Kevin Durant on notion no one wants to play with Kobe Bryant: ‘That’s (expletive)’
As the 2014-15 NBA season was just getting underway in October, a story written by Henry Abbott for ESPN The Magazine made the startling assertion that according to his anonymous sources inside the league, most players would prefer to not have Kobe Bryant as a teammate and that he ultimately is responsible for the downfall of the Lakers franchise.
The notion that players were averse to the concept of teaming up with one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players was heavily debated, dissected and in some cases, arguably debunked.
Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant joins the rank and file of players who finds it ridiculous that an NBAer would be so shortsighted as to turn their nose up at the opportunity to play with Bryant.
“Excuse my language, but that’s (expletive),” Durant told USA Today’s Sam Amick. “I want to play with a winner every single night, especially somebody who wants to win that bad, who works that hard, who demands a lot, who raises up your level. I’d want to play with a guy like that every day. … (His style) may make people uncomfortable, how he acts and just how he approaches the game, but I love that type of stuff. I think (the accusation) is BS.”
Bryant has a reputation of being notoriously demanding of his teammates, challenging them to be their best, both in practice and in games, the former infamously documented in light of his vitriolic rant directed at Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak during a Lakers practice last week.
But to think that any player wouldn’t relish the chance to play with him appears highly questionable in the least.
As Samick notes, Bryant has been criticized for his abrasive demeanor and how that has caused strife within the Lakers organization, including the departures of both head coach Mike D’Antoni and All-Star center Dwight Howard.
But to Durant, the perception that Bryant is responsible for the demise of the once formidable and proud Lakers organization is ridiculous.
To try to equate Bryant’s competitiveness, desire, intensity and commitment to excellence as evidence of his character flaws is a fool’s errand, says Durant. When asked by Amick what he admired about Bryant, Durant considered his dedication to the game as it comes out in his worth ethic as being Bryant’s most admirable quality, even if it can rub people the wrong way.
“Just his work ethic, just his demeanor man,” Durant said of Bryant. “He doesn’t mind being an (expletive), and he comes to work man. He’s intense. He demands a lot out of his teammates, and I’ve seen that just playing alongside him in the Olympics (in 2012). He demands a lot out of everybody. He makes them better. Everybody out on the court. You’ve got to respect that. As a player, I study guys like that. We might not have the same personality, but I think we approach the game the same way and I’ve learned a lot from just watching him.”
(photo credit: Sue Ogrocki/The Associated Press)