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Kevin Durant and Redefining The Word “Nice”

I think this is my favorite side of KD. OH WELL! (photo from Kevin Durant’s instagram @SniperJones35)

Prayers and well-wishes to everyone affected by the tornadoes in Oklahoma. According to news sources, this is one of the worst tornado occurrences in history. Thankfully, the death toll is less than many other storms past … but any loss of life (including that of animals) is such a tragic thing. 

Oklahoma Thunder star Kevin Durant (my fav player behind the illustrious Christopher Wesson Bosh) has agreed to donate 1 million dollars to relief efforts. That is awesome and I’m so happy he’s doing  that — I’m also not surprised.

When I saw Durant’s announcement it got me thinking about his image and the whole concept of the “nice guy.”  What does that mean? How fully can we understand an athlete who is burdened with that tag in part because of his own statements?

In a nutshell, I think of folks who are described as nice as being boring and having nothing else to offer up for a narrative. No intellectual curiosity of note, no tales of wild unruly nights to share, no particular physical gifts or markings, no sense of humor to speak of etc etc. In the dating world, when a guy is described as nice he might as well be a serial killer because I’ve no interest in someone unworthy of better description. 

Kevin Durant and his mother and grandmother. (photo from Kevin Durant’s instagram @sniperjones35)

But KD doesn’t really fit that mold. I think at first he provided a nice contrast to those extremely weird and very likely pathologically disturbed people who hated Lebron James. And in this “everyone-must-have-a-brand” economy we live in the media married him to this narrative. I think on some level Durant understands that in this media environment you’re either the good guy or the bad guy and he chose to help  pigeon hole himself as a dutifully humble big kid lest he become the giant selfish monster those crazies I described earlier pegged Lebron James as. Durant’s humble act is as much a product of being raised right as it is a necessity in avoiding the contrived wild-eyed ire of the Skip Baylesses of the world. 

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But just as James has overcome years of being miscast as a villain, it’s time for Durant to de-emasculate himself. Durant will be 25 years old this year and he’s a grownnnn man who can do whateva he wants [Beyonce. 2013]. And if anyone is capable of giving the media a fully formed and multi-dimensional athlete to adore it’s Durant. KD might be a sweetheart with kind assessments of his more accomplished peers, a mother and grandmother he isn’t afraid to adore in public, a giving spirit, a willingness to admit being second all his life hurts, and a game that is less force than finesse…but he’s also a fashionable man who will curse out a rowdy fan in the first row, cover his body in tattoos, threaten to “slap fire” out of an offensive tweeter, show his irritable side in a presser, drop some good raps in his free time, and rack up double digit technicals during the season. 

Durant is no one thing nor should he be.

This season, Nike invested resources in the “KD is not nice” campaign which I wasn’t necessarily a  fan of. First of all, in black slang, the word “nice” in  basketball means great handles. So any time I’d see “KD is not nice” I’d have a visceral reaction because KD is clearly the nicest basketball player in the world aside from James. Secondly, besides the language issue, I wasn’t sure the point. Perhaps KD and Nike were trying to show us that Durant isn’t submissive to fiery teammate Russell Westbrook as many like to believe. Or maybe this was an attempt to make it clear that KD has an edge that is visually obstructed by the finesse of his game much like his many tattoos are kept hidden underneath his jersey. It all felt very blurry and unmoving. 

It’s time for Nike and Durant to regroup on his marketing. KD IS nice … but there’s more to him than being that or not. 



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