There are so many ways to digest sports content these days, from TV shows and newspapers, to blogs and social media. I find the most relaxing way of exploring the wide world of athletics is the tried-and-true method of kicking back with a wonderful book.
In my childhood I voraciously pored through epic basketball tomes like “The Jordan Rules: The Inside Story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls” by Sam Smith, and Phil Jackson’s “The Last Season: A Team In Search of Its Soul”. I was enamored with how the authors could reveal puzzle pieces of backstory that connected to larger narratives of character and will, unveiling the secrets behind the athletes I revered.
Legendary Oakland sports scribe and acclaimed author Marcus Thompson II has continued in that tradition with his latest book about a certain former Golden State Warrior, “KD: Kevin Durant’s Relentless Pursuit to be the Greatest”.
You may know Thompson’s work from his current post at The Athletic or from his previous bestseller, “Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry”. Thompson’s latest piece is a fascinating peek into the mind of Durant, a future Hall-of-Famer with an insatiable desire for both internal and external exploration.
But don’t take my word for it!
Here’s New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Abrams adding a beaming review:
“Marcus Thompson connects from deep with this intimate dive into the life and career of Kevin Durant in delivering an insider’s perspective, provoking analysis, and an expert’s balance. Thompson doesn’t take a snapshot. He paints a complex portrait and captures all the multitudes of a dynamic athlete trying to carve his legacy. The dean of all things Warriors delivers yet again.”
And here’s a random stranger on Twitter who enjoyed the book:
Finished reading 'KD: Kevin Durant's Relentless Pursuit to Be The Greatest' by Marcus Thompson.— just kev (@JustKevohhh) June 7, 2019
Love reading sports books. Highly recommend. Marcus has a way with words. Awesome to read more on KD's upbringing esp. in PG County. Learned a ton about the league.
Thompson was gracious enough to hang out and chat with GSoM on the “Dr. Tom and Gold Blooded King” podcast during the NBA Finals (on his birthday!) to promote this book and give us a deeper perspective of all things basketball.
GSoM scribe and published author Dr. Thomas Bevilacqua is here to let you know why Thompson’s latest book is a must read for any hoop junkie in Dub Nation and beyond.
What was Thompson able to reveal to the readers about Durant’s mentality?
Thompson does a great job of conveying just how important basketball is to Durant. When you read this book, you get this real sense of why this sport means so much to him. The chapters detailing his youth, growing up in the DMV, Thompson makes it clear that basketball in so many ways saved Durant’s life.
There’s a quote by Henry David Thoreau from Walden, “All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be” and I think that’s what Durant found in basketball. He is a basketball player, first and foremost, above all. He’s an evangelist, a priest of this game because it gave him so much--not just the money of his contracts and his fame, but a purpose and a meaning. Thompson makes crystal clear in his book. You know he not only understands that but wants to make it apparent to you as a reader.
Which part of the book surprised you the most?
Though I knew a little bit about the tough times of Durant’s upbringing, I did not properly grasp the depth and degree of it. But mainly I was surprised how well Thompson was able to understand Durant and tell his story on the page. Though defined by his basketball player-ness, Durant is and remains an enigmatic figure, more so than a lot of other athletes.
It was going to be tough for any writer to compose a book about Durant that felt true to the subject matter. This book could have gone wrong in the hands of many writers. But Thompson, one of the best writers working today, was more than up for the task. A challenging subject necessitates a great writer and that’s exactly what the subject of Durant got in Thompson. To put it another way, perhaps I’m not surprised but I’m nevertheless impressed.
In hindsight, did the book give you any clues into the insight of KD, and whether or not he was leaving the dynasty?
I don’t think, upon reading the book, there was any way to tell whether Durant would stay or go. I remember finishing the book and thinking certain parts spoke to the idea that he’d be back while others hinted that he might be gone. Because of that, I think it gave us a clear window into Durant’s mind.
The lack of clarity was a kind of clarity because Durant is a complicated man with a complex mind. He’s so distinctly human, holding contradictory thoughts and feelings in his mind. I truly believe there was no way of knowing one way or another until it actually happened, there were no true tea leaves that could tell us anything. There were reasons he could stay, there were reasons he might leave. Thompson depicts that possibility and that reflects how well he was able to understand Durant and what he was about.
Putting aside your legendary University of Texas (Durant’s alma mater) bias aside, which of Thompson’s two Dubs related books is your favorite?
I enjoy the book on Durant more but I think his Curry book is probably a little bit better and stronger. The Curry book is also, in some ways, a story of the Warriors franchise (at least over the past decade or so) while the Durant book is a narrative about an individual.
What other Warriors related books should a true Dub Nation member pick up?
Without a doubt, any Warriors fan must read Jack McCallum’s book Golden Days: West’s Lakers, Steph’s Warriors, and the California Dreamers Who Reinvented Basketball. McCallum is one of the great basketball writers and this might be his best work (though, obviously, I am biased).
If you read that book along with Thompson’s two books on Curry and Durant, you’ve got a pretty good window into the dynasty. Erik Malinowski’s Betaball: How Silicon Valley and Science Built One of the Greatest Basketball Teams in History is also worth a read as well.
What’s your favorite basketball related read of all time?
It’s hard to not go with either of David Halberstam’s basketball books—The Breaks of the Game and Playing for Keeps—because they are that good. I’d also recommend A Sense of Where You Are by John McPhee and The City Game by Pete Axthelm.
If you have the spare change, the Library of America’s anthology of basketball writing is outstanding and includes an excerpt from a book written by Warriors great Tom Meschery (whose number was retired by the franchise) when he was a coach in the ABA (I’m biased as Mr. Meschery is friends with one of the English teachers who changed my life, but it’s still quite good).