It must be hard for professional athletes to figure out to respond to national tragedies like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary yesterday. In times of national mourning, sports can seem pretty starkly trivial, and the juxtaposition between the day's news and the night's sporting events has a way of making us notice that athletes are not only mere entertainers, but entertainers that have to summon a sort of viciousness to do their job right. ESPN was acting upon something like this realization when they told their staff to stop tweeting about sports and refrain from using words like "shooting"—important words if you want to talk about anything sports-related—until Sunday afternoon. The vocabulary of sports overlaps with the vocabulary of violence, and that's not coincidental—playing a sport well means doing damage to your opponent. It must be strange on days like yesterday that what feels natural is also fundamentally aggressive.
Kevin Durant brokered the contradiction by writing a memorial for Newtown, CT on his shoes for last night's game. It's a small gesture, but if there are any kids at Sandy Hook that are obsessed with basketball—and the biggest athletic program in the state is UConn, so there are—maybe it was nice for a minute to see that a superstar cared. He proceeded to torch Sacramento for 31 points on 10/14 shooting (9/9 from the line), dropping the Kings to 7-15 and extending the Thunder's win-streak to 10. Leave it to Durant to make the rough business of crushing your opposition look pretty graceful.