Kevin Durant swore to TMZ that he’d never act again after making his big screen debut in the 2012 box office disaster "Thunderstruck." Well, it looks like KD changed his mind. On Tuesday he starred in his very own version of HBO’s "Entourage" called "The Offseason: Kevin Durant." Like the Vincent Chase character in "Entourage," Durant pals around with his own Turtle and Johnny "Drama" named Cliff Dixon and Devonte "Black" Young – both childhood buddies of Durant’s. He also has his own version of 'E' played by longtime friend and manager Charlie Bell. He even has his own Ari Gold in agent Rich Kleiman. Durant’s "Entourage" is also largely set in a glitzy Beverly Hills mansion, and it’s chock-full of the obligatory guest appearances by fellow NBA superstars such as Carmelo Anthony and Steve Nash. Fittingly, Durant’s one-off TV show was also produced by HBO.
But "Entourage" is a scripted show whereas "The Offseason" is a documentary, right? No. It’s not. And fortunately, it never presents itself to be one either. In fact, HBO themselves call it a "reality special." Keyword: reality. But not as in "the world or the state of things as they actually exist." No, this is "reality TV" and there is a huge distinction between the two. Trust me, I spent six horrific months as a Production Assistant in reality TV when I was starting out in the "biz" and I had the (dis)pleasure of working on gems like, "The Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious." Although there might not have been a script, that show was not "real" – that includes the manufactured drama as well as the cast members’ personalities and breasts. But I digress.
Durant’s HBO show has more in common with a Tyler Perry movie than a riveting unauthorized tell-all documentary. Perry writes, directs, produces, and stars in his own films. "The Offseason" is a TV show produced by Durant about Durant with Durant playing the version of Durant that he wants the world to see – and that’s the most important thing to take away from all of this – Durant focused on the narratives he wanted to present, which means he also glossed over the storylines he didn’t want to linger on. Taking that into consideration, as a Thunder fan, I felt really good about what I saw. I was encouraged by KD’s mindset and I was optimistic about his commitment to bring a championship to Oklahoma City. It should be noted that I’ve never been labeled as an optimist. Biased Thunder fan? Sure. But never an optimist. I’ve lived in Los Angeles way too long for that nonsense.
Wednesday morning, the day after Durant’s show aired, I flipped open my laptop and read a column by Ben Golliver from Sports Illustrated. It appears Golliver had a completely different reaction to KD’s hour of television. For example, he states: "One benefit, intended or not, of building the film as Durant’s championship chase is that it lays the narrative groundwork for a departure from Oklahoma City in 2016 if the Thunder are unable climb the mountain." Uh… really? Hmm. It’s almost like Golliver and I watched two completely different TV shows. I must confess that I’m too cheap to pay for HBO – except for that one time I got it for "Game of Thrones" and then immediately canceled it once the season was over. These days, however, I use my dad’s HBO Go account. So maybe HBO Go accidentally uploaded a different cut of "Offseason" than what was broadcast on TV? That’s possible, right? Crazier things have happened, right?!
No. That’s stupid.
Then I wonder how Golliver’s interpretation of the show was so wildly different from my own. I mean, it’s not like we were watching an episode of "Lost." Maybe it’s just a simple matter of people choosing to see what they want to see and believing what they want to believe. It is a Rorshach Test in Nike footwear. Well, based on what Durant chose to show us, here is what I chose to see…
I saw Durant assert his desire to win a championship and say things like, "I have no doubts about us getting there, ya know. I feel confident we can get there one day." I’m pretty sure "us" and "we" referred to the Thunder and not Durant’s phantom 2016 team.
I saw Durant talk about how much he loves Oklahoma City. I also saw him talk about the May 2013 tornado, and unless I misheard him, he said "we bounce back" when referencing OKC’s resiliency as a community. Again, he used that "we" word.
I saw Durant’s frustration that Pau Gasol signed with the Bulls. Then I saw Durant talk about how it’s too bad Pau chose "orchestras and plays" over the love and support that he and his Thunder teammates receive from the people of Oklahoma.
I saw Durant and Ari--I mean Kleiman -- get upset that he was asked about his pending free agency in an interview. I also saw Durant blow off a reporter when he was asked about playing for his hometown team. Side note: did anyone notice that the Washington Wizards were never mentioned once by name?
Another side note: it’s convenient that every reporter seems to have forgotten that Durant was a Toronto Raptors fan growing up – not a Wizards fan. But whatever.
Back to Ben Golliver. He didn’t appear to see any of the things mentioned above. Instead he saw this: "The 26-year-old superstar is seen lamenting the fact that his fame makes it difficult to go home while wistfully pointing out the barbershop where he got his first haircut and the recreational center that served as his "safe haven" in a town he remembers being "the murder capital of Maryland." Um, yeah, I definitely wouldn’t have chosen the words "lamenting" and "wistfully" to describe Durant’s emotions in this scene.
Golliver also declares that "On the other hand, the film forcefully states – right off the bat and again at its conclusion -- that Durant’s patience with failing to win a title is nearing a breaking point." Golliver is alluding to this "breaking point" being between Durant and the Thunder. To me it sounds like Durant is just putting more pressure on himself to be a better player and a better leader for his team – not him lacking patience with his teammates or the Thunder organization. And if there was one overriding narrative to "The Offseason," then that was it. Durant’s relentless drive is to continue to mature and evolve as a player so he can lead the Thunder to an NBA title.
Golliver goes on to condemn the Thunder because their biggest offseason addition was Anthony Morrow. Grantland’s Bill Simmons has made a stink about this as well. Hell, I’ve even bemoaned this very same topic myself. Regardless, I’ll offer Durant’s own words as a rebuttal: "This is gonna be the tightest team we ever had. I can feel it. We’ve all been working out this summer, we’ve all been keeping in contact throughout the summer." In addition, Durant said "We have all the talent in the world. But chemistry can be a lot better for us." CUT TO: Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeremy Lamb working out with Thunder coaches and trainers a week before training camp started. In other words: they were working on building their chemistry. Lastly, all of this is followed with KD saying "We always liked our core, we just wanted guys who were gonna fit in with the group." Maybe I’m dense, but I’m not discerning the anti-Thunder sentiment that KD is supposed to be slyly projecting throughout his TV show.
Durant wasn’t sly about reprising his "I’m tired of being second" mantra from, ironically, the Sports Illustrated cover story from last April. Can we discuss this in relation to all of the Durant "going home" controversy? Why would he want to be the second NBA superstar to go play for his hometown team? Moreover, Durant professes he wants to be his own person and his own player, so again, why would he want to copy LeBron James? Why would he want to follow in the King’s footsteps rather than create his own legacy? Why isn’t anyone writing that story? The answer is simple. Because the media doesn't like that story. Durant staying in his adopted hometown isn’t compelling enough. Where’s the drama and intrigue? The backstabbing? The twists and turns? Durant staying in OKC doesn’t sell newspapers or entice website hits. And at this point, that’s the only value that Durant's free agency IN TWO YEARS offers.
Durant could very well leave the Thunder in 2016. No one knows what will happen in the next two seasons, but I do know one thing, there are no clues in this HBO show that hint at Durant’s proposed exodus, and to pretend like there are in order to generate more of those precious website hits is borderline sensationalism.
In reality – the state of things as they exist, not reality TV – "The Offseason" was a fun, but calculated, behind-the-scenes glimpse into the summer of one of the NBA’s biggest stars. Kevin Durant showed us what he wanted to show us, and I for one, like what I saw.