refreshing or unreal in a world of pro basketball prima donnas.
So amid all the nauseating ESPN-enhanced LeBron James hype, watching Durant quietly agree to an extension with the Thunder without a circus of narcissism makes an already painful situation for Sonics fans even worse.
M. Haubs' tweet in response to the situation concisely captures a sentiment one could imagine Sonics fans sharing:
Everything that @kdthunderup has done (& not done) over last week has possibly made me sadder to be NBA fan in Seattle than when Supes left.
J.A. Adande of ESPN.com elaborates on the situation, not so subtly juxtaposing Durant and James:
Yes, he'll stick in the sticks, far from Broadway, Sunset Boulevard or Ocean Drive. Oklahoma City has everything he needs: a gym with lights in it. And Durant is so into his team that he went to Orlando, Fla., to cheer on his mates in the summer league.
But before we get too warm and fuzzy, let's keep in mind the CREAM principle (Cash Rules Everything Around Me). Much like the decision facing Carmelo Anthony, who has a three-year, $65 million extension offer on the table from the Nuggets, Durant risked having some of this money evaporate under the next collective bargaining agreement, which will dictate contracts signed after next season. Counting the $5 million he'll make next season, Durant has some $90 million coming his way before he becomes a free agent again at age 26. He probably will be the last 21-year-old NBA player to have that opportunity.
Adande is right to temper the lovefest (or descent into depression) by noting the potential financial benefits of this deal to Durant. But let's be real: signing this extension a year before he had to is exactly the kind of commitment and loyalty Cleveland fans can only wish to have seen from King James. Not to suggest that the timing was deliberate, but Durant's quiet signing almost makes him heroic in stark contrast to James' televised villainy.
You can try not to care about the Thunder's success and certainly let the Haterade flow freely for Clay Bennett, but it's getting to a point where it's very difficult to hate on Durant. His latest move, whether genuine or merely a matter of personal gain, makes him a star that Seattle basketball dorks have to appreciate.
Ultimately, that makes it that much harder to stomach the relocation.