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Of Heartbreaks, Cupcakes, And Moving On: KD Returns To OKC
Musings on Kevin Durant's melodramatic 'homecoming'
by Kirby Garlitos | Feb 13, 2017
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Seven months. That’s the length of time it took for Kevin Durant to come back and play in Oklahoma City after spurning the Thunder back in July to go sign with the Golden State Warriors. A lot of things have happened in those seven months—America has a new president, ours has become more polarizing than ever—but one date has remained circled in the calendar of NBA fans from here to God-knows-where.

February 11, 2017 (February 12 here in the Philippines), otherwise known as Kevin Durant’s first game back in Oklahoma City.

Over the weekend, the date came and passed and like most things that ended up worth waiting for, KD’s return to his old stomping grounds lived up to all of our expectations, and then some.

For what it’s worth, nobody from the NBA will admit if they intentionally scheduled this game in the dog days of the NBA to jolt some electricity into the league ahead of the All-Star game. But as far as how the timing came to be, it was a master stroke in scheduling. The game took place on the weekend {after} the Super Bowl and the weekend {before} the 2017 NBA All-Star game. As far as fan attention was concerned, “Thunder versus Warriors in OKC I” had no other sporting event to compete against, thus turning all eyes on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, the Golden State Warriors, and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Never mind the fact that the game turned into a blowout. That’s besides the point. We all wanted to see how the fans in Oklahoma City would treat Durant after he bolted for the Warriors in Free Agency Palooza 2016. This was on the level of LeBron James’ first game back in Cleveland after signing with the Miami Heat back in 2010, except that today, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the very essence of the 24-hour sports media cycle have all exploded and turned into all-consuming news feeds of information, legitimate or otherwise.

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In a lot of ways, the game itself turned into an afterthought to the spectacle of the “return.” You could see it in the days prior as sports news outlets ran one Kevin Durant story after another. KD himself even went on a media tour of sorts, appearing in just about every sports news/ talk show to talk about the events that created one of the most highly anticipated regular season games since, well, December 2, 2010, or as we’ve come to know it today, “LeBron James returns to Cleveland with the Miami Heat.” There were even news reports that Durant and the Warriors tripled their security detail for the game and that his request to close down a popular steak house in the city was denied by the owner, even after KD and his group promised to spend $40,000 for that party.

Come game day, the theatrics started well before actual tip-off, and they damn near broke the Internet by themselves. From Russell Westbrook wearing Willie Beamen’s #13 jersey from Any Given Sunday—Beamen ditched his team at the end of that movie, FYI—to the sea of literal and figurative cupcakes that flooded the Chesapeake Energy Arena, the game became must-see TV whether you were a basketball far or not.

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Speaking of which, how about them cupcakes, huh? Has there ever been a sports anecdote—full credit to Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins—that naturally evolved into a rallying cry of sorts for an entire fan base? Kids and adults came in dressed as cupcakes in the game. Durant, the object of the fan’s ire, was drowned with chants of “cup-cake” every time he wasn’t getting booed out of the arena. Even Stephen Curry and Draymond Green couldn’t help but acknowledge the cupcake shots being thrown at Durant for mockingly wearing cupcake t-shirts after winning the game.

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As for KD, he got, by his own admission, the reaction he expected. He was public enemy number 1, 2, 3, and, 4 that day in OKC, and nobody, not even Draymond Green who himself is a magnet for controversy, came close. On the other hand, Westbrook, aka “the Superstar Who Stayed,” was treated like a conquering hero, even when he was turning the ball all over the place. The man ended up with 11 turnovers in the game, but the fans didn’t care. They still showered him with cheers, MVP chants, and “God Bless Rusell!” during the prayer invocation.

Game? What game, right?

If anything, the game didn’t show us anything we didn’t already know. The Golden State Warriors are a far superior team than the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant is, by all accounts, one of the three best players in the NBA today. Russell Westbrook is still a force of nature. All facts that can’t be denied.

What the game did show us was a microcosm of sports fandom that cuts at the heart of anybody who has cared for an NBA player and an NBA team. Seeing your favorite player leave your favorite team sucks. It sucks worse if that player is one of the best league, leaving behind a peer of his own and joining a team that’s already considered “super” by most estimates.

It hurts to be a fan in that position and the only response we get is to spew as much venom on the departed superstar and his new team and run through a wall for the superstar that stayed.

We all saw that when Kevin Durant returned to Oklahoma City to face off against Russell Westbrook for the first time in his career. It was a special night for a lot of reasons, but now that it’s done, maybe it’s time that all aggrieved parties can move on.

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Or maybe not. After all, in the words of Brodie himself, “I’m coming!”

 

 

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