In perhaps one of the biggest and most shocking free agent signings in the history of the NBA, former league MVP Kevin Durant agrees to a two-year $54.3 million contract (with a player option, of course) with 2015 NBA Champion, the Golden State Warriors. Durant was everything ‘independent’ once he became free agent just days ago, but when the most sought out off-season talent made his LeBron esk decision today, there was nothing but fireworks on social media which drew nationwide attention. In a letter written by Durant entitled “My Next Chapter” which appeared on the Players’ Tribune, a mature Durant states he “understood cognitively what he was facing” at this stage of his life:
Although Durant goes on in the letter to vocalize how dearly he will miss those indispensable relationships he established in Oklahoma City, the 9-year veteran poignantly gets to the overall reason his departure:
As touching as this letter comes across, I just like many other NBA fans and critics was taken aback—and dismissively ticked-off—by Kevin’s decision to do the ole can’t beat em, join em with the Golden State Warriors. As if these here today gone tomorrow NBA contracts wasn’t bad enough, Durant opted to join the Warriors who compiled a 73-9 regular season record; and was the same team his Thunder pushed to a pivotal game seven of the Western Conference Finals. But I guess that’s what we’ve should have expected in this ‘new era’ NBA. Even though Durant’s loyalty to the Thunder persisted nine NBA seasons, it seemed like Durant is more concerned about not having an asterisk in his career notes which would denote him not winning a championship.
While I certainly understand how Durant may feel about the possibility of the leagues most coveted prize eluding him one day; but in this situation I feel he just totally overreacted. It’s not like I’m saying he’s wrong for exploring the market and meeting with other NBA teams. However, the operative word is OTHER teams such as Miami, Boston, San Antonio, and his hometown of Washington would have loved to see Kevin turn their franchises into a possible league powerhouse; but that didn’t happen. Instead, ‘Durantula’ will be aligning himself in sort of a contributor role (in my opinion) to an otherwise cohesive, fluid, unselfish offense of the Warriors. Though their defense will continue to be a question mark, offensively the “Splash Family” with Curry, Thompson, Green and KD, they should be the best scoring team in the sport. Just the mere thought of it has many avid fans drooling.
Now everybody wanna play for the heat and the Lakers? Let's go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!
I wonder if King James is giving Durant the proverbial side eye because it was Durant who in 2010 sent a tweet about James joining the Heat to form the “Big Three.” In fact, it was that very same “Big Three” starring James, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh, who would eliminate KD and company in the 2012 NBA Finals. So is KD simply following in James’ footsteps in what could be the new wave of NBA superiors opting out of their contracts to form elite squads? Well LeBron went back to Cleveland where Kyrie and Kevin awaited. Meanwhile, Durant is traveling west to make some new friends in the Bay Area. Just remember this day and don’t be surprised if you start seeing the Chris Paul’s, the Paul George’s, heck even the Brian Westbrook’s of the league opt out their contracts just to devise another player conglomerate. If this does catch on (and I think it will), you better pray those young NBA draft hopefuls begin a basketball renaissance of talent; because those other teams are certainly going to need it.
Needless to say, last week was a very eventful one for Mr. Stephen A. Smith. After responding to Kevin Durant’s comments about him being a “liar” and that he “makes up stories;” Smith took his national program on Monday ESPN2’s First Take; and delivered what many has considered a “personal threat” towards the basketball star. Smith’s lengthy diatribe made him an instant trending topic on social media via the Twitter. As expected, there were some cheers, but there were also many, many jeers.
I will respond to @KDTrey5 on @FirstTake right now!!! Then later too, on my radio show. Like I've said repeatedly, I HIDE FROM NO-DAMN-BODY!
Now while agree that Stephen A. was a bit out of line by, oh I guess, “threatening” former league MVP Kevin Durant; what I couldn’t understand (even though I should) the so-called black communities response towards Smith. They were acting like the First Take co-star was using his public platform to (in their eyes) go after another black man just for his employer’s aka ‘whitey’s enjoyment.’ Many considered his actions as ‘cooning’ and he wouldn’t dare do that to a white person; mainly the white person in question is fellow colleague, Michelle Beadle. See it was Beadle whose distraught comments exploded on Twitter during a First Take episode last year surrounding the Ray Rice domestic violence case and was upset with Smith’s choice of words.
Michelle Beadle ✔ @MichelleDBeadle
So I was just forced to watch this morning’s First Take. A) I’ll never feel clean again B) I’m now aware that I can provoke my own beating.
12:39 PM – 25 Jul 2014
3,725 3,725 Retweets 3,620 3,620 favorites
Even though Beadle broke company policy by going after another colleague on Twitter; Smith nevertheless was reprimanded and suspended for a week which included a rather “I need to save my job,” Carl Thomas-like, emotional apology. This came at a time when (feminist) woman’s rights groups were demanding tougher penalties towards athletes i.e. mostly the “Negroes” in professional sports most notably in the NFL. So while many Stephen A. detractors in the black community are using this incident against him when it comes to Kevin Durant; how soon they forget that we’re living in a P.C. society and for the sake of Stephen’s career; he had no choice but to apologize. Unfortunately, there are certain social-political groups that unless you have your own platform and is financed independently; you just can’t just address everyone—the way you might want to–all the time. It is no different than going to your employer and thinking you can just spout off at the mouth towards your boss; when you know darn well the repercussions will land you in the unemployment line. Still, black folks argue that Smith is allowed or only goes off on black people; and says nothing towards white [athletes’] people. Now before I go on, I must confess that Mr. Smith has made some rather unfavorable criticisms towards those of the black community. Those “criticisms” are as such because as many blacks will tell you its “white supremacist talking points,” that are often used by mostly conservative news networks in the media. Smith even received backlash when he agreed with Dallas Maverick’s billionaire owner, Mark Cuban; who was noted for making some uncomfortable remarks regarding the circumstances involving prejudice and race. This inevitably led to a showdown with accomplished author, scholar, and lecturer, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.
So is Stephen A. really the “Uncle Tom” that some black people have made him out to be? Is he really afraid to go after white athletes with the same fervor and eagerness as he does with black ones? Allow me to introduce to you one of the NHL’s brightest and most celebrated stars. He was the number one draft pick overall in 07’; and is a 3-time Stanley Cup Champion for the World Champion Chicago Blackhawks: his name is Patrick Kane. If you haven’t really heard of him well maybe because you’re not really into the NHL, sports or maybe, just maybe, because the mainstream media hasn’t plastered his name so ubiquitously like say uh, if he were black? Now some of you might take umbrage or think I’m trying to race bait; however, I can assure you I’m not—just painting a picture. Stephen A. on his eponymous radio show on Mad Dog Sports Radio; also decided to paint a picture as well. However, with the nickname of “Screaming Steven A.;” let’s just say his artistic, verbal, prowess, led him to paint the situation with a broad brush.
“-We’ve got an nation of people in an uproar when a handful of dudes, stupidly, egregiously, reprehensibly, involve themselves in a domestic issue—fair enough; deal with them. But we have white players; some foreign; some domestic; in the National Hockey League, getting involved in such issues; and there’s no uproar?”
Smith calls out several organizations and sports leagues, such as N.O.W., The PGA, The ATP, The NHL and its Commissioner, Gary Bettman; who according to Smith, has better things to do then create a domestic violence policy because he believes his players “should know how to behave themselves.” The reason why I bring attention to this matter is because Stephen A. has spent years—20 and counting—defending the black athlete. Even to the chagrin of his various listeners, colleagues, and others in his industry who routinely labels him as being as a racist, race-baiting, loudmouth; who has even been compared to Civil Rights Activist, Rev. Al Sharpton. Trust me when I tell you it wasn’t in such a flattering way either.
In spite of his sundry of critics; he is quick to let everyone in America know without any hesitation that he’s a proud black man straight out of Hollis, Queens, NY. It is this same pride you will find emanating throughout his work as a former journalist, columnist, and currently as a t.v/radio personality which makes him unafraid to put up his credentials against anyone—which leads me back to Kevin Durant. Durant, along with several other notable African-American athletes, has often been very sensitive, critical, and aloof towards the media lately. It was just this past February, when Durant as Smith notes was “undressing” the media using Durant’s own words. “You guys really don’t know (expletive)…To be honest, man, I’m only here talking to y’all because I have to,” said the 6-time NBA All-Star. This was approximately around the same time when another superstar athlete—Marshawn Lynch—and his constant retorts to the media, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” became the most talked about story during the week of the Super Bowl outside of the Deflate Gate scandal. Of course, this was much to the dismay of Smith; who didn’t agree with Lynch’s actions and thought he really should have been fined.
While many contest that Smith is doing nothing but insulting another black man for his white bosses; many are missing Smith’s point. Smith claim is that Durant not only attacked his credibility as a journalist, but his character as a man by referring to Smith as a liar.
“I sit here today incredibly offended by the personal attack that this man has put against me. Even in the midst of all of that; let me tell you something Skip Bayless: Kevin Durant is a good dude. His family is wonderful, he’s wonderful, there’s nothing negative I have to say about this person as a human being. I am addressing what he said about me; I am not attacking Kevin Durant…”
Although Smith probably could have shortened his diatribe (among other things) this was the crux of Smith’s issue with Durant—something most of his detractors seemed to miss or just didn’t care to acknowledge. While Dr. Boyce Watkins (who I respect) may have labeled Durant’s and Smith’s beef a “plantation fight,” this isn’t the first time Smith has had to give a public response to another black athlete live on air. I’ma say it again. This isn’t the first time Smith has had to give a public response to an athlete on his show First Take. Back in 2012, former Steelers’ safety Ryan Clark was a guest correspondent during a segment surrounding the media criticism and reactions from athletes. Clark had made mention of Smith stating that athletes “wished they had his [Smith’s] job and they can’t articulate like him.” Not only did Clark mentioned that he had tweeted Stephen A. that he was qualified for his job; but that his hairline wasn’t pushed back. Notwithstanding, Stephen A. responded by letting Ryan Clark know what he could kiss.
While Stephen A. maybe an undaunted and unapologetic personality both on air and on social media; he might want to consider an exit strategy—and soon. He may not “run away from any damn body” but he might seriously need to invest in himself (as a proprietor) and establish an independent platform with subscribing listeners; or switch to another media broadcast brand altogether. And no, it’s not so he won’t have to suffer his “Negro Moment” for being what Dr. Watkins calls Smith’s position as a “propped-up Negro; rather because of the growing rumors of occupational uncertainty regarding ESPN anchors. With a reputation with letting go its best and brightest (and often most controversial); the sports leader let go two of its most celebrated and talented voices—Bill Simmons and Colin Cowherd—in the same calendar year . ESPN has also been known to cater to social-political groups (i.e. the far right) which make watching future programming on this network extremely difficult because of political correctness. It was political correctness that allowed Michelle Beadle not to be punished by her employer; AND which caused Stephen A. to recant his “provocation” remark when it comes to victims of domestic violence.
Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith was probably the last time Smith was considered a ‘brother’ or kept it ‘real’ in the eyes of many African-Americans. Though the show last a few seasons, it was a monumental step for the network at the time which allowed Smith to interview some of the most intriguing guest not just in the arena of sports and entertainment; but he provided a platform to many unknown black journalist and writers. These days it is the “keeping it real” factor that has placed Stephen A. in the same category of the likes of the Raven Symone’s of the world; and my personal retort to black people who believe that is: You’re so disrespectful. It is because Stephen A. refuses to be a part of the Negro groupthink monolith; and because he refuses to back down when it comes to defending the black athlete to the disdain to white folks–he gets attacked by the naysayers. So while his haters may accuse him of being a sell-out on one hand; or a proverbial race baiter on the other. One thing you can’t take from him is his loyalty to his people, the redeeming power of us as American blacks, and his unrelenting willingness to defend the African-American athlete–even if he is censorious sometimes. Peace and love everyone.