Speaking ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder's game against the Miami Heat on Sunday, Kevin Durant opened up about his attitude toward the media.
The six-time All-Star clarified that he is more than happy to engage in a back-and-forth conversation, and his "main goal is to help the fans know the game a little bit more than they know today," per Erik Horne of the Oklahoman:
Kevin Durant (unprompted) addressed his relationship with the media after Thunder shootaround today: pic.twitter.com/rhaaazHv0a— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) January 17, 2016
This comes after Durant criticized what he felt was a bias against his team, sparked by comments Michael Wilbon made on an episode of Pardon The Interruption. Wilbon argued the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs are the only true NBA title contenders. Durant issued his response Saturday, per ESPN.com's Royce Young:
Man, the [media and experts are] always trying to nitpick us. I mean, they don't like us. They don't like how Russell [Westbrook] talks to the media, they don't like how I talk to the media. So obviously, yeah, they're not going to give us the benefit of the doubt.
Especially since we've been together so long. Some of these teams are new, except for the Spurs, who have won. But we haven't won and we've still got the same core, so they don't expect us to win. It is what it is, who cares about them. They don't mean nothing, the critics. Their opinions, everybody has one, but we don't really care about them. Every day we're just going to keep grinding this thing out. We feel like we can compete with anybody.
Over the past few years, Durant has had a somewhat thorny relationship with members of the basketball media.
"You guys really don't know (expletive)," he said during All-Star Weekend last year, per Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman. "To be honest, man, I'm only here talking to y'all because I have to. So I really don't care. Y'all not my friends. You're going to write what you want to write. You're going to love us one day and hate us the next. That's a part of it. So I just learn how to deal with y'all."
Nothing in Durant's job description says he has to be friends with journalists or even offer forthright answers to questions beyond the general platitudes most athletes espouse. In fact, fans and journalists should embrace Durant's at times outspoken responses since too few athletes are willing to speak their minds.
His criticism is also justified at times, such as when an editor for the Oklahoman dubbed him "Mr. Unreliable" or the time ESPN's Stephen A. Smith told him on an episode of First Take, "You don’t want to make an enemy out of me" (via For the Win's Nate Scott).
With that said, Durant's comments referencing Wilbon were somewhat unwarranted since one look at the NBA landscape would reveal the Warriors, Spurs and Cavaliers are the three best teams in the league right now. Wilbon's opinion wasn't all that outlandish.
If Durant wants to shut his critics up for good, the best response would be leading the Thunder to their first-ever title.