If you missed the NBA Finals last night, Superstar Kevin Durant made the decision to play through an injury that’s held him out of a the past few weeks. Since Durant’s team, the Golden State Warriors, were facing elimination in the Championship, and possibly to quiet criticism that he is a “soft player”, Durant put on his cape, and suited up. Although, he played well through a quarter and change of play, Durant ended up re-injuring his leg, possibly significantly. All of this adding up to fans, media etc asking the question “was it worth it?”. To further complicate the situation, Durant has an option this year, and the 32-year-old could be entering the free agent market this off-season.
Why does this mean Kevin Durant changed sports forever? Time and time again, the sports world has witnessed and revered those that have played through injury/sickness/adversity. Its transformed heroes into superheroes. I’m sure you can picture stars that played through pain and injury in just about every sport. Whether its Terrell Owens suiting up in the Super Bowl after breaking his leg, Jordan playing though the flu during a playoff run or Curt Schilling winning Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS after having surgery on his ankle, we can all picture players fighting through the intense pain–and it APPEARING that it was WORTH IT.
On the other hand, try to imagine a player of such stature, in a particularly significant part of his career “business-wise” in front of a national audience “make the wrong decision”. To be clear, you can argue if it was the right or wrong decision, but you can’t argue that his choice to play through the injury resulted in further injury. We all know perception is reality, even our all-too-human sports heroes saw the same thing we did. The very fact the national sports news story today revolves around “the decision” may be powerful enough to have the next star athlete with a similar decision opt to sit out.
In a sports landscape full of stars playing through pain, no matter the consequences, Kevin Durant has given the elite athletes in the world a symbol, an image or a totem, of why you maybe SHOULDN’T suit up.