Headlines from the first month of the NBA season were dominated by the struggles of LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, the rise of Kyrie Irving’s Boston Celtics and unicorn-y MVP candidacies from New York Knicks phenom Kristaps Porzingis and Milwaukee Bucks sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo, so maybe Golden State Warriors forward figured it was time for his brand to get some publicity.
Whatever the reason, Durant has granted in-depth interviews to GQ magazine’s Zach Baron and Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, and we’ve been hit with a wave of revelations by the reigning Finals MVP — from claiming he’s “on the same level as a basketball player” as LeBron James to conceding “I don’t want to have to be the leader” and calling his Twitter fiasco this past summer “one of the worst days of his life” — so we seemed to be hitting the over-saturation point on Durant news pretty quickly.
Then, Durant offered this interesting tidbit, via Bucher, about his relationships with his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates, general manager and owner, and we couldn’t help ourselves:
“Those people really mean a lot to me to this day,” he says. “No matter if they talk to me or they’re mad at me. Whether it’s Sam Presti or Troy Weaver or Russell Westbrook or Nick Collison. Whether it’s Wilson Taylor or Clay Bennett and his family, I love them from the bottom of my heart. We’re not talking, but eventually we will.
“I didn’t have that perspective at first. I didn’t have it when I went back to OKC. I was like, ‘F*** all of them.’ I didn’t have it when they gave my number away. I was, ‘F*** all of them.’ My best friend works for the team, I told him, ‘F*** all y’all. That’s f***ed up.’ Then I had to get out of my head, tell myself, ‘It’s not that serious, it is what it is.’ I understand it’s not my number anymore, they can do whatever they want with it, but you hand that number to a two-way player, you’ve got to be, like, ‘Nah, we’ve got too many good memories with this number, man.’ But at some point, that thing’s going to be in the rafters anyway; it’s all good. I did something they didn’t like. They did something I didn’t like. S*** happens. If I was on my death bed, I guarantee you Sam Presti and Russell Westbrook would come check on me. So I’m going to look at it that way rather than the other way.”
That’s a lot to unpack, and I feel like we’ve unpacked most of it, over and over again, so we’re only going to concern ourselves with the jersey retirement note on this Friday afternoon, because the weekend is our time to debate inconsequential sports topics, and this is certainly one of those.
Will OKC retire Durant’s number? Should No. 35 be raised to the Chesapeake Energy Arena rafters?
We just learned KD most definitely thinks so, which is a more definitive answer than he gave in 2015, when he said, “I love it here, and I would love to get my jersey retired here,” a year before leaving for the Warriors in free agency. And Durant’s business partner, Rich Kleiman, made it pretty clear that he too was upset about the Thunder giving KD’s No. 35 to undrafted rookie P.J. Dozier earlier this season.
So, count at least two people in the “KD’s jersey will be retired in OKC” camp.
Two years ago, it would’ve been a foregone conclusion. Durant played nine seasons for the organization (eight in Oklahoma City and one for the Seattle SuperSonics), making seven All-Star appearances, capturing the 2014 MVP award and leading the Thunder to four Western Conference finals in six years. One could make the argument he’s the greatest player in franchise history.
The franchise has raised six numbers to the rafters — 1 (Gus Williams), 10 (Nate McMillan), 19 (Lenny Wilkens), 24 (Spencer Haywood), 32 (Fred Brown) and 43 (Jack Sikma) — all of whom retired well before the organization moved to Oklahoma City. That Gary Payton’s No. 20 isn’t among them is ridiculous, but that speaks both to the organization’s pettiness and intent on distancing itself from Seattle.
At any rate, four of those guys won a ring with the Sonics in 1979 (Williams, Wilkens, Brown and Sikma), a claim Durant cannot make for the Thunder. Haywood and Wilkens are the only Hall of Famers on that list, and Durant’s resume in Oklahoma City alone would have been enough to get him there, too. He made more All-Star appearances in Oklahoma City than any of the others but Sikma did in Seattle.
And if you’re going to hang McMillan’s number, seemingly only for longevity’s sake (he averaged 5.9 points and 6.1 assists and four rebounds in 12 seasons for the Sonics), then KD belongs there, too.
Maybe the Thunder will have different standards than the Sonics, though. Durant’s departure is certainly a unique circumstance, given the heartache it caused the city and the bitterness Russell Westbrook seemed to carry from it. If OKC hangs Durant’s No. 35 one day, it’s hard to imagine Westbrook ever allowing it to happen before his own No. 0 becomes the first Thunder jersey retired.
Then, there were Durant’s Twitter jabs at the organization, its coach and his former teammates.
But time heals all wounds, so it’s possible KD will join Westbrook again in those rafters. It might even be probable. But I wouldn’t say it’s as definitive as Durant made it out to be. Regardless, the Warriors forward suggested his personal ties to the Thunder are far more important than any of his accolades.
“That stuff right there is going to last forever,” Durant told Bucher. “That stuff is way, way more important than a championship. Me and my family didn’t just erase those eight years in OKC. D.C. and OKC is where we grew up — my mom, my brother, me. I am OKC. I’m still OKC. That blue is going to be in my blood forever. That place raised me. I have people there who would take a bullet for me and vice versa. But there’s a point in a young man’s life, just like when he goes off to college, or when he moves to another city to get a job, he’s got to make a decision for himself. You’ve got to make a decision that’s best for yourself and you would expect the people that love you the most to say they understand.
“I didn’t get it early on. My mom had to tell me, ‘These people really loved you so much there.’ And I was like, ‘Nah, Ma, they don’t love me if they can cut me that quick or tell me I’m such a coward or be so happy when someone calls me a cupcake.’ I don’t know if that’s love. But fandom is another level of love. It’s irrational, stalker-ish love.”
At least Durant seems to have his priorities straight and appears to be thinking rationally about this subject. But what fun is that? Jersey retirement conversations aren’t supposed to be so reasonable.
So, what do you guys think: Should the Thunder retire KD’s No. 35? Let us know in the comments.
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