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Oklahoma City Thunder fans need to let the Durant hate go The former golden child turned Golden State Warrior did too much for the team and the city to be treated this way

Originally posted at the undefeated https://theundefeated.com/features/oklahoma-city-thunder-kevin-durant/

As Kevin Durant walked by, a female Oklahoma City Thunder fan unrolled toilet paper close enough for Durant to see his face on each square. Bitter Thunder fans were still chanting, “cupcake … cupcake,” at the Golden State Warriors newcomer. Despite the bizarre and unforgettable Saturday night, a victorious Durant got the last laugh in his return to Oklahoma City and ironically slapped the hand of a man wearing a Seattle SuperSonics T-shirt as he headed to the visitors locker room.

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“There’s definitely emotion,” said Durant, after scoring 34 points in a 130-114 win on Feb. 11 over the Thunder. “I played here for eight years. There’s no getting around that.”

Yes, Thunder fans, your voices were heard, from the hanging toilet paper to a giant walking cupcake to the heckling fan behind the Warriors’ bench. Regardless of what Thunder star Russell Westbrook thinks about his old teammate, it’s time to move on and let this whole Durant disdain go. There is nothing good that can come from it.

The news that Durant was heading to a Western Conference rival that the Thunder blew a 3-1 series lead to just a mere step below the 2016 NBA Finals was stunning and painful. And his lack of communication with Westbrook about his departure has led to conversations of only a trash-talking variety during three games this season.

When asked if he would change anything about his departure after his return game, Durant simply said “no.”

Durant had already played the Thunder twice this season, but both of those blowouts occurred in his now comfortable confines of Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. But there was no bigger ticket in the state this year than Durant’s nationally televised boo-a-thon return to Oklahoma City on Feb. 11. The Thunder fans came creative and ready to have their jeers heard and signs read, too.

Former Thunder center Kendrick Perkins used to call his teammates “cupcakes” for being soft, and Westbrook posted a picture of a bunch of cupcakes the day Durant announced his departure. As soon as Durant walked onto the floor for pregame shooting, Thunder fans chanted “cupcake,” but he silenced them with music in his headphones. One fan creatively dressed as a mammoth yellow cupcake with Durant’s name and No. 35 stitched on it.

A fan welcomes Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors back before a NBA game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on February 11, 2017 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

A fan welcomes Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors back before a NBA game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Feb. 11 in Oklahoma City.

Marc J Spears/The Undefeated

“I’ve been called worse in my life,” Durant said about the cupcake chant. “I was counted out before I was even born.”

There was some other fan cleverness as one Thunder fan wore a T-shirt that read, “35-35=0,” in reference to Durant’s and Westbrook’s jersey numbers, respectively. There were also some harsher ones, such as a poster that said “I trust Russia more than I trust K.D,” and another displaying a picture of teammate Draymond Green holding the belly of his infant son’s mother when she was pregnant with Durant’s face superimposed on her body.

Rich Taylor, a well-known Thunder fan, left all his Durant jerseys on his downtown Oklahoma City doorstep and put a “For Sale Sign” on the lawn on July 4. Taylor also passed out T-shirts for Durant’s return that read, “KowarD,” on the front with a cupcake on the back. The former San Jose State basketball player relentlessly trash-talked with Durant and teammate Draymond Green from his seat behind the Warriors’ bench during the game Feb. 11. After Green and Taylor exchanged words, security had to calm both down. Green said Taylor called Durant the “p-word” as well a “little boy.”

“That guy was disrespectful to us the entire night,” Green said. “Cheer. Heckle. Heckle all you want. But don’t be disrespectful. Calling guys p-words and all this stuff: ‘Get over there, little boy.’ He was disrespectful the entire night …

“This ain’t the ancient times. Slave days are over.”

Taylor says he taunted Durant without cussing or crossing the line and he teased Green about his reputation for kicking during some games. He maintained that he never said anything racist or vulgar during the game and that security would have ejected him if he did.

“I wish I could have cussed out [Green], but one word and they would have tossed me out of the arena,” Taylor told The Undefeated. “The only person that used that kind of language was KD toward me. But [Warriors coach Steve] Kerr said I deserved it for riding [Durant] all game and he was right. As far as anything racial, that’s just a millionaire whose skin I got under a little too easy.”

Durant’s damaged relationship with Westbrook simply adds fuel to the fan furor.

Divorce is never easy. The two reportedly have not had a friendly conversation since Durant’s announcement. And there certainly was no love lost that night as they both tossed fiery words at each other during one timeout that thankfully never turned into a fight.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, left, comments to Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) as they walk offcourt for a timeout in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (left) comments to Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (No. 35) as they walk off court for a timeout in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City on Feb. 11.

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

After the game, they both ate at separate tables at a popular local steakhouse. Awkward. But it will be even more awkward during NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans as the two MVP candidates will be teammates again. Don’t expect these fences to be mended anytime soon. Word is the blood is very bad.

“It’s over with. He plays for his team, I play for my team. Let him do his thing, I do my thing and that’s it. Plain and simple,” Westbrook said.

Thunder fans will understandably follow their loyal leader, who may stay in Oklahoma City his entire career. And if Westbrook let it all go by offering Durant some well-wishes on his decision and career, many Thunder fans probably would have calmed down after Feb. 11. But that ain’t gonna happen.

“I’m used to getting booed in all arenas,” Westbrook said. “The tables [have] turned a little bit.”

The NBA has had some unforgettable star return contests in recent years.

Shaquille O’Neal’s return to Los Angeles had Lakers fan split between their former center and Kobe Bryant. Perhaps the most hateful in NBA history was LeBron James’ first return to Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat. Then there was one of the kinder, gentler variety this season as first-year Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade returned to Miami as a visitor after 13 years of service and two championships with the Heat.

Warriors coach Kerr was a color analyst for Turner Sports during James’ first return to Cleveland. He believed Durant’s return was nearly as venomous.

“A little weird position to be in,” said Kerr. “I don’t think any of us could ever imagine what he was thinking out there and the emotions he was going through in his body and his mind. It was kind of a strange event.

“You got people you know love you deep down, but they’re screaming, yelling and calling you names. It’s kind of a weird, weird feeling. But he handled it beautifully and played a great game,” Kerr said.

“I’m assuming it’s hard. I’ve never been in that position, ” said Warriors guard Stephen Curry. “But knowing how much history he had here and familiar faces from back in the tunnel to out on the court, all the great memories he’s had here … You really want to focus on basketball, but not cheat the experience of playing here for the first time.”

Kerr said he understands the emotions of the fans when a star player leaves during free agency, because they fall in love with the players. But Green added that fans hypocritically don’t respect the players’ ability to make a choice in free agency.

“I don’t think the fans lose sight. I don’t think they have sight,” Green said. “But I appreciate [NBA pioneers] for giving us the right to have that freedom. If somebody leaves Google to go to Apple or Amazon or whoever or Spotify, no one is killing them for making a better decision for their livelihood. This is what he thought was a better decision for his livelihood.

“But yet it’s a big deal. ‘He’s a coward. He’s this. He’s that.’ I think it’s ridiculous.”

The anger in Durant’s first return to Oklahoma City seemed the most over the top considering what he did for the franchise and the community. He — not Westbrook or James Harden or Serge Ibaka — made “Thunder” a worldwide basketball name.

Durant was drafted by Seattle with the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft and played his rookie season in the Northwest. After 41 years in Seattle, the Sonics franchise moved to Oklahoma City and changed their nickname to the Thunder in the offseason of 2008. Oklahoma City’s only history with the NBA was when it temporarily hosted the New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina.

Oklahoma City was blessed that the Thunder arrived with a budding star in Durant. His success in a Thunder uniform changed the city from a place viewed as a country town to a basketball powerhouse. He made seven NBA All-Star appearances as a member of the team, led the team to its lone NBA Finals appearance in 2012 and two Western Conference Finals. And who can forget his live press conference when he called his mom, Wanda Pratt, “the real MVP,” when he was awarded the Thunder’s only NBA MVP award in 2014? Oklahoma City and Thunder fans were proud and sticking out their chests. When the Sonics arrived in Oklahoma City, they were worth $300 million, now they’re worth nearly $1 billion, according to Forbes.

Durant made a difference off the court too. In 2013, he gave $1 million in the relief effort to Moore, Oklahoma, after a tornado killed 24 and injured 377. He was named to the 2015 Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, and even after his departure to the Warriors, he gave $57,000 to a new school for the city’s homeless called Positive Tomorrow last December.

Long after the buzzer that Saturday night, numerous elderly employees at Chesapeake Arena made a point to visit with Durant as he was departing. The men and women hugged him tight. Durant genuinely asked how they were doing, reminisced and was in no rush. They didn’t care that he was not playing for the Thunder anymore. KD was a friend whom they saw grow to a man in Oklahoma City. They missed him.

“That is the real-life part of it,” Durant said.

Thunder fans should never stop booing any star from another team scoring at will against their own beloved squad. Durant expects the same to be the case when he returns with the Warriors in March. Booing an opposing team’s superstar is often a sign of respect.

But Thunder fans need to let the anger go.

Durant is as notable to Oklahoma sports history as Mickey Mantle and Jim Thorpe are. The Thunder will want him to participate in their 10-year anniversary of making it to the NBA Finals in 2022. At some point the team will want to retire Durant’s No. 35 jersey. And Thunder fans would certainly love for him to say nice things about the franchise and his time in Oklahoma City when he becomes a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer. Who knows? He might want to end his career there if on good terms.

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Word is Durant was really hurt on Saturday for being treated so poorly after all he had done for the Thunder, their fans and Oklahoma.

“Nine years go by and then you leave somewhere and everyone is pissed about it,” Green said. “It’s not that he owed anyone anything. I think he did what he had to do, made a decision he had to make and earned, too. But at the end of the day, everyone is going to have their feelings on it. If you’re human, it weighs on you regardless if you’re tough or not tough at all, how brash you want to be. It’s going to weigh on you.”

Long after the dust settles, there will be a day when most Thunder fans will miss Durant and appreciate all that he did. But considering the emotion of his still fresh divorce, can the Thunder fans even think that far ahead?

“That’s a tough question,” Taylor said.

Cincinnati Bengals free agency 2017: Top 5 targets

Originally posted at Fox Sports http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/cincinnati-bengals-free-agency-2017-top-5-targets-021317?cmpid=feed:-sports-CQ-RSS-Feed

The Cincinnati Bengals look to bounce back from their dreadful 2016 NFL campaign. Here are five players they need to target in NFL free agency this spring.The Cincinnati Bengals had one of their worst seasons in recent memory. For the first time since A.J. Green and Andy Dalton earned their tiger …

What Had Happened Was: 2/13/17 Oh, you don’t know? We got you.

Originally posted at the undefeated https://theundefeated.com/features/what-had-happened-was-21317/

GAME. BLOUSES.

In a 130-114 blowout win for the Golden State Warriors over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night, the victory played second fiddle to the return of former Thunder forward Kevin Durant to the franchise that drafted him in 2007. After all of the hype and buildup, Durant had another stellar night, scoring 34 points in the third matchup of the season between the two teams. Warriors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson chipped in 26 apiece.

Russell Westbrook lit up the stat sheet for 47 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but all was for naught, as the Thunder were outplayed the majority of the game.

The most exciting part of the lopsided contest was in the third quarter, when Westbrook and Durant traded barbs, and then Thunder forward Andre Roberson decided to jump in moments later after fouling Durant hard on a drive. Both players were called for technical fouls for the verbal altercation.

Russell Westbrook pushed Kevin Durant the way you push your big brother when mom ain't looking.

pic.twitter.com/PhDB37iWgC

— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) February 12, 2017

Reminder: Russell westbrook laughed at Steph and hasn't beaten him since.

— David Dennis Jr. (@DavidDTSS) February 12, 2017

Kevin Durant reportedly hired extra security for his return to Oklahoma City https://t.co/4HVDbrlXW4 pic.twitter.com/rNsQzRMsqO

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 11, 2017

Durant versus Roberson. pic.twitter.com/RJKuod1k6u

— RealGM (@RealGM) February 12, 2017

Draymond Green & Stephen Curry wearing cupcake t-shirts. pic.twitter.com/UUg4UTkEr1

— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) February 12, 2017

Draymond Green says: "This ain't ancient times. Slave days are over," in regard to rowdy fan behind Warriors bench calling KD "p-word" & boy pic.twitter.com/7LJbtzKSgD

— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) February 12, 2017

BLESSINGS

Can we add uno mas https://t.co/5O82rA2CCW

— Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) February 13, 2017

That multiple Grammy winning feeling. pic.twitter.com/rDWZVK58Hs

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 13, 2017

Chance rn #GRAMMYspic.twitter.com/pXAghnMx4f

— HotNewHipHop (@HotNewHipHop) February 13, 2017

❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/7bCxZuq07s

— MTV (@MTV) February 13, 2017

Chance The Rapper is 23 years old and just won two #GRAMMYs off a mixtape that was free .99. If that isn't an inspiration, idk what is.

— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) February 13, 2017

SOCIAL STATUS

Need this framed. Right now. #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/zZT2BFUw52

— HuffPost BlackVoices (@blackvoices) February 13, 2017

#GRAMMYs

Dr: Beyoncé you're pregnant, don't do too much..

Beyoncé: pic.twitter.com/hgtQ8kX8aq

— The Root (@TheRoot) February 13, 2017

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…"

Rest in peace, Prince. 💜 #Grammys pic.twitter.com/hkmBrhxdmu

— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 13, 2017

Here are the 2017 Grammy winners so far https://t.co/MUPGKqipiS

— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 13, 2017

ultimate flex: beyonce wrote a whole album about jay cheating and then made him sit there and hold her child while she won a grammy for it

— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) February 13, 2017

Congratulations to @solangeknowles for winning her first Grammy for "Best R&B Performance" #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/rpBDsdK2VR

— The Root (@TheRoot) February 13, 2017

.@BustaRhymes: "I want to thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban. #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/Te7f4bZrGh

— Variety (@Variety) February 13, 2017

Rest in Peace Phife Dawg forever pic.twitter.com/yQSGPyCmGG

— XXL Magazine (@XXL) February 13, 2017

When all of the other artists wanted to play it safe, hip-hop will always speak truth to power. Thank you Tribe!

Resist!#GRAMMYs

— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) February 13, 2017

Hip hop has been resisting for a long time. But y'all called that gangsta rap, threw parental advisory labels on them & disregarded them.

— bad thang (@kiaspeaks) February 13, 2017

When you realize that Prince, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Kanye West have never won an album of the year Grammy but Taylor Swift has 2. pic.twitter.com/pt7kgR4LTy

— Matthew A. Cherry (@MatthewACherry) February 12, 2017

Rihanna at the #GRAMMYs. pic.twitter.com/QYF39g289l

— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) February 13, 2017

Hip-hop has been fighting for respect at the #Grammys for 28 years. pic.twitter.com/tCoSw9TT0D

— Cycle (@bycycle) February 13, 2017

FOR THE CULTURE

Federal agents conduct immigration enforcement raids in at least six states.

Former Boston Celtics center Fab Melo dies at 26.

The New Edition Story broke records and was the highest-rated telecast on BET in the last five years.

The Department of Education misspells apology for misspelling W.E.B. Du Bois’ name.

A Tribe Called Quest delivers the most political performance at the Grammys.

TOP THREE TWEETS

1. FANCY FOOTWORK

my baby cousin eating them platanos, look at the footwork coñooooooo😭💜 pic.twitter.com/imsdgV5FUe

— Beyoncé Knowles (@AbreuJasmine_) February 12, 2017

2. IF THEY DON’T HAVE ANYTHING NICE TO SAY

LMAOOOO. I'm crying at these teams social media after the NBA said no more hateful back and forth conversations. pic.twitter.com/EmhAwvujed

— Aaron. (@aaron_est_laced) February 11, 2017

3. THAT’S HOW YOU SCAM THE DAY

You don't need a Grammy If you are a Grammy pic.twitter.com/cFuuzmUiiF

— ▲▲ike (@ThatBlackMike) February 13, 2017

ICYMI

Issa Rae at the 48th NAACP #ImageAwards. pic.twitter.com/PsGa43wBCz

— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) February 12, 2017

"Without commitment, you'll never start. But without consistency, you'll never finish." – Denzel Washington at the #ImageAwards pic.twitter.com/bPQQeJDCT2

— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) February 12, 2017

Do you think they're excited to have won Oustanding Drama Series?! #ImageAwards #ATT #QueenSugar #OWN pic.twitter.com/sGxYmNaFH2

— NAACP Image Awards (@naacpimageaward) February 12, 2017

PICTURE PERFECT

UR MANS SCHOOLBOY Q
CAME WITH HIS DAUGHTER
HAD HER IN A PINK GUCCI SUIT
AND HIS HOODIE
BEST DRESSED CONTENDER #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/vW4otiDFLm

— Morris Yay &do lines (@dances) February 13, 2017

Pots & pans: Are we in the greatest era of championship sports? The world’s most iconic athletes are all playing at the top of their game

Originally posted at the undefeated https://theundefeated.com/features/pots-pans-are-we-in-the-greatest-era-of-championship-sports/

In January in the Land Down Under, Roger Federer and Serena Williams returned to the top of pro tennis. They won the men’s and women’s singles titles at the Australian Open, respectively. On Feb. 5, the NFL football season ended with quarterback Tom Brady leading his New England Patriots to a miraculous overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Houston. It was the latest big-time sports season to be punctuated by a storybook ending.

This upcoming weekend, the NBA will present its All-Star Game and Rising Stars Challenge, the latter a showcase of the NBA’s rising stars. And, you have young stars shining bright across the sports universe, from the NBA’s Anthony Davis to the NFL’s Dak Prescott, from the WNBA’s Breanna Stewart to the NHL’s Wayne Simmonds and baseball’s Mike Trout.

Some of the greatest and most iconic athletes of all time are playing now at championship levels, too, from Brady to Sid Crosby to LeBron James to Serena Williams. In the coaching ranks, Geno Auriemma, Gregg Popovich, Nick Saban and Bill Belichick, some of the all-time greatest coaches, are chiseling their faces on the Mount Rushmore of their sports.

And some of the most compelling sports storylines have unfolded in recent years: In the MLB, for example, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs fans, the ultimate true believers, have been delivered from decades in the championship desert by the intelligent design of Theo Epstein, who put together World Series winning teams in both cities.

This is a golden age, with players performing in glittering sports palaces. The sports gods have given fans a cornucopia of sports delights, a valentine to all those who would believe against the odds. Further, because of technology, sports can be followed anytime, from anywhere. The big-time sports are year ’round; fans can get information that cheers or saddens them 24/7. And fans can enter their sports worlds from many different doors and windows, including those framed by cold hard statistics, and those splattered by the mush of sports talk shows that often bring the sensibility and clarity of a middle school food fight to their explorations of the games.

Even if the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus weren’t playing its final shows, it would be clear that big-time sports had long ago replaced the big top as a diversion from the trouble the world is in. Indeed, many decry the nation’s obsession with sports as a waste of economic, intellectual and emotional capital that could be used to address our most enduring problems. Yet, if you look closely, the world’s many challenges parade through our games, like sauntering elephants connected trunk to tail.

Everything that happens in the world resounds in sports, including our nation’s continuing struggles with racism, sexism and anti-gay prejudice and our triumphs over them, like Jackie Robinson breaking the MLB’s color line to Elena Della Donne, a former WNBA MVP coming out as a lesbian.

Come Sunday, NBA fans will be treated to the All-Star Game, which is stylistically rooted in the East-West All-Star Game of the Negro (baseball) Leagues during the 1930s and 1940s: The NBA All-Star Game is almost incidental to the parties that surround it and the style of the fans rivals the style among the players.

The beauty and meanings of contemporary sports are left to the beholders: Those who use sports as a refuge from the world’s problems can use the games and their many splendors as an escape. But others see big-time sports as providing examples of our bridging the things that separate us to achieve victories rooted in teamwork and comity.

No matter what fans seek from the games, they are a gift from the sports gods, a valentine for the true believers and the cynics, a valentine for the champions who swing through the air between defeat and victory for us all.

Bengals Need To Find An 'Edge' In The Draft

Originally posted at Fox Sports http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/bengals-need-to-find-an-edge-in-the-draft-021317?cmpid=feed:-sports-CQ-RSS-Feed

The Cincinnati Bengals have two Pro Bowl pass rushers in Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. A deep draft class of defensive ends offers them more help to dominate the AFC North.Bengals fans have officially made it to draft season. If you look at the many “mock” draft’s posted, you might…

Brooklyn Nets Week 17 Outlook: Losing Streak Hits Double-Digits

Originally posted at Foxsports http://www.foxsports.com/nba/story/brooklyn-nets-week-17-outlook-losing-streak-hits-double-digits-021317?cmpid=feed:-sports-CQ-RSS-Feed

This has to be the stake in the coffin now. After dropping all three games this week, the Brooklyn Nets now have dropped their last 12 games and have proven to everyone that they might never find their tenth win.With the potential the Brooklyn Nets have, you’d expect them to have at the very …