Yay! Kevin Durant’s going to be in a movie. This is going to be awesome. Great news.
OK, maybe we shouldn’t get excited just yet.
When I heard the news that Durant had signed on to star in a movie with a basketball subplot, I cringed a little bit. I’m not sure the general reaction to this news, but if I was cringing — I enjoy just about everything in the world — I have to think I’m not the only one.
Why did I react this way? Because it makes me a little nervous. Right now, we’re all about Kevin Durant. That’s a great thing. There are many worthy players to root for and support in this league, and Durant is at the top of the list. He’s ridiculously talented, unfailingly polite and as genuine as they come in the world of pro sports. He’s great for the league and the excitement and interest in Durant works for me.
When the media falls in love with a player, it’s fun. But when they decide to break up with that player, it’s always ugly. We build him up, place him on a pedestal that’s so precariously high, even the most levelheaded of professional athletes aren’t able to keep their balance forever. When they don’t, when they trip and stumble, that’s when we’re done with them and when it all starts to go downhill.
Of course, I don’t expect Durant to make the same moves that have come back to haunt LeBron James, but this does remind me of how people jumped on Dwight Howard when he hadn’t made the appropriate improvements to his game while he was making significant moves off the court. The harshest critics turned toward his non-basketball ventures and wondered if he wasn’t paying enough attention to his game and to getting better. I don’t see this happening with Durant because he’s been playing basketball all over the place and he’s been dominating at each of these stops, but I’d hate to see people judge him for wanting to expand outside of basketball a little.
Today’s professional athletes find themselves in a difficult spot with these things. They have to be on social media, they have to engage with fans and followers in a way never expected of them before, they have to sell their brand. Not taking advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them seems silly, but if they spread themselves too thin or if they don’t perform the way that is expected of them on the court, those opportunities are thrown back in their face.
It’s a delicate balancing act of proving that you’re more than just an athlete, but that your game is still the most important thing to you. We want our athletes to be well-rounded, but the thing we love about Kobe Bryant is his singular focus, his obsession with his craft. I’m not sure how you successfully balance both things. Maybe Durant won’t have to worry since he’s doing this during a lockout. I hope he doesn’t because it’s not fair. It’s not fair to fault a professional athlete for having more than one passion in their lives, regardless of how amazingly talented they may be at that passion. It’s also not fair to build someone up so high that the fall is inevitable.
To be clear: In no way do I think Durant is suddenly going to turn into a different person or player than the one he’s been for his NBA career thus far, but there is a lesson to be learned here. It’s the same lesson we’re supposed to learn every time we build someone up like this. I’m not saying Durant doesn’t deserve to be praised and applauded for his professionalism and affability. I’m glad he’s getting his shine. I just hope we all recognize that he’s not perfect. He of the otherworldly talent and superhero skills is still human.
Eventually there will be a mistake or a miscue, maybe a bad decision or something he will wish he could forget because this is what happens as you grow up. And it’s what we — all of us, fans and media alike — have to keep in mind when we’re judging the actions of these athletes who are living worlds we can be a part of, but cannot ever really relate to.
I hope Durant enjoys his foray into the world of film and I hope the movie is an enjoyable one. I also hope he continues to kick ass this season, whenever it is, so he doesn’t ever have to defend his right to having some fun, making some cash and trying something new. And really, guys, this is just a young man taking advantage of his position to do something fun that his fans should find enjoyable. It could be so much worse. At least he didn’t shock us by saying he wanted to model for Ed Hardy, right?