- - Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Remember when Kevin Durant was that nice, generous young man who had become a hero to Oklahoma City?

He was a favorite son of the District, having grown up here in Washington, and, after a year with the Seattle SuperSonics, he helped the NBA franchise re-establish itself in Oklahoma City after the 2008 move.

Who can forget the pictures of Durant meeting with victims of the devastating 2013 tornado that destroyed people’s homes and lives there?

Every remembers that Durant fondly.

Brooklyn is a long way from Oklahoma City.

It’s been six years since Durant was a beloved NBA superstar with all the boxes checked.

He is not that guy now.

Durant may still be generous, with good intentions. Last year, he reportedly donated $10 million to a program helping Prince George’s County students get to college.

But he has become the face of the other NBA — the off-the-court melodrama that has become the league’s currency for success.

If you needed any more evidence that the action away from the game has become more compelling than the actual product — the game itself — just look at what has happened in these opening days of free agency. Where Kawhi Leonard will play next season gets more attention than the championship he just won in Toronto.

Leonard wants to meet with Magic Johnson to talk about the Lakers, except Magic can’t do so since he was exiled from the Lakers after the stories came out of behind-the-scenes backstabbing and lying — currency for a generation that grew up watching Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of Hooterville.

The league’s resident Science Guy, Kyrie Irving, obviously doesn’t like to wander too far, going from Boston to Brooklyn, perhaps for fear that if he tried to go to Los Angeles and joined LeBron James and Anthony Davis, he might fall off the end of the earth somehow.

And guess who reportedly is joining the Irving in Brooklyn? Oklahoma City’s one-time hero, Durant — except Durant won’t be able to play until at least perhaps 2021 as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon. Yet that didn’t stop the Nets from reportedly paying Durant $164 million for four years, even though he may only be able to play for three, and no one really knows how Durant will play when he steps back on the court at age 32.

The NBA — it’s not basketball.

Durant has become the king of the melodrama.

Nothing remains of the kid everyone fell in love with in Oklahoma City.

He left there in 2016 after failing to win an NBA title, despite being teamed with two other superstars in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. When he left, the people in Oklahoma City felt betrayed and he went from hero to enemy. That’s not unusual. What made it strange — and began the narrative of Durant the drama king were the reports about the bad feelings between him and Westbrook, and then his anger over the less-than-warm welcome he received from fans when he returned with his new team. So he hated his old team and they hated him.

His new team was the Golden State Warriors, which had already won an NBA championship and gave Durant the best chance to latch onto a title. He did so, winning two NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVP awards.

He strangely got credit for none of it. Instead, he was criticized by former players for seeking NBA titles instead of building his own championship legacy. As Durant recovered from a calf injury during these recent playoffs, the story became that the Warriors didn’t need Durant to win. So he stepped back on the court to play and within a half, went down with a torn Achilles tendon that has sidelined him for at least one season.

The Warriors were beside themselves with grief. The general manager cried at the postgame press conference. And even though Durant has departed Golden State for Brooklyn, the team just announced they will retire Durant’s jersey — all interesting reactions to the talk that the Warriors may have bungled their handling of Durant’s injury that led to his decision to return to the court briefly in the finals — and it may lead to a huge lawsuit against the team by Durant.

Are the Warriors trying to appease a player who has shown time and time again he is ruled by his own thin skin, reacting to any little comment by teammates, opponents or fans?

When the Wizards supposedly were deluding themselves that they would be in the Durant free agent sweepstakes three years ago, one of the main reasons Durant wouldn’t even take a meeting with the team was that he had no desire to play at home and deal with all the drama that comes with family so close to work. Turns out that it doesn’t matter where Durant plays — drama, disrespect and delusion follow.

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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