While this particular instance didn’t involve Kevin Durant, the Warriors’ infighting went viral for about the thousandth time on Sunday night. They sleepwalked through a home loss against the last place Suns and Steve Kerr appeared to rip Draymond Green. The Warriors are under a constant microscope, locally and nationally. It may not even be possible for a basketball team to be more exhaustively covered.
While Durant may not even 100% know yet where he’s playing next season, since Chris Haynes said on FS1 last October there’s a ‘very good chance’ Durant will wind up with the Knicks, there’s been a fever pitch in that direction. Every time this comes up, the conversation shifts to Well, Kevin Durant is thin-skinned, could he handle the big bad New York media? I would posit this beast no longer exists in its past feral form, and it’s difficult if not impossible for the scrutiny anywhere he goes to eclipse what he already faces in Golden State.
I asked Ian Begley, who covers the Knicks for ESPN, and Action Network’s Rob Perez, the die-hard Knicks fan better known as World Wide Wob who obsessively follows the NBA and its media, about their thoughts on my opinion.
“I mostly agree with you, Ryan. The idea that the New York media would present some kind of unique challenge for Kevin Durant is overblown,” says Begley. “Since his free agency in the 2016 offseason, Durant has been one of the most scrutinized players in the NBA. That wouldn’t change if he played for a team in New York.”
“The New York media has a reputation of being ‘the most harsh’. You want to know what acts as gasoline being poured onto an open flame to fuel this notoriety?” asks Perez. “A city with a bunch of pro teams that flat out stink. If you remove the Yankees and a once-every-decade performance from the Knicks/Rangers/Mets from the equation, the nation’s most populous city and biggest sports market in terms of quantity of teams is irrelevant in almost every championship discussion.”
Perez continues: “You’re not going to believe this, but, when you suck and have millions of people who care that you suck — the press is not favorable. This applies to any major city, not just NYC. When I hear ‘well, player X and player Y won’t come to New York because they already don’t like talking to the media and can you imagine them trying to deal with the media there?’, I want to tomahawk my computer out the window.”
There are a confluence of factors at play here. The NBA is a national sport where the stars command individualistic attention regardless of where they play. It’s not that regions don’t matter at all, but LeBron in Cleveland, especially in his second go-round, proved that you can be a one-man epicenter of media scrutiny from anywhere.