Basketball Hall of Famer and TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley is at it again. He’s piling on one of his favorite targets, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant. The Nets and the two-time Finals MVP have agreed to move forward with their relationship after an ugly trade request from KD and an ultimatum that general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash be fired. Barkley, never short on criticism of today’s players, thinks KD is miserable and will never be happy.
“He seems like a miserable person, man. I call him Mr. Miserable, he’s never going to be happy. Everybody’s given him everything on a silver platter,” Barkley said. “He was the man in Oklahoma City, they loved him, he owned the entire state. He bolts on them and wins back-to-back championships [with Golden State], and he’s still not happy. Then he goes to Brooklyn, they give him everything he wants and he’s still miserable.”
Let us parse the accuracy of Barkley’s comments. When he says “everybody’s given him everything on a silver platter,” to what is he referring?
The adulation and respect KD earned in Oklahoma City by being rookie of the year, a member of the 50-40-90 club, league MVP, a four-time scoring champion, six-time All-NBA, and seven-time All-Star? While leading the Thunder to the playoffs in six of his nine seasons there, including the NBA Finals and the conference finals four times.
What “silver platter” does Barkley mean? The love from OKC fans seems like it was earned.
Barkley goes on to say KD “bolts on them.” Does Barkley mean fulfill his contractual obligation and sign with a different team as a free agent? Because that’s exactly what happened.
In another part of the interview Barkley says that old guys like him think KD rode the Warriors’ coattails to a title. Aren’t we done with this reductive conversation? Isn’t the collective intelligence level of sports fans higher than this? You don’t win back-to-back Finals MVPs by riding coattails.
The part where Barkley is correct is that, yes, when KD left the Warriors to sign with the Nets, the franchise gave him everything he wanted. That is a fact. They signed DeAndre Jordan, huge mistake. They fired then head coach Kenny Atkinson, another mistake. They gutted the roster and gave up control of their draft for the next five years to acquire James Harden, colossal mistake.
All of these moves were done either at the behest of KD or with his approval. They’ve made the franchise worse, and he has to own all of that.
But trying to ascertain the level of another person’s happiness, particularly when you are not qualified to do so, is a fool’s errand.
From afar it appears as though KD has a restless and wandering spirit. He seems to be continuously in search of something. What that something is? Nobody knows. Perhaps KD himself doesn’t even know what it is he’s searching for, if he’s searching for anything at all.
The problem for Barkley and many sports fans is, KD doesn’t act in a manner that fits the archetype that has been laid out for a generational all-time great player. He doesn’t act like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or his contemporaries in Stephen Curry and LeBron James. Because he engages in back and forth on social media and leaves seemingly perfect basketball situations we ask “what is wrong with him?” or “why is he like this?”
While this is excellent fodder for the talking head shows and countless think pieces, we may never learn the answers to these questions. But debating on his happiness or misery and qualifying his championships seems like a poor way to enjoy basketball.
On the floor KD’s brilliant, often sublime. And off of it, he’s enigmatic. He isn’t the first athlete to present that kind of dichotomy, and he certainly won’t be the last.