Can Durant improve his image?

Few things exhibit our society’s pettiness as convincingly as trying to make a villain out of one of the NBA’s more likable players.

Kevin Durant has been called everything from a coward to a traitor to a shameless pursuer of championship rings the past few weeks. All because he chose to sign with Golden State.

If I’m not mistaken, the world has more pressing issues to deal with than Durant wanting a change of scenery for his 27.4 career scoring average built in Oklahoma City the past nine seasons.

Unfortunately, images of LeBron James’ ill-timed and poorly-executed “Decision” remained fresh in people’s minds. They piled on Durant for simply wanting to add more dream to what already viewed a Warriors’ Dream Team.

Steph, Klay, Dray — and now KD.

On paper, it sounds unbeatable. But even the Beatles had problems. So, for that matter, did James’ Heatles (the most inane sports nickname ever, by the way) in Miami.

Nothing is guaranteed.

And yet Durant knew he was in a no-win situation.

Social media was going to tear into him even if he had helped three elderly women across the street, rescued four cats from trees and donated a sizable sum of money to charity on his way to signing his new two-year, $54.3 million contract.

Durant signed anyway.

Critics need to be reminded Durant is part of the United States Olympic men’s basketball team for the second time in his career. He helped lead his country to the gold medal in London in 2012.

Minus the services of James, who by being a three-time Olympian has more than done his patriotic part, Steph Curry (zero Olympics) or Russell Westbrook (2012 Olympics), this U.S. squad will lean heavily on Durant’s mind-boggling offensive arsenal when the Games commence Aug. 5.

Call me old-fashioned, but proudly and willingly representing one’s country with the world watching should shape our opinions about an athlete rather than the fact he or she left one professional sports franchise for another.

As one of our primary go-to players in Rio de Janeiro — Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson being the others — Durant is setting himself up for more ridicule should our Olympic basketball team return carrying silver or bronze medals.

Or, worse, the ultimate humiliation of no medals at all.

If the United States men’s basketball team wins gold for the 15th time in 18 Summer Olympics, persons won’t be hanging out 20th-floor windows dropping confetti on our conquering heroes.

It will be news the way the sun setting in the west is news.

All the same, it’s interesting how winning gold will help Durant repair a reputation that never should have been damaged in the first place.

Mike Beas is a sports reporter for the Daily Journal of Johnson County, a sister paper to The Republic. Send comments to

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at