Kobe Bryant once said any season that did not end up in an NBA championship was “a wasted year in my life.”
Kevin Durant opened up to reporters a day after his Oklahoma City Thunder team was eliminated from the 2013 NBA playoffs by the Memphis Grizzlies. Contrary to Bryant’s 2011 season-ending remarks, Durant stated, “nothing is ever a wasted year for me. It’s basketball. I’ve grown so much as a man since the beginning of the season. I’ve grown so much as a leader. Nothing is ever wasted.”
“Of course, the ultimate goal in this league is to win a championship,” Durant said. “But I’m never going to say I wasted a year. I’m blessed to even wake up and do something I love every day. So it’s never wasted.”
Some believe that the Thunder’s window of opportunity to win an NBA championship is right now, and Durant and company should not be satisfied wasting another year. Much like this year with the injury of All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, injuries can happen at any point of a season. Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game of basketball, and they have the tendency of plaguing teams with title hopes.
Fans may not be happy with Durant’s optimistic attitude towards the season that ended too abruptly, but that doesn’t concern the Thunder star.
“I’m going to be who I’m going to be. I’m not Kobe Bryant,” said Durant. “I’m not Michael Jordan. I’m not Lebron James. I’m not Magic Johnson. I’m me. I’m not going to ever compromise myself, my integrity and what I believe in for winning some basketball games and winning a championship. That’s just not how I was brought up.”
Durant is set on working to improve as a player this offseason, and with the return of a healthy Westbrook, the Thunder will be likely favorites to win the Western Conference next year.
With that said, there will still be a few question marks for this Thunder team going into next year.
Thunder guard, Kevin Martin, will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and it may not be in the Thunder’s best interest to re-sign him after his somewhat dismal season. Even though he did an okay job at best in filling the void of James Harden this season, his shooting inconsistencies may lead the Thunder organizations to part ways and search for another shooting guard to fill his position.
Center Kendrick Perkins was a fan favorite in his first of couple years with the Thunder after being acquired from the Boston Celtics. His tough, defensive-minded swagger has brought many contributions to his Thunder team, but he has proven he is not a scorer — nor is he a great ball handler. His lack of scoring capabilities could lead to him being amnestied so the Thunder can acquire somebody with a better low post game.
The Thunder’s season was ended a lot sooner than they had hoped this year, but Durant will embrace the failures and use them to become a better player. This Thunder team is young, and they surely have all of the opportunity in the world to become a dynasty in the next decade.
Durant will do everything he can to reach the ultimate goal of becoming an NBA champion, and he knows he does not have to be like anybody else but himself to reach that goal.
“I’m always going to fight for this game I love,” said Durant. “I’m going to claw until the last buzzer sounds. And if that’s after a championship then, of course, I’ll be happy. I’m not satisfied just being in this league and losing. I’m going to work as hard as I can to try to get to that mountaintop. I enjoy playing the game. I enjoy being here. But I’m never going to come out to the media and say we wasted a year because we lost a championship. Like I said, I don’t have to be Kobe Bryant.”