The best of the three superstars, however, is Kevin Durant. Durant is nearly seven feet tall, and he shoot 30 feet as if they were lay-ups, and if a player has ever looked more natural or graceful on a basketball court, I’ve never seen him. Durant’s key word is ease. It moves with a pure and unforced economy of movement, a frictionless glide, which makes it almost indifferent to the action around it. He looks so basic on a basketball court that you almost expect to find him mentioned in James Naismith’s original 13 Rules of the Game. (8. A goal must be scored when the ball is thrown or kicked from the ground in the basket – someday there will also be a man named Kevin Durant, he will perfectly express what this game is supposed to be like, he gets it better than Yes, I’m just writing all of this to make the game exist when it arrives.) Durant has been so good, so consistent, for so long that the biggest drama surrounding his career has always been the one he chose to star in. When he decides to leave a franchise, it’s a bit like finding out that the Grand Canyon has decided to move to Sweden.
In conclusion, each of the three Nets superstars makes you shake your head and say “wow”, but in a whole different way. For Irving, the wow means: I can’t believe he just pulled off that stunt. For Harden, that means: I can’t believe this guy just did all this to all these other guys, what’s going on, are we all in some kind of prank series? For Durant, the wow is the same wow you say when you first see the ocean or look into a volcano – it’s the wow of the sublime, to witness such a beautiful and grand and elegant force. and simple and natural and durable that it makes you feel, by contrast, small and lumpy and awkward and soft. And yet, you would never choose not to watch it if you could.
Could the Brooklyn Can the net experiment work? The three Nets superstars are all basketball geniuses, but they can also all be described, quite aptly, as “in a bad mood.” Each, in their own way, has managed to leave a trail of drama and destruction in the wake of an otherwise illustrious career: abandoned former teams, tantrums on the pitch, PR blunders, playoff failures. As young Oklahoma City teammates, Durant and Harden were once so passionate about training that they had to be separated – and weeks later Harden, who was tired of playing in the shadow of his superstar teammates, was traded to Houston. Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, won a championship in Cleveland with LeBron James but then requested a trade. The Boston Celtics greeted him as a conquering hero, and he returned love (“If you will get me back, I plan to sign again here”), until suddenly he doesn’t. After months of bickering and drama, passive-aggressive quotes and Instagram essays with weird caps, Irving left Boston, to a chorus of taunts, to join Durant in Brooklyn. Returning to Houston, Harden, who had established himself in eight seasons as a superstar, forced the trade that would allow him to join the fun in Brooklyn as well.
It would be difficult to put together a more eccentric trio. Irving once suggested the earth was flat and then when everyone went crazy he tried to pretend he only said it to make everyone crazy. (“It was an exploitative tactic. It literally made the world go round, your guys’ world, it made it go into a frenzy and proved exactly what I thought it would do in terms of how it works. all of this.”) James Harden partied without a mask in Las Vegas during the pandemic, then worked his way through real professional games with the effort of a teenager unloading a dishwasher at 6 a.m., KD got into trouble on Twitter, then into trouble on Twitter.
How could these three actors, with their infinity of moods, coexist? Especially through the volatile, talkative and dramatic grind of an NBA season? Especially when anything less than a championship would be seen as an embarrassing failure? Especially in a wild and compressed pandemic season in which normal chemistry-building exercises (team meals, outings, workouts) were largely impossible? Even under the best of circumstances, moods are unpredictable. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Our moods don’t believe each other.”
As it turns outside, the superstars barely had the chance to coexist. This season seemed cursed. The Brooklyn Big 3 played together, all year round, for just about 200 minutes. It was an endless series of minor accidents and misunderstandings and unsynchronized delays. Kyrie Irving was missing for a while, mysteriously missing seven games for what the Nets called “personal reasons.” (The gossip circulating in the media section of the Barclays Center would have scorched your eyebrows.) Kevin Durant has been swallowed, like many of us not, by health and safety protocols – “Free-” me, ”he tweeted, virally – then twisted his left hamstring, and what was supposed to be a short absence turned into almost two months, 23 straight games without Durant – then just before his return, James Harden, who is not injured, was injured. Then Durant got down on his knees real hard in the thigh, right in his Rick James tattoo, and Irving got hit in the face, and the season was suddenly over.