Russell Westbrook completed a historic NBA season that culminated in the unofficial title of Mr. Triple-Double and the NBA MVP award — both of which pale in comparison to his former teammate’s accomplishments during, and after, the 2016-17 NBA season.
Kevin Durant’s accomplishments on the season trump his rival’s because he turned every bit of criticism he faced from the moment he signed with the Warriors back onto the critics, bullies and naysayers. Westbrook escaped this nasty treatment by casting himself in the role of Hardworking Loyalist, at Durant’s experience — a move which now appears to be blowing up in his face.
No talking head has been more scathing in his critique of Durant’s move to Oakland than ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who accused the superstar of seeking a shortcut to a championship. This rhetoric is silly given that shortcuts to a championship do not exist, for any team.
Still, Durant made sure everyone would know that any title ring he’d slide on his finger would be the result of hard work — not coattail riding. He arguably was the best player on the floor for the Warriors during the 2016-17 season and, obviously, this was true for the NBA Finals: He brought home the Finals MVP trophy.
Durant did it all and Stephen A. was forced to admit his own foolishness and issue an apology.
But no one treated Durant more horribly than the Oklahoma City Thunder fans.
The tearful joy on the face of Durant’s mother, Wanda Pratt, after the team locked up the Game 5 win for the title — relishing the moment with Sonya Curry and Mary Babers-Green — was so moving because the path to victory was so very barbed.
Hearing Pratt explain how — during the Warriors’ first game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City — fans engaged in what amounted to character assassination, was simply heartbreaking. The taunts were vicious, bordered on violent and had racist undertones.
The jeers were a real low point in fan behavior and totally uncalled for, especially when considering how much Durant has done for poor and under-served communities in Oklahoma — work that did not end simply because he took a job in California.
Of course, Westbrook planted the seed of what transpired at Chesapeake Energy Arena that night by using baked goods to troll Durant on Instagram.
Westbrook wasted no time after Durant signed with Golden State to get his troll game on — sharing this innocent-looking display of July 4th cupcakes. But it was later revealed that the word “cupcake” was used disparagingly on the Thunder team, a term that meant “soft.”
Notice the delicious-looking red velvet cupcakes, positioned up front ...
(Of course, Chesapeake Energy Arena was filled with dancing cupcakes when the Golden State Warriors came to town.)
Meet the KDX “Red Velvet” sneakers by Nike
Durant exacts thick, treacly-sweet revenge.
ESPN’s Royce Young describes the newest colorway of the KD 10’s as “a red and black flyknit shoe with a frosty white sole.”
The Nike press release puts it this way:
“With a style of play as smooth as velvet, KD is known for having the most fluid game in the game today ... [e]ffortlessly making defenders look helpless, always ready to cook his next victim. He dominates the game with unrivaled versatility, forever motivated by the sweet taste of victory. At the end of the day, winning is all that matters and anything else is just icing on the cake. The KDX ‘Red Velvet’ celebrates the smoothest player in the game and his undying quest for the sweet taste of victory.”
The shoes retail for about $150 per pair, and many stores already have sold out. If the “Red Velvets” will be a super-limited run for Nike, perhaps the hype will generate sales that defy the current downward trend in the market for expensive sneakers.
CNN Money reported that Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Michael Jordan shoes — Under Armour, Adidas and Nike — all came up short on quarterly earnings reports, causing some retailers’ stocks to slide.
Given the across-the-board decline, economic, political and cost-of-living factors are likely behind the drop in sales of shoes that many consider to be overpriced anyway.
Everyone is human, everyone is vulnerable
Soon after the Warriors locked up the championship, Kevin Durant, in his documentary Still KD: Through the noise, provides a surprisingly candid glimpse into how the “noise” — bullying, trolling, criticism, whatever you want to call it — has affected him from the moment he signed on the dotted line to join Stephen Curry & Co. in the Bay Area.
He calls the noise-makers “bullies,” and says: “It’s easy for people to discredit (your hard work). It’s hard to tune it out. I work hard as hell. … It’s just a game to some people, but it’s real life to us.”
In other words, the relentless criticism got to Durant, the way bullying affects any feeling person — man, woman or child. Bob Myers marveled at the novelty of Durant being so open about the way he has been affected by all the unkindness directed his way, stating:
“Not a lot of people in his situation will express vulnerability, because it’s perceived as weakness. Right before he made the decision, he said something like, ‘I don’t know what to do. This is so hard.’ That to me was pretty profound to hear that someone who’s supposed to be some kind of superhero acknowledging he’s a human being — which he obviously is. But somehow we forget that we all have to make these choices in our careers and they’re hard.”
Money and career success do not make one immune to habitual cruelty, threats or insults. Additionally, Durant’s experiences this past season remind us that bullying is not just an issue that affects young people in schools, but a society-wide issue — from the White House to the smallest town — that involves adults, too. In the workplace, this behavior may be called harassment or intimidation, but the essence is the same.
In many ways, everything Durant experienced since signing with the Warriors could be looked to as a how-to guide for taking down bullies, haters and naysayers. A GSoM reader-cum-contributor coined the phrase “weaponized joy” to describe Stephen Curry’s special powers. The same concept applies to Durant, too.
Perhaps the lesson to those dealing with critics, bullies and naysayers is to keep composed and let the haters chatter. While they’re busy talking, work your ass off to put into play an epic comeuppance, in the form of success.
Success — and joy (!!!) — really are the sweetest revenge.
Now, if all this talk of cupcakes is tickling your sweet tooth, here’s Foursquare’s list of The 15 Best Places for Cupcakes in San Francisco.