Much of the talk leading up to the 2017 NBA Finals this week has revolved around what the result will mean for LeBron James' legacy as he chases the 'ghost' of Michael Jordan, but according to Colin Cowherd, one of James' opponents may have even more on the line.
On Monday's episode of The Herd, Cowherd said that a Warriors loss could ruin Kevin Durant's reputation after he left Oklahoma City to win a ring.
Kevin Durant: A championship won't complete my life
Kevin Durant is protecting himself
“That’s a little too ethereal for me. Like, listen dude, you left to get a ring. Don’t deny it. What you’re doing is trying to protect yourself if you don’t win a championship.
If you don’t win a ring, you’re going to be known for the headline that made you mad, ‘Mr. Unreliable.’ You’re going to be known as ‘guy who couldn’t even win with the stacked Warriors.’
I mean, this sounds like a guy trying to protect himself emotionally, which I guess would understand, but I don’t buy it for a second.”
Kyle TeradaKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
If Durant doesn't win a title, he'll be forgotten
“Kevin Durant needs to win a championship.
You can talk about your life and your pottery classes and your poetry readings and your family stuff, but athletes are defined by their athletic prowess, and you would be mocked and poked and eye-rolled for the rest of your life.
Think about this: Karl Malone is the second leading scorer in NBA history. Think about that. In the history of professional basketball in America, Karl Malone has scored the second-most points. And we never discuss Karl Malone.
We never bring him up. When you talk about all-time NBA teams, he doesn’t make the first three teams as the second leading scorer.”
We define athletes by what they achieve in their sport
“If Charles Barkley wasn’t as funny as Charles Barkley is, we would never talk about Charles Barkley, who was an unbelievable talent.
You are, as an athlete, defined by your athleticism. You’re enriched by it, financially. What you do becomes a large part of who you are.
… There’s always been this saying ‘I’m not defined by my work.’ Great people are. Come to terms with it. Steve Jobs is overwhelmingly defined by his work.”
Cary EdmondsonCary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
KD doesn't want to be 'the guy who couldn't win on a superteam'
“Tom Brady? He’s addicted to football. He’s giving it 16 hours a day of play or thought. It is a big chunk of his life, and that’s OK. Doesn’t mean he’s not a dad. Doesn’t mean he’s not a great husband, but it’s a huge chunk of his life.
For Kevin Durant to say ‘yeah, you know, winning a title, there’s a lot of other things I want to achieve.’ Great. But you’ll never walk into a room the same if you don’t win with this team. You’ll be known as the guy who couldn’t win with this team.”
Kelley L CoxKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Russell Westbrook is facing a similar challenge to change his reputation
“I said this about Russell Westbrook. [He] has to figure out a way to share the ball more, because at this point - I don’t care about the MVPs, Russell Westbrook’s amazing - he’ll be known as ‘guy who ran KD off.’ That’s what he’s going to be known for. He’s going to be known closer to Marbury than Magic.
If you don’t learn to play with people… in the NBA, you’ve got to figure it out while you still have your athletic ability. Can you play well with others? Otherwise Westbrook’s just going to be known as a dynamic, ball-centric guard who never won anything.”
Thomas SheaThomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Durant is too good to never win a title
“Kevin Durant, right now, is an eight-time All-Star. So’s Alex English. I like Alex English, but there’s a lot of eight-time All-Stars. Chris Bosh…. I think he’s an [11-time] All-Star. Carmelo, 10-time All-Star. We don’t talk about Carmelo when he retires.
Kevin Durant right now, he’s just an eight-time All-Star - and he’s a better player than that…. Listen, when you win an Oscar, you don’t even have a first name. You’re ‘Academy Award winning actor [blank].’It becomes your first name. This is like Meryl Streep is Academy Award winning… that’s now her first name. That walks in the door with her. You don’t want to be ‘nine-time All-Star guy’ when you’re as good as Kevin Durant.”