It set the Internet on fire, ballooned into a hot topic on talk radio and isn't likely to go away for another three years.
Buckle up, Oklahoma.
The free agency countdown for Kevin Durant has begun.
Former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose this week became the most prominent figure to proclaim that Durant will leave Oklahoma City when his contract is up in 2016.
“I think that after he plays out the couple years on his contract that he goes to Houston to play with Dwight Howard and James Harden,” Rose told ESPN’s Bill Simmons on the website Grantland.com’s YouTube channel.
In the video, a confident Rose went as far as to pour water onto the floor to paint the picture of planting a seed because he “might create a harvest.”
And so here we go again.
First it was the “LeBron-a-thon” in 2010, and then it was “Melodrama” in 2011 and, of course, the “Dwightmare” followed in 2012.
Durant's day as the center of a will-he-or-won't-he-leave watch appears to have arrived.
It's just the nature of the NBA.
These countdowns have become cyclical events that take on a life of their own for myriad reasons. But above all, they inject fans with excitement, fear and hope.
The frenzy surrounding LeBron James leading up to his free agency in 2010 kicked off this craze. When his contract with Cleveland ended, James was courted heavily by no less than a half dozen teams before famously announcing his decision to “take his talents to South Beach” in a one-hour televised special.
Carmelo Anthony held all of Colorado captive when he became noncommittal on re-signing with Denver. He was eventually traded to New York.
Dwight Howard, meanwhile, botched his impending free agency so bad in Orlando that he became the laughing stock of the league and made everyone forget how he incessantly was asked about his future intentions.
There might not be a right way for players to handle what is sure to be a sensitive situation. Because the speculation typically begins with so much time remaining on a player's contract, whatever is said can be misconstrued.
Say you're happy where you are and will cross the free agency bridge when you get to it and you've left open the door for interpretation. Say nothing and you'll be condemned for not showing loyalty to your current franchise. Say you want out and, well, you're Dwight Howard. Public enemy No. 1.
Worst of all is there is nothing a star player can do to prevent the conversation from creeping in.
With the rise of the Internet, players’ contract details are just a click away from allowing even the casual fan to learn exactly when Kyrie Irving can be the next stud to ditch Cleveland. Some websites even have programs enabling fans to generate trade scenarios that are viable under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. ESPN.com calls its wildly popular program the “Trade Machine.” You can literally waste hours playing Thunder general manager Sam Presti.
Additionally, basketball is a sport in which just one player can drastically alter the direction of a franchise, leaving fans of every team coveting another team's stars. When James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami, the Heat didn't just become instant championship contenders but also journeyed to three straight NBA Finals, winning the past two.
James' infamous decision, and Miami's subsequent success, helped spawn a new era in the NBA, one that has only fanned the flames of free-agency countdowns. It's the era of friends forming super teams.
Boston first benefited from this type of roster when Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined Paul Pierce before the 2007-08 season. The Celtics went on to win it all that year.
But unlike the stars that found their way onto that Celtics team — Allen and Garnett were both traded from their respective franchises but Allen didn't have a say in the matter — players are now controlling their own destiny. More than ever, they're voluntarily tag-teaming and chasing championships.
New York attempted it with Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. The Lakers lured Howard and Steve Nash to team with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol for one season. Brooklyn will begin this season with six former All-Stars, most of them past their primes yet still an impressive collection of talent, led by Garnett, Pierce, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.
The widespread belief is championship-starved star players soon get restless and begin looking around for the best chance at winning. And with most of those same star players having clauses in their contracts that allow them to forego the final year of their deals additional pressure is on franchises to assemble a winner before the clock begins ticking.
In cases like Oklahoma City's, the franchise's market size adds another hurdle. A team like the Thunder ($71 million payroll) never will be able to splurge as much as a team like the Nets ($101 million payroll). With larger market teams, players have the potential to maximize their earning power by pulling in more money on an off the court.
It's why, even after a lockout intended to even the playing field, players like Howard immediately fled Orlando for Los Angeles, Chris Paul parted ways with New Orleans for the Los Angeles Clippers and Shane Batter made his way from Memphis to Miami.
This is how it works in the NBA.
Durant and the Thunder might be happily married for three more seasons. But that won't stop the rest of the country from setting their clocks and starting the countdown.
Durant becomes a free agent on July 1, 2016. That's 979 days.
Buckle up, Oklahoma.