J.R. Moehringer has a rich profile of Kevin Durant, in the middle of his Achilles rehab, up at the Wall Street Journal today. The new Brooklyn Net drains deep threes in a swimming pool, explains the decay of his relationship with Oklahoma City, details the purported offensive limitations of the Golden State Warriors, and lays out the thought process that led him to New York.
Durant also lets the reader in on his broader, mystifying worldview. Here’s a gold nugget early on, courtesy of Durant’s creative partner Brian Grazer:
Grazer recalls a talk Durant gave at a Google retreat in Sicily. During the Q&A someone asked what made Durant so great. Coolly, Durant replied: “Paranoia.”
Perhaps it’s this paranoia that motivates Durant’s theory of “the machine.”
As with the ruptured Achilles, however, the bitter parting with Oklahoma City brought hidden boons. “It made me realize how big this whole shit is,” he says. The “shit,” he says, is “the machine,” a great big invisible generator of narratives, programmed by the powers that be to gin up controversy, conflict, whatever keeps people dialed in. He’s learned—he’s learning—to free himself from the machine, to separate the game he loves from the noise and nonsense surrounding it.
What exactly is The Machine? From Durant’s POV, it seems to be a vast system of cogs and blogs, operated by a few puppet masters in the media, most of whom are full of “pure hate for me obviously.” Consider the possibility, however, that The Machine is mostly composed of actual people. Normal, excitable, unfamous people, tapping their opinions into the void. Twitter eggs escaping their cubicles for some solitude on the toilet, teens riding off to battle in the Instagram comments. Maybe, to escape The Machine, it would be wise not to bathe in what all those people have to say, twice a day. Alas:
Above all, Durant expresses himself through social media. Instagram is one of his main portals to the world. It’s an introvert’s utopia, he says, a place to engage with people from a safe distance. Never mind the grief it’s caused him in the past. (In recent years, at times using fake accounts, he’s clashed with online critics, including at least one who still had a curfew.) He checks his direct messages twice daily, and though they number in the hundreds, he methodically works his way through, chatting with all sorts of folks about all sorts of subjects.
Even after the publication of this profile, has Durant separated himself from The Machine?