Thunder guard Derek Fisher, a teammate of Bryant's at the time of his comments, on Thursday defended Durant's stance.
“When you think about the stages of their respective careers when the question was asked, it makes a difference,” Fisher said. “If Kobe was 25, his answer may have been different at that time. But to be 15 years into a career where so much had been accomplished already, I can relate to that answer at that time. But I can also relate to Kevin's answer today.”
Fisher pointed to the team's 60-win season, an Oklahoma City era record, and the Thunder overcoming the loss of James Harden five days before the start of the regular season as reasons why Durant would say what he did.
“That says a lot about the direction of this organization,” Fisher said. “And so I can see why Kevin would still be optimistic about where things can go in the future.”
Using Durant's comments as an indictment on his will to win or killer instinct, Fisher said, also would be a mischaracterization.
“Toughness is not always how you show it and try to show it off. There's a toughness that doesn't have to be talked about or put out there for display. I think that's Kevin's style.”
The Thunder went 3-6 following the knee injury that knocked Russell Westbrook out of the playoffs. After each loss, Durant addressed the media with a surprising calm and confidence, not once showing frustration or anger in the face of what had become an increasingly trying postseason.
“I actually had peace going through this run,” Durant said following Wednesday's season-ending loss. “Because that's when we really had to come together and we really (grew) as a group. The only way it would make it frustrating is if we came in here with an attitude because Russ was out, or we missed shots, or we lost a game. But nobody did that. We all kept our spirits up, and we were always positive. That was the best part about our group; that no matter what happened to us we kept our heads high. You couldn't ask for nothing else.”