WARR contributor Josh Hicks offers his thoughts on the Chicago Bulls and the NBA
February 11, 2017 marks the night that every NBA fan has been waiting for since last summer’s Free Agent extravaganza: Kevin Durant’s return to Oklahoma City after defecting to Golden State.
The talk of the town (and the Association) circles around how OKC will welcome their one-time franchise player Durant return to the city where he began his professional career and how it will play out as an additional episode to his dramatic series with former road dog Russell Westbrook.
Durant’s surprising exit and subsequent homecoming gives fans plenty of reason to boo him all night and energizes Westbrook while giving him a reason to perform a high-caliber triple-double against him and his all-star teammates, but the city should never forget the good that Durant brought not just to the franchise, but also to the city during his nine-year tenure.
Being drafted with the second overall pick by the Seattle Supersonics in 2007, Durant became the face of a descending franchise and its beacon while the team transitioned from Seattle to OKC, he built success in his brand on and off the court while defining success for an entire franchise and the previously ignored city that welcomed it to the Sooner state.
On the court, the one-time Texas Longhorn averaged 27 points with the Thunder and by having Westbrook by his side and a little help from James Harden, built a burgeoning dynasty filled with success and accomplishments, including winning the Western Conference Finals and going to the NBA Finals in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
That same season Durant won the MVP, and by adding numerous deep trips into the playoffs, his Rookie of the Year award and eight all-star appearances to his already impressive resume, helped define himself as one of the best within this generation of basketball talent.
Off the court, the Nike-endorser created a clothing brand through Nike and created various chains of businesses, including his own food restaurant, but he was also a philanthropist and gave his all back to the community, starting The Kevin Durant Charity Foundation, a non-profit organization that focus on changing children’s live all throughout the city.
That very foundation donated $1 million to help rebuild the city after numerous weather disasters. There was also a donation of $57,000 to aid homeless students in OKC well after his transition to the Golden State Warriors.
Overall, Durant put the city on the map as a professional sports area featuring an energetic, devoted fan base.
In recent days gearing up to his OKC return, Durant discussed his expectations of the event with ESPN’s Marc Stein.
“I know they’re going to be rowdy in there, man,” Durant told Stein.
“I’ve been a part of some of the loudest nights in that arena. So I know it’s not going to be the friendliest welcome, but, like I said, I can’t wait to see the people that I really built relationships with over my time there and, you know, I’m sure fans that I got to know throughout my time playing there, even though they might not cheer for me out loud, I’ll give ’em a wink and they know what we had deep down inside.”
Durant’s decision to leave OKC was made for basketball reasons, but it should be acknowledged that he really left a home he made for himself, one where a piece of his heart still remains.
Fans may not see it, or admit to seeing it, but it can still be recognized.
Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042