I heard the cries from Oklahoma City all the way in Athens, Ohio. The tears that Thunder fans shed might not stop flowing anytime soon. For how does a city not fill a river with tears when the athlete whose face best reflects it has his season turned upside-down?
His was the break heard around the NBA world, because other than LeBron James, no star will be missed in his team’s starting lineup and at its box office more than Durant will.
For he is one of the NBA’s brightest stars. He’s a lean and graceful scorer whose smooth-as-silk shot can drop 50 in a blink. Unstoppable comes to mind when fans think of Durant, and if you happen to root for the Thunder, you see their hopes of bringing Oklahoma City an NBA trophy diminished.
Without Durant, whose injury should sideline him for eight weeks or more, the Thunder can’t match the elite teams in the Western Conference. The team still has point guard Russell Westbrook, but he’s too mercurial to bank a season’s success on.
Westbrook’s a splendid complement to Durant; Westbrook is not a replacement, even if he thinks otherwise.
But Durant’s injury will let Westbrook prove he’s a star on his own. He could be the second coming of Magic Johnson, but with no Durant to pass to, Westbrook will find himself having to carry a load too heavy for him. His challenge will be to keep the title hopes of Oklahoma City from foundering and sinking.
Eight weeks isn’t a long time for Westbrook to hold things together, and should he do so, Durant will return with hope still alive.
Forget about the season, though. What’s more important is what will Durant’s broken foot do for his future?
The answer will come deep into the 2014-15 season, and for fans who look at the NBA as high art, they will miss one of the players who practices the art form at its highest level.
From what they hear, Durant isn’t lost for the season. He will be back, but will his fine game return with him?
Injuries like his can wreck a man’s career. But let’s not entertain such a thought. We should sit back and wait for Durant’s return — wait and pray that he’s closer to what he used to be than what we fear he might be.
Athletes go down to injury often. Some of them we don’t even miss. But we will miss Kevin Durant, though not as much as fans in Oklahoma City will. For they are the ones who are shedding tears.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)