Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The pursuit of happiness, KD-style

Well, this is a hell of a thing, considering we just celebrated the Declaration of Independence and all.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't it say something in there about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Kevin Durant went looking for all of that, especially the last part, and now they're burning his jersey in Oklahoma City and TV blowholes like Stephen A. Smith are calling him weak, and various and sundry others are saying, with deep disapproval, that it's not about the money for him, it's about the rings.

I'm sorry, but ... what?

Once upon a time, I seem to recall, we used to criticize athletes for being money-hungry mercenaries who only cared about drawing a paycheck and didn't care about, you know, winning. Now we're criticizing an athlete, apparently, for only caring about winning, not money.

I'm sorry ... what?

Look. I get that there is and always will be a constituency out there that hates free agency, that hates athletes who do what KD did, which is go shopping for the best deal. But that's what free agency is all about. It's what, ahem, the pursuit of happiness is all about.

Durant wanted to play where he had the best chance to win a title, and to play with a team whose style he found appealing. He found that, or thinks he did, in Golden State. Sure, he could have stayed in OKC and had a decent shot at a title there, but for how long? One year, until Russell Westbrook signs with someone else?

No. He chose Golden State because he likes the way they play and likes the guys who are already there. It's not weak. It's not cowardly. It's smart. And if it skews the balance of power in the NBA ... well, I seem to recall the Yankees using the old Kansas City Athletics as a de facto farm team back in the Casey Stengel days, when the Yanks won nine World Series in 13 years. How come no one complained about the Yankees skewing the balance of power in Major League Baseball then?

Simple. Because it was owner-driven, not player-driven. That's what has everyone freaked. That's what's at the core of the criticism. And yet there is fundamentally no difference. Durant acted in his own best interests. He had leverage and he used it. Why is he more selfish or worthy of disdain than any owner who's done the same thing? Or, for that matter, any of us who, like KD, have left one job for a better job?

Every time something like this happens, someone tosses out the old chestnut about how it's a shame no one has any loyalty anymore. But the truth is, hardly anyone ever has. Or perhaps you can explain what kind of loyalty compelled the Baltimore Colts to inform Johnny Unitas by telephone that he'd been traded. The face of the franchise. By telephone.

Yeah, boy. Lots of loyalty there.

And so Kevin Durant choosing Golden State, because he could?

Just that old worm turning. That's all.

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