Where in the world in Kevin Durant headed? is one of the most interesting questions in the NBA right now. Where in the world is Kevin Durant currently? is a much less compelling cousin of that question, but one we are somewhat better equipped to answer. Assuming that older brother Tony is posting his photos in a timely fashion, the Durants were this week walking around Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, retail mecca of the eastern seaboard.
The sibling appears to be holding a shopping bag; the baller is rolling around on a knee scooter two weeks after an operation on his ruptured Achilles, performed in Manhattan’s Hospital for Special Surgery.
“All smiles over here,” wrote Tony. Was Kevin still around? Was he still smiling? Was he enjoying himself in New York? Was there anything to glean about his free agency plans, which, as of this morning, look a little rosier for Knicks fans, amid reports that all that Nets talk is overblown? Could he be reached for comment?
The bummer about looking for Kevin Durant, as opposed to your garden-variety famous person, is the complete lack of any anticipatory thrill. There will never be any ambiguity about whether any given stranger approaching on the sidewalk is Kevin Durant. You either see a seven-foot-tall wraith rolling down the sidewalk, in a gnat cloud of raised phones and gawking faces, followed by a dude or two in sunglasses roughly his height and three times his width—or you don’t. I did not, try as I did. But had anyone else?
Who better to ask than luxury sales clerks in the vicinity of 84 Wooster Street, the address faintly visible in brother Tony’s photograph? There is no better way for a hundred-millionaire to while away a day in SoHo than shopping. Maybe I could inquire after Durant’s whereabouts, following an itinerary informed by Durant’s fashion sense. KD dresses less flamboyantly and aggressively than many of his runway-ready colleagues, putting a premium on comfort. In my mind’s eye he is just a large athleisure spider, his limbs always encased in technical sweatsuit material. His overall style could broadly be described as “blogger, except somehow expensive.” A lot of plain hoodies, zip-ups, jeans, and sneakers that do not necessarily catch the eye but, at the register, tally up to the GDP of a small island nation.
My strategy was simple: Duck into the air-conditioned stores; thumb through their wares; strike up conversation with the clerks and, within seconds, divulge one of the most humiliating facts about myself (I am emotionally invested in the New York Knicks basketball franchise); then ask them if they’d seen Kevin Durant around. I visited a wide range of shops that the Durant brothers could have plausibly visited on a happy afternoon of retail therapy. Most clerks told me they encountered celebrities quite often, which wasn’t shocking, given that their location and livelihood made them exponentially more likely to interact with a famous person than the average NYC resident.
One common narrative—which might be shelved for good, given how he rushed back into the NBA Finals and ended up jeopardizing his career—holds that the notoriously thin-skinned Kevin Durant can’t take the heat in New York City. A man who mans burner accounts can’t possibly hold up to the brutal, relentless scrutiny of the “basketball mecca,” populated by the world’s toughest, smartest fans. It’ll be too much! Well, here’s some encouraging early feedback—many people, even those who professionally cater to the ultra-wealthy, were not sure who he even was. Their blank expressions were a refreshing reminder that most people do not care about sports. When confronted with the name of perhaps the best basketball player in the world, the clerk at Hugo asked, “The DJ?” They’ve gotten plenty of athletes, and RuPaul, but no Kevin Durant. Over at Diesel: “No idea who that is, but nobody that tall.” Often I found myself clarifying that the man in question would have been very large and there would have been a scooter involved. That might have caused some issues at stores without ramps When we think about the most spectacularly mobile people on earth, we rarely think about accessibility concerns, but in many cases, Durant would have been thwarted by the steps.
Inside Balmain, home to skinny jeans with extraneous zippers and ribbing that I could easily envision on Durant’s matchstick legs, the clerks seemed giddy at the possibility of spotting him, but said they hadn’t: “If he’d walked in, I’d have been like, ‘That’s a basketball player.’” At Sonos, where KD might have been selecting a new speaker for one of his myriad bathrooms or broom closets or walk-in pantries, they hadn’t seen a trace. One time they got an Atlanta Hawk, though they only realized it after the fact. Which one? “Tall.”
The clerks at A Bathing Ape absolutely knew who Kevin Durant was, but said he’d never been in their streetwear store. “Can he even fit this stuff?” one asked; I noted that Durant has in fact been pictured in their clothes. The most they could offer me is that they’d seen the more conventionally shaped Knick and (potential future Durant teammate!!) Dennis Smith Jr. in the store a few days ago. Over at Y-3, home base for 22nd-century monks who fear color and maintain 2 percent body fat, they knew Durant, but said no guy on a Nike contract would be caught in an Adidas-affiliated store, for any reason. “You’ll never find them in here.” Meanwhile, within the huge Nike complex on Broadway, no sighting of KD: “It would be mobs.” And so many inconvenient escalators, too.
The higher the price tags, the higher the degree of discretion.
At Yves Saint-Laurent, the clerk, who must have smelled my tax bracket, tried to direct me away from tailored goods and toward the t-shirt section. Asked if he’d seen Kevin Durant in the store recently, he averted eye contact and said, “Really wouldn’t be able to say, but, sure, man,” giving me a thumbs up, then evaded a follow-up question about whether basketball players tend to come in here in general. There were not one but two police officers in the store, which felt like the commercial wing of the jail used to house Magneto in X2. Over at Gucci, where I spotted a $2,300 windbreaker with snap-off sleeves in exact Knicks colors, an employee was coy. “I can’t disclose. But someone did see him around here a few weeks ago.”
With time, I stumbled on some promising leads. A clerk at John Varvatos—full of leather things and dimly hued garments that channel the holy essence of a Jonas Brother—mentioned that Kevin Durant had shopped with him “three or four times.” Is he a big buyer? “He likes to shop,” he said discreetly. Despite Durant’s anomalous frame, he can fit into their stuff right off the rack. But he hadn’t seen him in a quite a while, and he definitely hadn’t seen him on a scooter.
A clerk at Stussy said that while he wasn’t personally in the store to witness it, he was sure that Durant had passed by this very store. “He walked by here two days ago in the roller.” Had he ever been inside? Nope. “If he did, we’d probably give him a bunch of free shit. Even though he can afford it.” Kevin Durant, let this be your notice.
At some point on this journey, I scoured Tony Durant’s Instagram for more clues, only to learn that he was still in SoHo, and on Broadway, too. In desperation I searched for more options. While I could easily picture Durant slouching around his home in their hoodies, there’s no way Kevin Durant scooted his way into Top Shop during a liquidation sale so apocalyptic that even “fixtures & equipment” were for sale. I checked anyway; he wasn’t in there. If he’s still around, healing up, taking meetings with the local teams and some West Coast ones too, he’s doing it well out of sight. If you’re listening, Kevin: Everyone in this city knows who you are, has never said anything bad about you, and always wants to shower you in free stuff.
Have you spotted Kevin Durant wheeling down Prince Street? Drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.