In case you haven’t noticed, Kevin Durant is making a transition. Tired of the unselfish, humble, respectful, One Of The Good Ones role he was involuntarily cast in when the sports press needed someone to hold up in opposition to the post-Decision LeBron, Durant is apparently in the midst of a public awareness campaign, letting us know the loathsome brand formerly known as “The Servant” is no more. In its place is a shiny new version, more in keeping with the times. It sounds exactly like Drake.
We were first introduced to this new Durant over the weekend with his quotes about how the media doesn’t know anything about anything, in which he used very un-Servant-like language. Rather than giving “all the right answers,” it seemed like Durant didn’t give a fuck what the media thought. Maybe the real person under the brand-conscious shell he was encased in was finally trying to fight his way out.
Even more evidence that we’re dealing with a new person here comes from a GQ profile that came out today. Here, we find that Durant 2.0 isn’t just a reporter-snubbing villain, but also a nuanced, sensitive, yet ferociously competitive and driven man. Basically, he’s exactly like Drake.
The similarity between Drake’s sensitive yet masculine persona and the newly-unveiled Durant is uncanny. From the responses Durant gives in the GQ article, you’d think he made the drive to the restaurant he met the writer at equipped with only Nothing Was The Same in the CD changer. The answers were so Drake-like that we decided to line up Kevvy’s quotes with some specific Drizzy lyrics.
Probably the most striking part about the GQ thing is just how much Durant wants us to know he feels things. He’s like, deep, man. One of the earliest anecdotes the article recounts is a recent time when Durant found himself moved to tears by a video of a father responding to his son getting shot:
“I just started bawling. And I was just like, man, I’ve been so emotional since I’ve grown up. As a kid you’re taught not to be emotional. And I feel like I’m starting to let it all out. Every little thing now. So I cried today. And I felt good about it, though. I felt compassionate. I felt, like, loving and caring. I felt good.”
So Kevin Durant isn’t afraid of his emotions. Which is basically Drake’s entire ethos. This kind of Drakean emoting has seeped into his relationships, too. KD briefly touches on a failed engagement he had and why he decided to call it off:
“I had a fiancée, but...I really didn’t know how to, like, love her, you know what I’m saying? We just went our separate ways.” Monica Wright, WNBA player, something like a high school sweetheart. One night Kevin got so full of feelings he just up and proposed to her. “We was just hanging out, chilling. And I felt the energy. I felt, I need to do this right now. And I just did it. I was like...We’re engaged right now? We’re about to get married? So I was just like, cool! I love this girl. But I didn’t love her the right way.”
A paroxysm of love and lust leading to a rushed engagement, but then the realization that, at his current level of emotional experience he isn’t really familiar with what the emotion really entails. Or, in other words, Drake’s “Miss Me”—
I hope one day we get married just to say we fucking did it
And girl I’m fucking serious I’m with it if you with it
Cause your verses turn me on and your pants are mighty fitted
—with a little “Fireworks” thrown in:
Searching for that feeling, tell me where is the magic
Let’s stay together til we’re ghosts
I want to witness love, I never seen it close
Love isn’t the only thing that keeps Durant up at night. During sober nights alone, his mind wanders to darker, existential thoughts about what his fame and fortune mean for his future happiness:
“I go to sleep at night, like, ‘Am I gonna be alone forever?’ “ A whole ocean of regret. His life too hectic, and too surrounded by money, to trust, let alone love, the next person who comes through that door.
“Am I gonna be alone forever? Am I gonna have kids?”
Ah yes, the unique charm of the sadness experienced by the rich and famous, another standard Drake trope. The rapper dealt with the lonely cocoon success can trap you in on “Say What’s Real”—
Why do I feel so alone?
Like everybody passing through the studio
Is in character as if we acting out a movie role
—as well as the realization that he’s probably destined never to find a soulmate on “Now & Forever”:
I don’t wanna sit at home, I gotta get where I’m going
I’m afraid I’mma die before I get where I’m going
I know I’mma be alone
I know I’m out on my own
Just as Drake is often ridiculed for expressing himself so openly, Durant, too has found himself at the butt of the internet’s jokes, specifically with the “You The Real MVP” meme. KD didn’t take too kindly to people making light of him allowing himself such a vulnerable moment, but eventually got over it:
“I was like, man, that was a real emotional moment for me, and you making a joke about it! Like: Damn. Y’all don’t really believe in shit. You don’t have no morals or nothing. You don’t care about nothing but just making fun.”
“But after a while, it’s all good.”
Sounds like somebody’s been listening to “Lord Knows”:
I’m hearing all of the jokes, I know that they tryna push me
I know that showin’ emotion don’t ever mean I’m a pussy
Durant’s mom might be a source of comfort, but the memories of his dad bring up mostly pain. In the article, Durant tells the story of how, when he was very young, his parents split. His father remained around town, though, and it was confusing for a young KD to see him yet not be able to talk with him. Eventually, his father did return at some point ,and Kevin loved it. After about a year, his dad left his family again. The hurt has remained with him:
“I was like, Damn. I was really hurt. That was the first time I’d ever been hurt by anything. I’m always used to, like, keeping it inside, and it’d go away in a day. But I was like, Damn, man, so we can’t play video games together no more? We can’t laugh at jokes? We can’t wrestle? We would wrestle every day in the living room and shit. It was the coolest thing. And then, like, when he left, it was just like, Damn, we can’t do all that stuff no more? It’s boring now. Because I’m by myself.”
Drake too has been shaped by an absentee father, as he tells us on “0 to 100":
They ain’t make me what I am, they just found me like this
I was ready... fuck that, I’ve been ready
Since my dad used to tell me he was coming to the house to get me
He ain’t show up
Valuable lesson, man I had to grow up
That’s why I never ask for help
I’ll do it for you niggas and do it for myself
Of course, it’s not like it’s been all bad for Durant. Everything he’s gone through gave him the ability and determination to overcome his struggles and become what he is today. He says that he’s had to earn everything he’s ever gotten. He wasn’t born with his jumpshot, he notes; it was the countless hours honing his skill that made him so great. He’s truly started from the bottom and now he’s here.
And he isn’t planning on giving it up any time soon. Durant says he’s moved out of the house he shared with friends in favor of a quieter place where he can better focus. “There’s not a lot of crazy parts moving in my life anymore. I’m by myself.” I imagine KD at home during the offseason putting in work is a lot like the scene Drake sets on “10 Bands,” where he raps about holing himself up in his apartment to dedicate himself to his music:
I been in the crib with the phones off
I been at the house taking no calls
I done hit the stride got my shit goin’
In the six cooking with the wrist motion
So determined is he to fight for his place at or near the very top of basketball’s hierarchy that Durant’s competitive nature even affects his enjoyment of the game he loves. When not playing himself, Durant can’t bring himself to watch his competitors out there:
“I just don’t like other teams or other players. I can’t sit there. I feel like I’m supporting them by watching [other NBA games]. I hope you have a bad game. Because I’m such a hater! I thought it was a bad trait I had. I was like, Man, am I jealous? Why do I hate this guy? But I hope both of the teams lose! That’s how I feel.”
Sounds a lot like Drake’s beef with Kendrick Lamar during from the whole “Control” controversy. Or, as he puts it in “Used To”—
Gotta learn to line ‘em up and then attack
They gon’ say your name on them airwaves
They gon’ hit you up right after like it’s only rap
and again on “Energy”:
I got rap niggas that I gotta act like I like
But my actin’ days are over, fuck them niggas for life
The game is real to these guys.
We’re still a little ambivalent about Durant’s change of heart. On one hand, it’s good that he’s finally rejecting the image that never seemed to fit him in the first place for another of his own choosing. Hopefully, the version of himself he’s now sharing with us is closer to who he really is. And as a Twitter search for any of the above Drake lyrics will show you, he isn’t the only millennial who feels like Drizzy speaks directly to and for him.
Still, it’s a hard to shake the feeling that this is more a brand deciding to change gears than a human finally expressing his real feelings. Remember, he did have that “KD is not nice” slogan in 2013, so he and his handlers have already expressly tried to capitalize on the idea of Kevin Durant: The Badass. It’s right when a brand tries to convince you it’s not a brand when you should be most suspicious.
Regardless of his true motivations, though, the no-nonsense, all-in-his-feelings Durant is much more palatable than the previous edition. And as Drake’s continued success has demonstrated, it’s a personality worth its weight in gold.
Art by Sam Woolley