If Derek Jeter’s retirement tour is any guide, Kobe Bryant’s final season is going to be a victory lap, with everyone competing to fawn over the career of a guy who, admittedly, was one of the most important players in the modern NBA. But that’s not enough for Kevin Durant, who took the media to task for not getting to work earlier on that hagiography.
Here’s Durant, as transcribed by the Oklahoman’s Anthony Slater.
Kobe announced his retirement last night. He’s a guy you grew up watching and got to know. What was your first thoughts when you heard this would be it for him?
Kevin Durant: “I did idolize Kobe Bryant. I studied him, wanted to be like him. He was our Michael Jordan. I watched Michael toward the end of his career with the Wizards and I seen that’s what Kobe emerged as the guy for us. I’ve been disappointed this year because you guys (media) treated him like shit. He’s a legend and all I hear is about how bad he’s playing, how bad he’s shooting, time for him to hang it up. You guys treated one of our legends like shit and I didn’t really like it. Hopefully now you can start being nice to him now that he decided to retire after this year. It was sad the way he was getting treated. He had just an amazing career, a guy who changed the game for me as a player mentally and physically. Means so much to the game of basketball. Someone I’m always gonna look to advice for anything. Just a brilliant, brilliant, intelligent man. Sad to see him go. He put his mark on the game.”
First of all, there’s a major conflict of interest here that Durant is lax in not acknowledging. Durant is deputy publisher at The Players’ Tribune, where Bryant is editorial director. Where are the ethics, Kevin? Maybe work on getting a more robust server before you demand people be nicer to your boss.
Aside from that, Bryant has been playing badly. He’s been shooting badly. It is time for him to hang it up. It’s not the job of the “media” (as if that were some monolithic entity without differing viewpoints) to be nice to Kobe Bryant, just as it’s not Bryant’s job to be nice to reporters. Those reporters would be negligent if they didn’t cover how ineffective end-stage Kobe has been, just as they’d be negligent if they didn’t appreciate the kind of player he was before age caught up with him. To paint a full and accurate picture of Bryant isn’t to paper over his flaws. That’s for PR outlets. Good thing Durant and Bryant already have one.