There aren’t really a lot of wholesome role models in sports these days. Although sports has always had it’s share of people who seemingly embrace the villain role. In the 70s, George Foreman embraced the term “bully fighter”. In the early 90s, the Detroit Pistons embraced their “bad boy” status.
Sometimes it’s not about being the villain. It’s just about antagonism being part of your game. Richard Sherman’s continued hounding of Michael Crabtree, and Lance Stephenson’s defensive strategy against LeBron are perfect examples of this. Though, as Stephenson proved, it doesn’t always work to your advantage. And it even gave someone like NASCAR driver, Tony Stewart, something to think about after his attempt to scare Kevin Ward Jr. off of the race track went horribly wrong at Canandaigua.
Some just let the hype go to their heads and turn them into total douchebags. Guys like Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Manziel, Terrell Owens, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, and Tiger Woods are excellent examples of this. Richard Sherman even fits this category as well.
Some just can’t keep out of trouble when they’re off the job. Aldon Smith, Michael Irvin, and Dez Bryant fit this mold (Although I’ll give Dez some credit for trying to work on his issues.).
And sometimes you’re not even trying to be the villain. Sometimes you just end up making a decision that makes all but one team’s fan base your sworn enemy. LeBron James can tell you all about that one. It’s the exact same decision that Kevin Durant has to face down in the next two years. It’s the exact same decision Durant is already being questioned about before he can even put any real and meaningful thought towards it.
ESPN recently did an interview with Durant, letting him know that his MVP acceptance speech has recently rendered him the most likable guy in the NBA at this time. His response:
“I didn’t do that to be marketable, to be looked at as one of the more marketable guys. Was just being myself, and, if people like (me) for me being myself, then I’m cool with it. I’m not trying to be nobody else or act a different way. I’m still a work in progress just like everybody else so I’m just going to continue to keep being who I am, and I enjoy all the partners that partner with me. I just try to do my best to represent them and do everything in authentic ways.”
So why do I feel that Kevin Durant represents the best of our city? Despite all of his talent, he doesn’t feel the need to constantly talk about it in the way someone like Richard Sherman does. People like Sherman, despite all of the talent that they possess, are so insecure in themselves that they feel the need to seek constant validation from others. They talk as loud as they do because, for whatever reason, they don’t feel as though their actions say enough. Durant, on the other hand:
“To be honest, if I wasn’t so tall, I could just fit in anywhere because of my personality. I don’t take myself too seriously; I’ll stay in the back of the line at Chipotle. I don’t come in anywhere and act like everybody needs to stand still because I’m in the room. I think I can just come in and fit in with everybody. That’s how I try to look at it. I’m (a) normal person that just plays basketball and happens to be on TV here and there.”
Durant’s humility and good nature are what represent the best of us. Because while certain parts of Oklahoma City aren’t always the nicest, most of the OKC residency is very friendly. Just ask any out-of-towner what stuck out the most about their experience in Oklahoma City, and 9 times out of 10 you will hear about how much friendlier and more hospitable everyone in OKC was compared to other cities they’ve visited. It’s as Grantland’s Bill Simmons once put it:
“At the same time, you never forget you’re in Oklahoma City. Not for a second. The locals have been impossibly friendly and welcoming, shades of Indianapolis during Super Bowl XLVI, only with the added wrinkle that everyone is overwhelmed that the NBA Finals actually came to Oklahoma.”
Quite honestly, his humility is the one reason that he can get free pass after free pass when he has poor performances. It’s the exact reason Oklahoma City residents turned on their local newspaper the second a critical headline about Durant was released. The backlash got so bad that said local paper actually had to issue an outright apology to put out the fire.
But then you’ll notice how the exact same residency will become highly critical of Russell Westbrook. The reason? Westbrook has a far more in-your-face attitude than Durant. Westbrook is a highly passionate player, and highly passionate players always find a way to rub someone the wrong way, intentional or not. His seemingly adversarial relationship with NBA Head Official, Joey Crawford, makes a great example of that.
But we shouldn’t focus on things like that. What we, as Oklahomans, need to focus on is continuing to be the most impossibly friendly town in the US. Let’s show the rest of America, and even the rest of the world, the best that humanity has to offer. If we continue to show outsiders love and support, maybe they’ll take some of it back to their hometowns and start spreading it around. So, in conclusion:
Everyone is welcome in Oklahoma City! Make yourselves at home! Just don’t start any trouble, and we’re going to get along just fine!