Kevin Durant Is a Swell Guy

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I really thought the writing in Sam Anderson's piece in the Times Magazine on the Oklahoma City Thunder was pretty top notch:


N.B.A. scoring champions are, as a rule, weirdos and reprobates and in some cases diagnosable sociopaths. Something about dominating your opponent, publicly, more or less every day of your life, in the most visible aspect of your sport, tends to either warp your spirit or to be possible only to those whose spirits are already warped. Michael Jordan, when he wasn't busy scoring, was busy punching a teammate in the face and gambling away small fortunes. Allen Iverson, in his spare time, recorded an aesthetically and morally terrible rap album and gave an iconic speech denigrating the very notion of practice. Kobe Bryant is and shall forever be Kobe Bryant. Wilt, Shaq, Pistol Pete, Dominique, McGrady, McAdoo, Rick Barry -- it's a near-solid roster of dysfunction: sadists, narcissists, malcontents, knuckleheads, misanthropes, womanizers, addicts and villains. While it's true that plain old N.B.A. superstars do occasionally manage to be model citizens (cf. Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, Steve Nash), there is something irredeemable about a scoring champion.

And yet there's this running theme through the piece that I found vaguely disturbing, wherein Durant is compared with a bunch of (allegedly) rougish NBA high scorers. Anderson is obviously being intentionally hyperbolic. 

But I'm not really sure what Dominique Wilkins or Shaquille O'Neal ever did that any other professional athlete didn't, or what Hakeem Olajuwan , David Robinson or Dwayne Wade (scoring champs not on the list) ever did either. I don't really know why McGrady is there either, besides making dumb promises. It looks more like a list of people who may not be good with reporters. 

Crowning that list is (of course) King James. I was one of the people that thought Lebron's exit from Cleveland and his comments after losing the Finals to the Mavs were tactless. But the kind of visceral hate he gets is incredible. 




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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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