In fact, Kevin Durant was asked if he felt like this season was a “wasted” year. Kobe Bryant once said any season that doesn’t end in a championship is a wasted year of his life.
“Nothing’s ever a wasted year for me. It’s basketball,” KD said. “I’ve grown so much as a man since the beginning of the season. I’ve grown so much as a leader. Nothing is ever wasted. Of course the ultimate goal in this league is to win a championship. But I’m never going to say I wasted a year. I’m blessed to even wake up and do something I love every day. So it’s never wasted. We take that for granted a lot. But that’s something I’m not going to do. I enjoy playing this game. I enjoy playing for this city, my teammates. So every day I get to see those guys and go through some tough times and laugh and argue it’s never wasted. I’m just blessed to be here. And I’m never going to take it for granted.”
A perfect, unsurprising response from KD. He got to play basketball and while it didn’t finish the way he hoped, he still grew as a player and person, along with his team. At 24 years old, that Durant guy has got the perspectives.
But naturally, there will be those that feel Durant’s answer reveals some mystical problem that dwells inside of him, and is what will forever hold him back from a title. Players like Kobe and MJ are mythologized because of their “drive” and near sadist thirst for winning and while Durant gives everything he has to give both on and off the floor, just because he doesn’t say it will open the door for critics.
“I don’t give a damn. I’m going to be who I’m going to be,” Durant said. “I’m not Kobe Bryant. I’m not Michael Jordan. I’m not LeBron James. I’m not Magic Johnson. I’m me. I’m not ever going to compromise myself and my integrity and what I believe in for winning some basketball games or winning a championship. That’s just not how I was brought up. I’m always going to fight for the game I love. I’m going to claw until the last buzzer sounds and if I win a championship, of course I’ll be happy. I’m not satisfied to be in this league and losing, I’m going to work as hard as I can to get to that mountaintop. I enjoy playing the game, I enjoy being here, but I’m never come out to the media and say I wasted a year because we lost a championship. Like I said, I don’t have to be Kobe Bryant.”
The focus for Durant and the Thunder has never been on isolating on one season. That much should be obvious. It’s engrained into the culture, and apparently, into Durant. He struggled in Game 5 and he’ll almost certainly have nightmares where he sees those 16 misses and wakes in a cold, Gatorade induced sweat.
“I think last night after the game, I don’t normally drink Gatorade after the game, but I think I drank four or five Gatorades,” Durant said. “I think if I wouldn’t have done that I would’ve passed out.”