Mike Lupica: In the end, thin-skinned Kevin Durant wasn’t built for Brooklyn
The NBA has become a league dominated by headlines about whining, entitled stars acting like complete losers, even if they’ve won championships the way Kevin Durant has.
The biggest headlines this week are about Durant, of course, who’s decided he’s unhappy with his current circumstances, and wants to go sit at another table where he thinks the cool kids are.
And then there Kyrie Irving who, if there is any justice, will still be in Brooklyn now that Durant seeks the same greener pastures for which Irving keeps searching, even as he has now opted back into his own deal with the Nets. Send up a flare when Irving, who sabotaged any chance the Nets had to be anything last season because of his refusal to get vaccinated, wins another title.
Why did he refuse? Because Irving thinks he knows more than the doctors, something that is no real surprise, since he thinks he knows more than everybody about pretty much everything. It is hard to think of the last player in the pros to have less awareness about where he falls into the whole grand scheme of things. He keeps talking about media people making millions off his name. Name one.
Do all the stars of the NBA act like spoiled brats? Of course not. There is still Steph Curry, who has somehow managed to win four titles playing for one team the way Kobe won five with the Lakers and the way Michael Jordan won six with the Bulls. Did Michael play out his career with the Bulls? No, he did not. But he wasn’t chasing more rings or more titles when he came out of retirement with the Wizards. He was just chasing ball. And maybe wanted to prove that he could still drop 20 a game on the young guys, which is exactly what he averaged, on the nose, in the season when he turned 40.
LeBron James, the greatest player since Michael, at least has produced titles with his carpetbagging, in Miami and then back to Cleveland and then with the Lakers. It never happened for Charles Barkley when he went to Houston at the end of his career. Didn’t happen for James Harden in Houston. Then when he couldn’t find a super-team there he went looking for one in Brooklyn, before he didn’t like it in Brooklyn and is in Philadelphia, at least for now.
And Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were going to be part of a superteam in Los Angeles, before Leonard got hurt. And now John Wall is on his way to the Clips, and send up another flare if the Clippers ever sniff the NBA Finals.
You know who never would have done this, even if carpetbagging, and the AAU-ization of the NBA had been in vogue back in his day? Michael never would have done it even if the rules about free agency were different when he was in his prime. It is why none of the current batch of vagabond All-Stars ultimately belong in the same conversation with him. Or with Kobe. The only heir to either one of them is Steph Curry, who I hope does get to Kobe’s five, and even Michael’s six.
Here is something Michael said once:
“There’s no way I would have called up Larry and called up Magic and said, ‘Hey, let’s get together and play on one team.’ But things are different. I can’t say that’s a bad thing, that’s the opportunity kids have today. In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys. … If you look at the Dream Team, they were on my team and it wasn’t too much of a competitive thing. I’m a competitive guy and I like to play against competitive players and see what happens from there.”
This has become a league that is ridiculous with money, a league where Bradley Beal — maybe you’ve ever actually watched him play, maybe not — can command a $250 million contract with the Wizards and where Irving, whom the Nets don’t even want, can exercise an option and put the Nets on the books for $36.5 million. And who wouldn’t want to pay Dr. Irving that, after he was such a team guy in 2021-22?
So once again, and even after a terrific Finals between Steph’s guys and the Celtics, the NBA makes news because another superstar, Durant, wants to leave the Nets the way he left the Warriors to come to play with Irving, and wasn’t that a sparking business decision? This is in the context of the NBA being treated like the hottest sports commodity in the world.
Only it’s not.
We hear all the time about how nobody watches or cares about baseball anymore, how kids are swept away by the bold-face names of the NBA. The last World Series, between the Braves and Astros, averaged 11.5 million viewers. The Warriors-Celtics Finals? They averaged 12.4 million. Hardly, well, hardly a slam dunk for hoops.
Now we’re just supposed to hope Kevin Durant, who might be the most thin-skinned star in any sport the way he gets hysterical every time somebody hurts his feelings on social media, can find happiness somewhere besides Brooklyn, N.Y. Is he a great player? He is one of the greatest of all time. But because you are what your record says you are, as the man once said, the only two titles he’s won were won when he went to the Warriors for easy rings. Was he MVP of the Finals there? He sure was. Were the Warriors his team? They were not. Steph won before Durant got to the Bay Area and now he’s won again with Durant long gone from the Bay Area.
Irving made a big shot for the Cavs once when he was with LeBron in Cleveland. Another guy riding somebody else’s bus. He left Cleveland and left LeBron but now, poor thing, he apparently misses The King and wants to go play with him in Los Angeles. A nation waits to see where another big baby like Irving finally ends up.
LeBron started it. But again: He did deliver titles to three different cities. Now the poster guys for wanting what they want when they want it — at $40 million a year and more — are Durant and Irving and Harden.
These players say it’s all about winning and really do act like losers. Durant is just the latest, certainly not the last. He must think he can blame somebody else for his decision to go to Brooklyn and bring Irving along with him. Not just bring Irving with him. But trust him to be a good teammate.
Harden’s on his fourth team. Irving seems to be looking for a fourth. Durant is on his way out of Brooklyn, looking for his fourth team now. And, of course, true happiness. Big star, Kevin Durant. Big baby. Not made for the big city in the end.
NFL NEEDS TO SIT DESHAUN FOR SEASON, UNVAXXED SOX COULD SINK BOSTON & DON’T FORGET ABOUT MARTINA …
Unless you think all 26 women are lying — or 260, or whatever the number is — then there is no way Deshaun Watson plays a down of football this season for the Cleveland Browns.
Watson better be hoping that you can get the Sunday Ticket on Weinstein Island.
Nothing gets my blood racing more than a traditional Big 10 matchup in November between USC and UCLA.
Trevor May turned out to be such a huge loss in the Mets’ bullpen.
My pal Barry Stanton says that in the end, the most memorable moment of Durant’s stay in Brooklyn came because a sneaker was a size too big one night in the Eastern Conference semis against the Bucks.
The Blue Jays missed the postseason by one game last season and if that happens to the Red Sox this time, they might remember a couple of games they lost this week in Toronto because they didn’t have the unvaxxed Jarren Duran or their unvaxxed closer Tanner Houck with them.
Two more graduates of the Kyrie Irving School of Medicine.
Now the organizers of golf’s Blood Money Tour want to make it a team sport.
Like Battle of the Network Stars was a team sport in the old days.
How long does Aaron Boone keep running Joey Gallo out there?
By the way?
Clay Holmes and Jose Trevino and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are three of the best deals Brian Cashman has made in a long time.
You know this already, but the Red Sox won 20 games in June and lost ground on the Yankees.
We are at the middle weekend of Wimbledon, and Rafa Nadal is still alive for the calendar Grand Slam and Novak Djokovic is trying to win his seventh Wimbledon singles and get to 21 majors.
And depending on which way you root, you think one of them will eventually be called the GOAT in men’s tennis, unless you think it’s still Roger Federer, no matter how many Nadal and Djokovic end up winning.
But when we are talking about GOATS, men or women, the name Martina Navratilova doesn’t come up nearly often enough.
All she did in her career was win 18 major singles titles, at the same time Chris Evert was doing the same.
As great as Serena is, she never had an opponent as formidable as Chris.
On top of that, Martina won 31 major doubles titles, and 10 more mixed.
That is 59 in all.
She won her last major in mixed, at the U.S. Open, a month before she turned 50.
So try telling her somebody else was the greatest tennis player of them all.
Hugh Jackman can play Wolverine, and Prof. Harold Hill in “The Music Man” and P.T. Barnum in “The Greatest Showman,” and in the process makes you wonder if there’s a more talented performer alive than he is.
Cassidy Hutchinson: Great American.
That’s a spoiler alert for all the right-wing mutts and nuts trying to tear her down.
Or her testimony.
When can Arch Manning come play for the Big Blue?