Kevin Durant Wants to Be the Only Person Online

Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors reacts against the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game Three of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.
“If I want to comment, I do. That’s just who I am. … People just blow it out of proportion because it’s me.” Jason Miller/Getty Images

Can one get better at social media simply by using it more? Probably not. It isn’t a violin. There is no 10,000-hour rule for Twitter or Instagram, and Kevin Durant is an object lesson in this fact.

“I’ve been doing social media for a minute,” Durant said this week on fellow NBA star C.J. McCollum’s podcast, The Pull Up. “I got tweets in the archive since I first started in the league.” But despite this considerable experience, Durant frequently stumbles into completely avoidable mishaps.

This month, he got in an argument on Instagram with a ”Teenage Basketball Analyst” who’d been tagging the superstar in posts. “Bruh go sweep ya dorm room, u don’t know hoops. Stop tagging me in this trash,” Durant commented on one of the teenager’s updates. He also hopped in the kid’s DMs to call him a “middle school/knock off stephen a [Smith].

The spat naturally got a lot of media attention, something that perturbed the eminently perturbable Durant. “How am I the bad guy when you’re only focusing on that type of stuff?” he asked McCollum. “I’m the insecure person when you’re only focusing on that. Like, leave me alone.”

“It’s what comes with the territory,” McCollum responded.

“It does not, actually,” said Durant.

You don’t have to have 10 million Instagram followers, as the two-time NBA Finals MVP does, to understand that this is completely false. For someone who spends so much of his life online, Kevin Durant doesn’t seem to understand the internet’s two basic tenets:

1. Everyone can see what you post.

2. Nothing chums the water like getting mad online.

Last fall, Durant infamously fired back at a fan on Twitter who’d criticized him about leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State. His tweets were written in the third person, and he took some uncharacteristic shots at his former coach and teammates. The quickly deleted tweets seemed to reveal that he used a burner account to anonymously bash his detractors. Durant denied that explanation, telling GQ that it was “a dissociative episode.”

That’s an odd thing to say! A few days after sending the tweets, he apologized while onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. That is a humiliating place to deliver a mea culpa; it’s like getting divorced at an Aspen Ideas panel.

Despite the very public humiliation, Durant did not get offline. “It’s pretty simple. If I want to comment, I do,” he told McCollum. “That’s just who I am. … People just blow it out of proportion because it’s me.”

In 2018, anything a celebrity says, whether or not it’s interesting, gets turned into content. Durant, as it happens, is quite interesting. His two-part podcast with McCollum is a fantastic listen, full of insouciant riffs you’d otherwise never hear from a professional athlete. He lambasted the New Orleans Pelicans’ defensive schemes as “gimmicky.” He called out ex-teammate Nick Young for allowing an opponent to score 50 points on the Warriors. Durant also tossed a few barbs McCollum’s way. His insults were both mean and funny, and they offered a glimpse into the kind of trash talk athletes are usually too guarded to reveal.

When McCollum addressed the back and forth on Twitter, he called Durant’s move to the Warriors “soft.” An elite shooter on the court, online Durant is a lot better at dishing it out than taking it. Unwilling to let anything go, he typed up a prickly response, thus regenerating the online content ouroboros that has consumed his previous two offseasons.

Last year, San Francisco magazine published a profile of Durant that painted the forward as the tech industry’s newest man about town. In that piece, he explained that he admired the thick skin of Silicon Valley’s elite Masters of the Universe. “They don’t care about what people have to say about them,” he said. “They don’t care how you feel about the decisions they make.”

When a reporter asked Durant about his supposed feud with McCollum, the Warriors star appeared upset to be characterized as upset. He wasn’t mad! Not at all! The other guy was mad!

Durant does care, a lot, about what people have to say about him, which makes sense because he is a person who lives on Earth. On McCollum’s podcast, he admitted that he signed with Golden State because he didn’t want to be the “guy that had to talk to the media every day …  going to every community events and showing my face.” When you’re as famous as Durant is, though, there’s no escaping from the media and fans and haters, especially if you’re going to live your life online. Twitter and Instagram are the real world, if that’s where you spend your time.

Later, McCollum asked Durant about the first thing he does in the morning.

“Look at my phone,” he answered.

“I knew I had a problem when I had to check my phone before brushing my teeth,” McCollum said. “That’s how I knew I was addicted.”

“Yeah,” Durant sighed. “We all are.”