We need to talk about Kevin Durant’s nickname.
After the All-Star Game, Kevin Durant sat down for an interview with Grantland’s Bill Simmons. Toward the end of their talk, Simmons brought up his new “The Slim Reaper” nickname and asked Durant if he was OK with having that moniker thrust upon him. “You can call me The Servant,” Durant replied. He went on to explain what that stupid-ass nickname means:
I just like to serve everybody: My teammates, ushers at the game, fans. Just serve everybody.
For fuck’s sake. Not only is “The Servant” a terrible nickname, it’s a nickname that Durant has given himself for all the wrong reasons. It’s the kind of nickname that reinforces the fetishization of Durant’s “humility” and “graciousness” that started when a post-The Decision world cried out for an egoless anti-LeBron.
Durant goes on to tell Simmons that “The Slim Reaper” is a little too “dark” for him, speaking like a man who understands the value of selling a humble, sanitized version of his on-court persona to the jersey-buying public. “The Slim Reaper” is there to bring swift, merciless death to his opponents; “The Servant” is there to help his team win by playing the right way. Hilariously, Durant goes on to worry that giving himself a nickname might come off as arrogant. All that humility can lead one down a slippery slope!
But here’s the thing: while by all accounts Kevin Durant is, in real life, just as nice a guy as you could ever hope to meet, on the court he’s a ruthless killer. He’s the guy who will bark at an opponent’s bench before going on a game-winning scoring tear. He’s the guy who will call people out for being “fake tough guys.” He’s the guy who invented the “kill ‘em and pray for ‘em” celebration, complete with menacing throat slash, after a big dunk.
Someday, when Kevin Durant inevitably does something that rankles Mike Lupica types, moments like the ones listed above will be dragged into the open and pointed at as evidence that Durant hasn’t always been “who we thought he was.” We’ll also be reminded of the fact that he is very aware of his shooting percentage. Maybe then, at last, the man will sign on to a decent nickname.