Picture this. An incredible man is a medium size American city in the Midwest decides to leave for greener pastures. This man has been a staple in the business community, creating buzz for the city for close a decade. He has personally overseen charitable work and has been present for ribbon cuttings, donation events, fundraisers, and much more. He is well liked by his peers. The people around him call him “a benefit to our community” and say things like “we are better off because of him” and “this man helped turn our city around.” Now picture that man to be a doctor. A doctor, who was born and raised in the city he decided to practice medicine in. This doctor served on several local boards, including ones to upgrade parks and recreation for the community. This doctor, who would still make house calls to sick patients who couldn’t get to him, was revered by his medical community, his nursing staff, and his patients. This doctor, 38 years old, just accepted a director position with a prestigious hospital in Boston. How do you feel about this doctor now? Is he a traitor? Did he let his community down? How do you think his nurses and patients and local volunteer boards will judge him?
Now picture a professional athlete. A young man, 27 years old, who has spent close a decade with one team (albeit they started in Seattle). He is a staple in the business community, bringing in tons of revenue for his local team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. TV contracts, sponsorship money, merchandise, vending at the arena he plays at (close to 50 times a year) are bringing in millions of dollars to the Oklahoma City community. And the charitable work this young man does for kids, kids with disabilities, kids with cancer, kids who grow up in broken homes has drawn praise after praise from local community leaders. And his peers in professional basketball hold him in very high regard, most would say he is one of the 5 best players in the last decade to wear an NBA jersey. And, here he is, leaving his team for greener pastures. Not necessarily more money, but another opportunity that would better his career and his life. And how has he been met with this decision? Traitor. Greedy. Selfish. Doesn’t care about us here in Oklahoma City. He has let our community down. He is judged with a negative slant that for most will wipe away all of the good he has done over the previous decade.
Although the doctor in this article is fictitious, the player is real. Kevin Wayne Durant. A player, who by the laws and rules drafted by lawyers from the NBA’s player’s union and the NBA league itself, has exercised his legal right to seek employment with another company. It is, in my opinion, a right of every person to have the freedom, under the rules and regulations of their employer, to seek other job opportunities whence the opportunity is presented. Should the fans of Oklahoma City be upset? Of course, they are losing perhaps the greatest player to ever play for their team to another team. Should they be critical? Maybe, to a certain extent. But fans, ask yourself one question? Do you really know anything about your basketball player on a personal level? Did you a fan or fans ever sit down and have a heart to heart with this man about his future goals, intentions? More likely than not the answer is an emphatic NO!!!
Fans judge players who “defect” to another team because they themselves wouldn’t be so shallow, right???. Fans would never except a higher paying job from a rival company who offers a cleaner work environment or larger contribution to their 401K or stock options, right? Fans would never leave their hometown for a better paying job with a clearer path of upward mobility in a different city or state, would they? Of course you would consider it. You would sit down with your mother or your father or your family and make a sound decision for what was best for your career at the junction your career is at. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and honestly make a decision that affects you and the people around you and have taken a ton of advice and done your research, etc. etc., then you are well on your way to making a sound decision. So, what is to say that Kevin Wayne Durant has not done the same thing? He has lawyers, agents, managers, his mother, his family to help him make a decision that is best for his future. Unfortunately for Oklahoma City, it was a decision that meant his departure for the city he has called home for close to a decade. He will leave behind the charitable organizations he has helped fund, the hospitals he has visited, the playgrounds where he surprised young men and women on a random Sunday, the Chesapeake Arena where scores of fans wore his jersey night after night. But what most people don’t know about professional athletes is that their most personal thoughts and visions and intentions are not always printed in the media or published on billboards. They have a public image to uphold and in doing so, the perception of the thoughts and feelings of an athlete can be misconstrued. For all we know, Kevin Wayne Durant made this decision back in 2014 or two weeks ago or 7 years ago. We are going to be fed a mostly watered down version of what Kevin Durant and his team did to come to this decision. Only Kevin Durant and his closest members of his team will know the whole truth. As fans, we are only given a small dose of we need to know. And that is that Kevin Durant chose the Golden State Warriors because he felt that it was a better opportunity. In the end, he is still one of the best players in the league and will be one of the most charitable individuals in the NBA’s community service initiatives. He’s just going to change jerseys, that’s it.