Kevin Durant recently made a quick stop in New York City for a photo shoot to modelNike's 2016 Summer Olympics uniforms. While in the Big Apple, Oklahoma City superstar and future free agent Kevin Durant sat down for a six minute interview with Bloomberg Television's Stephanie Ruhle.
Bloomberg is all about business and Durant's decision will influence not only the wins and losses of the winner of the most ballyhooed free agent sweepstakes since "the King" went to South Beach, but will have a direct impact on billions of dollars. Nike recently unveiled KD's newest line of shoes, the KD 9, so Ruhle chose shoe sales to open the discussion:
Ruhle: In terms of your marketability, we know you'll be a free agent soon. If you weren't playing for a team like Oklahoma, we know last night (Boston) Celtics fans were begging you to join their team. There's talk the (Washington) Wizards would like you. Why not move to a city where there's a lot bigger fan base where the shoe could sell a lot more?
Durant: "I play basketball. That's all I want to play basketball for: just to enjoy it. As a kid I didn't think about marketability, or where I could go, or how many shoes I sell. It was about playing the game for just pure fun and joy. That's what I want to continue to do. It's all about basketball for me. All that stuff that comes with it is definitely cool, don't get me wrong, but it all comes back to playing the game and I want to continue to play with that pure joy."
Considering the KD 9 is being unveiled less than a month after the release of the Elite version of the KD 8, I would point out that Nike must not be too overly concerned about the size of the fan base Durant plays for as it relates to shoe sales.
In fact, understanding that sales in any single market would not be as profitable as solid sales numbers across the board in ALL the big markets, an argument could be made that Durant's allegiance to the more culturally neutral OKC may make for a healthier bottom line in the long run. As a relatively new player with only one team in professional sports that does not bear the stigma of past and current rivalries, Oklahoma City may actually be an asset to overall sales as a result.
Ruhle: And Oklahoma's that team for you?
Durant: "It's been great so far. I love the city. As far as being marketable, with social media and how things are going nowadays, you can be marketable anywhere. I've gotten everything that I've wanted to get while being in Oklahoma City; that's never the problem. I just enjoy playing the game of basketball."
When Judge Harold H. Greene divested AT&T in 1984, I had a front row seat to the unveiling of the now unmistakable "Death Star" logo. Believe it or not, the horizontal blue lines are supposed to represent AT&T's vision of instant worldwide communication, and it is surreal to think that 32 years later that vision may play a big role in Durant's decision process.
Ruhle: When you think about how long you see yourself playing - you're still a young guy - how long would you like to see your basketball career? Because it is a business, and when you play for a team that has a bigger TV deal let's say - we saw how much (L.A. Clippers owner) Steve Ballmer paid for his team - do you start to think 'Hmm ... L.A. ... New York?'
Durant: "It's easy to think like that when you hear it a lot, but like I said it comes back to loving the game for what I started it for as a kid, which was just to have fun. I'm blessed enough that if I work hard enough I can make the money that I want to make, but I've made so much in my career already that I can take care of my family, and it's all about having fun playing with great people and being around great people every single day. That's more important to me."
Again with the "big market" reference? Well, after being raised in Park Ridge, NJ and now living in Manhattan, the notion that an existence outside the mass of humanity you call home could possibly be more appealing to someone must be completely foreign to Ms. Ruhle. Just going with what she knows I guess.
That sort of thinking is the edge of the same slippery slope Connie Chung found herself on when she asked Assistant Fire Chief Jon Hansen, "Can you handle this? Can this fire department handle this?" in the aftermath of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
The KD subject matter is not as sensitive, but the insinuation that Durant would suffer financially, a complete myth by the looks of his bank account, if he chose to stay with the Thunder is rather insulting. Not only was the OCFD ready in 1995, willing, and able to handle the Murrah bombing, but they set a standard of excellence that helped guide the NYFD after the devastation of 9/11.
Further, I don't think Durant missed the slight when he responded to the questions about the effect of Aubrey McClendon's passing. He didn't talk about Oklahoma City like it was a burden....
Ruhle: In terms of making a lot of money; a well known Oklahoma man, Aubrey McClendon, had a major stake in the team, he recently died.... has that had an impact on you or the team?
Durant: It's had an impact on our community. You know, he meant so much to our community, helped bring the the Thunder there, helped build so many businesses and so many jobs for people. He was a great man and we are definitely going to miss him and appreciate everything he's done for our community and our team. We just want to support his family and all of his friends and go out there and play for them and play as hard as we can for them... so, he meant a lot to us.
...he talked about it like it was home.
Durant repeated the phrase "Our community" 3 times and in context with "our team" and not just "the people of Oklahoma City." That shows an emotional investment and I can personally vouch that it is real. I saw the effect his visit to Moore after the 2013 F5 tornado had on him. I saw his eyes, I saw the tears. Durant may hail from Washington, DC, but Oklahoma and her people are in his heart now.
Kevin Durant with friends, family and a member of the Red Cross and search and rescue team pic.twitter.com/8XNVBYA53x— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) May 22, 2013
Durant graciously giving a young lady a pair of autographed shoes pic.twitter.com/CRSQW2Uesh— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) May 22, 2013
No one but KD knows what he will do this summer, and saying there is no way that Durant will stay with the Thunder is just as big a reach as saying there is no way he will leave. I think he was very clear about what he wants. He wants to play ball and he doesn't want to put himself in a position where it is no longer fun. That is a very healthy, not to mention profitable, way to approach this life decision.
Durant's response about not liking the media opened a window as well when he said he liked having real conversations and talking about basketball with the media, but also said it was the "other stuff" that upset him. I have to admit I am a bit confused by what he means by the "other stuff" after he took exception to Royce Young's request for a reaction to ESPN's Michael Wilbon's comments in January that there were only 3 teams with a legitimate shot at winning a championship, because that seems pretty basketball related to me.
No offense to KD, but that is a cotton ball question compared to the 90 mph bean balls he would be facing if he opts to jump in front of a "Big Market" piranha-like media pool every day.
Anyone that has watched KD play the game he loves knows he is at his best when he is enjoying himself. Take the joy away and who knows, Durant's marketability may go with it. See Carmelo Anthony. No? Well KD does and 'Melo looks like he is having about as much fun playing in the "Big Apple" as a one-legged man at an ass kicking contest. And according to Forbes his $8M "Big Market" off-court endorsements pale when compared to Durant's $36M.
Durant is having more fun and making more of that long green than he ever dreamed of right where he is, but if Ms. Ruhle is still concerned about Durant making a lot of money after he signs this summer, she should bone up on the NBA Bird Rights.