It’s a golden time in Kevin Durant‘s life right now.
Not only did K.D. lead Team USA’s men’s basketball team to a gold medal at the Summer Olympics, but he also just locked down a monster payday to remain with the Brooklyn Nets on a four-year extension worth a reported $198 million.
Durant’s payday with Brooklyn wasn’t necessarily tied to his Olympic performance, but it certainly didn’t hurt that he dominated on the international stage.
He scored 101 total points — good for fourth-most in the tournament — across five games played, connecting on 53% of his attempts from the field and 42.4% from distance.
He also hauled in an average of 4.6 rebounds and dished 4.0 assists per game.
In the gold-medal matchup against France, Durant led all scorers with 29 points in 35.3 minutes played in a hard-fought, 87-82 victory for Team USA.
His 29 points are tied for fourth-most in a gold-medal game, meaning he now holds or shares three of the top four scoring performances in a men’s Olympic final.
It’s a third consecutive gold for Durant, tying Carmelo Anthony’s record total, and a fourth straight for USA men’s hoops.
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Considering the temperature around the team in the lead-up to the Olympics, battling for the gold brought quite the narrative change.
Coming into the Games, the U.S. split a quartet of exhibition contests, losing to Nigeria and Australia before bouncing back with wins against Argentina and Spain.
The action in Tokyo opened with a thud for the Americans, who fell 83-76 in their opener of group play against France. That was their only blemish of the tournament, however, and they avenged that loss when it mattered most — with gold on the line.
After winning gold, Durant went live on Instagram to call out the naysayers before heading to his news conference.
“They had some power rankings out. They had us fourth, behind Slovenia,” Durant said.
Added Draymond Green: “Like this not our game.”
Then Durant continued, “C’mon man. Talking about they catching up to us. Like, are you serious? This skill is unmatched, you dig? Shoutout to everybody that won this gold, everybody that chipped in and helped out.”
(Warning: The video below contains NSFW language)
The rants carried over into the news conference, as Green called the doubters to the carpet.
“You turn on American sports talk TV, and you got guys like Kendrick Perkins, you know, doubting us,” Green said, via the Los Angeles Times. “Somebody needs to teach these people some loyalty. How about you cheer for your country? But then when guys don’t play, ‘Oh, you need to go represent the country.’ And then you lose, hit a little bump in the road. And everybody’s, ‘Oh, everybody’s caught America.’ You are an American, too. Act like it.”
Yes, it’s safe to say Team USA heard the noise and responded to it.
And now that the players have had their say, the media has responded, too, including ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins, who was directly mentioned.
The discourse carried over to Monday, when Chris Broussard of “First Things First” defended himself and some of his colleagues.
“K.D. said, ‘The world is saying, “Oh, they’re catching up to us.”‘ Who said that?” he said. “Your own coach, Gregg Popovich, he sat in every press conference after every loss and said, ‘They’ve caught up. It’s not surprising anymore when we lose.’ … So I do think winning the gold wipes away the ugly, ugly memory of losing to Nigeria.”
In addition, Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe of “Undisputed” delved into whether Durant’s summer exploits have elevated him to the pinnacle of the NBA pecking order.
Bayless sure believed so, saying on Monday’s show that Durant is “unstoppable.”
“After that [opening] France game, I saw backlash all over Twitter, and I believe it all came from mostly LeBron [James] apologists and LeBron lovers,” Bayless said. “… I told you … it’s laughable to have any suspicions about this team because I kept telling you they are still prohibitive favorites because they have the best player on the planet.
“I’ve never seen anything like Kevin Durant. He’s better than LeBron James, especially at this age and stage of LeBron’s career.”
‘Kevin Durant is unstoppable ‘ — Skip Bayless reacts to KD leading Team USA to Olympic gold I UNDISPUTED
Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe discuss whether Kevin Durant is the best player on the planet.
Sharpe didn’t see eye-to-eye with Bayless, but he wasn’t going to pick up the mantle for James.
Instead, Sharpe pointed toward the reigning NBA champion and Finals MVP, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“Whoever has won the NBA title — that’s the best player. You did it when Kevin Durant beat LeBron James. You did it when Kawhi [Leonard] won the title. … The Olympics proved nothing. The Olympics, what it did prove, is that I hope Kevin Durant comes back for Paris in 2024, or we’re not getting no gold medal.”
It seems K.D. still has some heads to turn, but he has done all he can this summer.
Perhaps a title with the Nets, with whom he’ll be playing for the foreseeable future, would do the trick?
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