Kevin Durant has decided against playing for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team in this summer’s FIBA World Cup, becoming the latest yet biggest star to announce his withdrawal from the tournament.
Durant informed USA Basketball officials of his decision Thursday afternoon, citing physical and mental fatigue from the NBA season.
The reigning NBA MVP was one of three holdovers from the U.S. squad that took gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics. This round of international competition again requires more than a month long commitment, which includes extensive travel to exhibition games in Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and Spain, as well as a trip to the African country of Senegal.
The World Cup, formerly known as the World Championship, will be held in Spain from Aug. 30 through Sept. 14.
“This was an extremely difficult decision, as I take great pride in representing our country,” Durant said in a statement. “I know that I owe it to my USA Basketball teammates to be totally invested in the experience. 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. 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. I will be rooting for USAB and look forward to future opportunities with them.”
Other players who withdrew their names from consideration this summer include Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Minnesota forward Kevin Love and San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard. With the exception of Love, who is expected to be traded to Cleveland later this month, each player that pulled out pointed to a desire to rest.
Some of the NBA’s most established stars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul never intended on playing internationally this summer.
It was a wonder why Durant did.
Durant and Love in a joint announcement last summer committed to this year’s World Cup.
“USA Basketball, man, that’s all you really need to know,” Durant explained then of his commitment. “It’s kind of self-explanatory playing for your country.”
Durant reiterated his commitment on July 28, the opening day of the national team’s training camp.
“I always wanted to be here,” Durant said. “My basketball life is short when you look at it in the grand scheme of things. I really want to play as much as I can and try not to worry about my body. I know that sounds a little crazy and a little whacky. I want to take care of myself, but at the same time I want to play and experience all this stuff. I learn so much. I soak it all in. It’s an exciting time, and right now I am enjoying it. I want to have some memories to look back on because in 10, 12, 15 years it flies by.”
Four days after Durant made those comments, Indiana forward Paul George sustained a compound fracture of his right leg during the USA Basketball Showcase, an annual intra-squad scrimmage that caps training camp in Las Vegas.
Television cameras caught Durant appearing as distraught as anyone at the sight of George’s injury, one that ultimately will rob him of the entire 2014-15 season. New Orleans forward Anthony Davis paced with Durant, attempting to console the Thunder star.
Yet on a national conference call earlier this week, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski both downplayed the impact George’s injury would have on other stars keeping their commitment to international play.
“The great news there is that in communication with the players, they are all on board,” Colangelo said. “They recognize that injuries and sports go together, unfortunately.”
Durant has been going non-stop for the past five seasons, playing in 388 of a possible 394 regular season games. He’s logged 15,064 minutes over that span, or 930 more than the next closest player.
With another 73 playoff games since 2010, including three conference finals appearances in the past four seasons, Durant has played an additional 3,090 postseason minutes, third most in that stretch behind James and Wade.
Durant also has been a fixture on the USA Men’s National Team since 2010, leading the team in minutes played in each of the past two international events. Toss in off-court commitments with sponsors such as meetings, commercial shoots, promotional tours and trips to Asia, his annual youth camp in Oklahoma, his skills academy in Washington, appearing at legendary playground leagues from New York to Los Angeles for pickup ball, attending award shows, filming a movie and actually working out and it becomes clear why Durant is finally drawing a line.
A final factor might have been Durant’s endorsement deal with Nike expiring last week. It put him at the center of a bidding war between shoe and apparel companies. It has been reported that Under Armour has offered Durant a deal that could pay him more than $300 million over 10 years. While juggling that decision — which one outlet on Thursday night reported is a forgone conclusion; Durant will join Under Armour — the Thunder star was again set to become the face of Team USA in a tournament most expect to be a breeze for the Americans with or without him.
And so it seems it all became too much.
Something had to give.
“We respect and support Kevin’s decision and understand how difficult it was for him to come to this conclusion,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said.