KD silences doubters with another gold medal

SAITAMA, Japan — Kevin Durant couldn’t help it. He had heard the doubt, “the noise,” all natural consequences of the U.S. men’s basketball team’s early struggles at these Olympics. And so, walking up a stairwell deep inside the Saitama Super Arena, he turned a camera phone to his face.

He’d just won a gold medal, his third, with a typically transcendent first-half performance and a game-high 29 points in all. And as ever, the outsiders who thought he might not be capable floated to the forefront of his mind.

He addressed his message to “everybody who said we was gon’ take the L.” He mentioned proclamations that the basketball world was catching up to the U.S. men, that dominance was waning.

“Like, are you serious?” Durant said. “This skill is unmatched.”

And if you watched any of Saturday's final, a 87-82 victory over France, you’d realize there was no counterargument.

Durant knew there never was. And he knew that the doubters — “to be honest, they really don't matter.” But he’d heard them. So had Draymond Green. “Over and over again,” he said at a postgame news conference. “I mean, you turn on sports talk in America, everybody was crushing us.”

Head coach Gregg Popovich chimed in: “A lot of those people are right in this room.”

“Yeah,” Durant said, “for sure.”

Kevin Durant and Team USA men's basketball earned the right to talk their smack. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Kevin Durant and Team USA men's basketball earned the right to talk their smack. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

They also knew, though, that the doubt wasn’t completely unfounded. They’d been sluggish and out of sorts in an Olympic-opening loss to France. Sure, half the roster was either in flux or fresh off a plane from the NBA finals. But Durant had never lost with Team USA before. In the aftermath, they held a players-only meeting. “And you know, when you have a team meeting, you kinda at the bottom,” Durant admitted.

But they grew as a unit, and that’s what Durant loves so much about the national team experience. “When you're a part of a team that's evolving by the second, it's just amazing to see,” Durant said. He spoke glowingly about the “camaraderie” they’d built.

“It's special that we can come together for a common cause,” he said. “Because we battle against each other all year. We fight so hard to get this gold ball in the NBA. For us to rise above that and become teammates and brothers for life, against the rest of the world, it's just a huge, huge deal.”

And it made him happy. He’s already accomplished everything there is to accomplish in the sport. This, still, “brings me a lot of joy,” he said. “I really, really enjoy it.”

So excuse him if he was feeling himself a bit, enough to turn that camera to his face, ever so briefly, as he climbed the stairs.

“We goin to the press conference,” he said. “But I had to talk my s*** real quick.”

Click image to see slideshow
Click image to see slideshow

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