Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are now bonded. Not necessarily in the best of times for either of them, but irrefutably so nonetheless.
“Kobe reached out to me at one point right after I got out of surgery,” said Durant, now sidelined for several weeks and for the most prolonged period of his NBA career by a foot injury that comes on the heels of Bryant being benched for all but six games last year by knee and Achilles injuries of his own. “We played a preseason game, and I was sitting on the sideline, and I was just wanting to get into the game. I just asked him, how’d he do it? What was his thought process? He just told me, he tried to learn the game as much as he can from the sideline and be the best teammate he can be and support all the guys.”
Greatness indeed responds and respects greatness, which make both Bryant and Durant’s quest to return to their esteemed levels all the more binding for the one-time league MVPs.
“From a guy like Kobe that stood out to me,” Durant told ESPN of the words of wisdom he was imparted with. “Just knowing he’s at the top of his game, but always trying to get better in all aspects, I learned a lot just from that conversation. It was big for me.”
Best case scenarios have Durant sitting just four weeks before returning to ideally rescue the Thunder from themselves while Bryant was largely forced to simply bear witness to the Lakers’ worst season in franchise history last season. Yet, the impact of all the losing, short term as it might be in the case of OKC, may be every bit as destructive to the Thunder as it proved to be with the Lakers.
The reigning league MVP can become a free agent after the 2016 season and the odds of him following the path forged by LeBron James and returning to his hometown Washington Wizards seems to grow with each of OKC’s blowout losses.
“I really haven’t thought about that,” Durant said of James returning to Cleveland and his own possible return to D.C. in what easily rates as the season’s biggest, early understatement. “I hear it a lot, but I think I can make an impact on the community I grew up in from anywhere. My friends, my family, the kids in my neighborhood are seeing that. I’m inspiring them from Oklahoma City.”
But there’s no place like home, especially when it affords you your best chance of winning and becoming even more legendary. Bryant was trying to tell Durant as much in the case of his adopted city of L.A. and James showed him as much with his return to Cleveland. And the Thunder’s 1-4 start, all of the losses by a combined average margin of 16 points with him and Russell Westbrook sidelined, only seem to affirm OKC’s long term prospects and the need for him to perhaps seek greener pastures.
The 26-year-old Durant surely has to have an eye cast on Washington and the on-the-move Wizards who have suddenly transformed themselves into one of the Eastern Conference’s model franchises.
Durant has to know when Bryant implored him “to learn the game” he meant in and outside of the squared-circle. No doubt, it’s time Kevin Durant start learning to rep for what’s in the best interest of Kevin Durant.