Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have the potential to be an all-time talented duo for the Brooklyn Nets. While they will certainly be a dynamic one-two punch that will overwhelm many teams around the Association, are they prepared to deal with the tough New York media?
The daunting task of dealing with the media isn’t as relevant in every market. It’s true; there isn’t a single city nationwide that compares to the tenacious New York press. For all the praise and glory athletes receive for being a difference-maker in New York, they can suddenly be ridiculed for not meeting expectations.
You can make a very sound argument that both Durant and Irving are the league’s most anti-media players. For all the tremendous skills the duo possesses, to date, their kryptonite has been that of facing tough questions and dealing with media pundits consistently.
Irving often clashed with the press throughout the 2018-2019 campaign in Boston and to a lesser degree during his tenure in Cleveland. Durant, a universally liked player for his humble demeanor and unbelievable skills, oddly battled with the media during his time with the Golden State Warriors.
For years, the New York media has created narratives around “heroes” and “saviors” that quickly become “villains” and “false prophets” in a heartbeat. Odell Beckham, Carmelo Anthony, Mark Sanchez, and Matt Harvey are first degree victims of this very practice.
Will Irving and Durant be next?
First, the one thing this star duo has in their favor is the ability to play basketball at the highest level — already accumulating three championships combined. From a pure god-given ability standpoint, Durant is one of the three best players in basketball. Irving lies somewhere between five to ten. If it’s one thing the media will chastise an athlete for is his inability to play up to expectations — this shouldn’t be a problem for either Irving or Durant.
A challenge that can potentially arise in Brooklyn next season is the on-court absence of Durant. In reality, if Durant were healthy, Brooklyn would be in prime position to make their first NBA Finals appearance since 2003. With Durant gone, Irving will be left to operate the ship as the lone star, and that could potentially lead to turbulence along the journey.
A look into last season showed Irving lead a talented Boston Celtics team to a 49-33 record. If Irving leads the Nets to a similar mark to that of last seasons Celtics, it will be intriguing to see how the press feels.
Will he receive praise or backlash?
In a town that boasts a plethora of championships (thanks mainly to the Yankees 27 World Series titles), publications and media members will not remain patient with Brooklyn and Irving.
Durant, much like Irving, has a low patience level for the media that has been built up over time. Athletes often claim the media dig into their personal life and space, while press insists they are just doing their job — reporting the facts. As both sides argue, it is clear as to how Durant ran into the constant back and forth battles with the press during his time in Golden State.
In November of 2018 following a 121-116 overtime loss against the Clippers, it was reported by Yahoos Chris Haynes that Draymond Green called Durant a “b—-” and said, “We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave.”
While that clash of personalities was bound to take place sooner than later, it was the persistent reporting on the situation that played a role in Durant’s impatience with the press. A locker room situation that should’ve been left behind closed doors was now a major headline for the remainder of the season.
In June, Hall of Fame forward Charles Barkley voiced his concern with the idea of Durant playing in New York.
"“I’d say, ‘Kevin, you’re one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen. You’ve also got some of the thinnest skin I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if you’re made for New York City,’” Barkley told reporters on a conference call for the American Century Championship golf tournament. “I think that would be the toughest aspect.”"
"“If he’s arguing with these teenagers online, he’s not going to be able to deal with that New York media. He’s a great person, he’s a great player. I don’t think he has the mental makeup to play in New York. That’s just my personal opinion.”"
One thing is for sure when trying to analyze how a player successfully navigates the pressure and expectations of the media is winning.
Much of the back and forth between Irving, Durant and the media will become moot if the supremely talented duo can bring Brooklyn a championship.
In a March interview with Yahoo! Sports, Irving spoke with Haynes‘ about his relationship with the media. Perhaps the most important tidbit is when Irving stated the following:
“I’m still learning, bro. I come from a suburb of New Jersey,” Irving told Haynes. “I’m not used to all of this.”
For Irving, a guy, much like Durant that cherishes his privacy, must be prepared for the consistent media presence in New York City. The nagging coverage that bothered both Irving and Durant in Cleveland, Golden State and Boston will pale in comparison to the media storm in New York.
Are they ready for the rain?