OKLAHOMA CITY â€” Hours before Kevin Durant was to play in Oklahoma City for the first time as a visitor Saturday, some Thunder fans were already gathered around Chesapeake Energy Arena, showing their contempt for the man who left as a free agent last summer and joined the rival Golden State Warriors.
The venom continued as the game approached. Durant was booed loudly during warmups, and booed even more loudly during starter introductions. After tip-off, he was booed whenever he touched the ball.
Brady Cox of Newcastle, Oklahoma, stood outside the arena wearing a blue Durant jersey that had the word ‘Traitor’ duct taped under the No. 35 on the front. He held a sign with ‘Mr. Unreliable’ at the top, referencing a headline that The Oklahoman ran above a photo of Durant during the 2014 playoffs and later apologized for.
“When they first came out with Mr. Unreliable, I was very upset,” he said. “I thought, ‘That’s nothing like KD.’ A few years later, I’m upset again. I’m like, ‘How could he do this to us?'”
Durant said before the game he didn’t expect a warm reception. He knows how passionate the fans are, and they are part of why he has such fond memories of Oklahoma City.
“You plan for the worst,” he said. “Obviously, I know how it is. I know fans are loud, especially here. Just try not to think about it and go out there and play. Once the ball is tipped up, just go out there and play the game.”
Durant felt strange going to the visitor’s locker room for the first time.
“There’s definitely emotion,” he said. “I played here for eight years. There’s no getting around that.”
Another Thunder fan wearing an orange Russell Westbrook shirt held a sign that said ‘KOWARD” with the K and the D in orange and the rest of the letters in blue.
Still, many fans have fond memories of Durant’s time in Oklahoma City. He won the 2014 MVP award, was a four-time scoring champion, led the team to the NBA Finals in 2012 and is a member of the state’s Hall of Fame.
“He did do a lot of good stuff for the city,” Chris Cordova of Edmond, Oklahoma, said. “I’m not going to discount that at all.”
The fact that Durant led the Thunder to a 3-1 lead over the Warriors in the Western Conference finals last season before losing the final three games made the fact that he went to Golden State that much more difficult to accept for some fans.
“Definitely mixed emotions,” Cordova said. “A lot of angry people, a lot of bitter people. And just the team that he went to. He went to Golden State, the team that eliminated them. It makes you wonder if they (the Thunder) had won Games 5, 6 or 7, if he would have even gone.”
Cliff Brunt, The Associated Press