Kevin Durant has the basketball world buzzing again.
This time, though, it's not about what he did on the court.
The Thunder superstar had some not-so-nice things to say about Chris Bosh after Sunday's showdown with the Heat. He called out the Miami big man. He ripped him for being a fake tough guy. He broke one of the few unwritten rules in the NBA — what happens on the court, stays on the court.
Is this the same guy who is beloved because he seems too good to be true? Who is celebrated for being so nice and humble?
Fear not, Thunder fans. Your Kevin isn't turning into some monster. Your Kevin isn't heading down Bill Laimbeer Boulevard or Rasheed Wallace Way. Your Kevin is as lovable as ever.
He stood up to the big, bad Heat.
Now, before we go any further, let's set the scene a bit. Only a few minutes into Sunday's game, Bosh fouled James Harden to prevent a breakaway layup, and Durant, who was trailing the play, hollered at Harden and told him to dunk it next time.
Bosh, who was standing nearby, piped up and said Harden would do no such thing.
“I was talking to my teammate, and he decided he wanted to put his two cents into it,” Durant said. “I'm a quiet guy, a laid back guy. But I'm not going to let nobody talk trash to me.
“He's on a good team now, so he thinks he can talk a little bit. But it's a lot of fake tough guys in this league and he's one of them.”
I'm not exactly sure I buy Durant's assessment of Bosh. To be a fake tough guy, Bosh would first have to act tough.
He's never really done that.
Now, this isn't some sort of commentary on how strong he is. Just making it to the NBA requires toughness. Simply surviving a season in the league necessitates strength. Bosh has that toughness and strength, but what he doesn't have is some tough guy act.
He doesn't stare down guys. He doesn't wear his face in a permanent snarl. He doesn't beat his chest like a crazy man.
Kevin Garnett does enough of that for the entire league.
But when Bosh said that Harden wouldn't be dunking on him, Durant stood up for his teammate.
He wasn't backing down when asked about it later either.
“I'm no punk,” said Durant, who made nice with Bosh a bit by saying he was a cool dude. “I wasn't even talking to him first off. He decided to butt in. I'm not just going to let that slide, especially in our house.”
I suspect Durant was speaking a bit out of frustration. The Thunder had chances to win, to knock off the Heat in front of a packed arena and a national television audience, but it couldn't get the job done. The loss was no doubt weighing on Durant, who looks as devastated after losses as any professional athlete in sports today.
But Durant is also a smart guy. He doesn't say things without thinking them through, doesn't shoot off his mouth for no reason.
His reason for this: to send a message not only to the Heat but also to the Thunder.
His message: I'm not backing down.
The Heat is an imposing bunch with its star power and its scoring prowess. It gets into opponents' heads. It beats a lot of them before the game even starts.
Durant made a statement with his actions and his words that he isn't going to be intimidated. Not Sunday. Not later this season when the Thunder goes to Miami. Not any time in the future.
For an up-and-coming team with ambitions of one day winning a title, having that attitude is a must. Durant let it be known that he will stand toe to toe with any team, and as the Thunder leader, that sets a great tone with his teammates.
Sure, he ruffled some feathers. Yes, he created a buzz. But Kevin Durant didn't do this to make headlines.
He did it to win games.