Kevin Durant pulled out of Team USA two weeks ago much to the shock of USA Basketball coaches, players and executives. Durant cited mental and physical fatigue as his reason for quitting the team during the middle of training camp, only weeks away from the start of the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
“After going through training camp with USAB, I realized I could not fulfill my responsibilities to the team from both a time and energy standpoint,” Durant said in a statement. “I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.”
Though many took Durant for his word — and he certainly has earned the benefit of the doubt — there has been a lot of skepticism about KD’s reason for quitting the team.
USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo said Durant pulled out because of contractual obligations, but he later issued one of those “clarifications.”
We speculated that Durant pulled out because he’s concerned with his next big shoe/apparel endorsement contract. It sounds like that is the case.
In a long, rambling, and at times incoherent opinion piece, Chris Sheridan says Jay-Z, who is the man behind Durant’s new agency Roc Nation Sports, is to blame for KD withdrawing from the team.
Though Sheridan never explicitly states what Jay-Z did, he says Durant’s agent is behind the surprising decision.
And what I have discovered in talking to members of the U.S. federation over the past two days is this: Durant and his agency, Roc Nation, are more interested in cashing in on his MVP award and his expiring Nike deal than they are in having Durant keep his word to the people who were with him in 2010 in Turkey at the World Championship and in 2012 in London at the Olympics.
Sheridan points out that since signing with Jay-Z, Durant has ended many of his previous business relationships. He ended his endorsement deal with Gatorade in favor of Sparkling Ice. He is now shopping around shoe/apparel companies even though he’s been with Nike since entering the NBA.
The implication is that Durant/Jay-Z/Roc Nation are more concerned with setting up his business deals than having him participate with Team USA.
For instance, Durant spent the day at Under Armour’s headquarters on Wednesday. UA is a Maryland-based company and reportedly was preparing a monster offer for the reigning NBA MVP. Sheridan also says adidas is preparing a big offer for Durant and that the Thunder forward re-signing with Nike is still a possibility.
Sheridan mentions that Durant may not have wanted to spend several weeks around Nike people (Nike sponsors USA Basketball) while he is shopping for a new deal.
Overall, it comes across as though Sheridan has more inside information on the subject than he can share, but he feels strongly enough to write a very opinionated piece on the matter.
The bottom line is this: participation on USA Basketball is voluntary. Durant is well within his right not to play for the team. He just handled the timing of his leave very poorly.