Pressure from a sponsor. It’s the NBA. You’ve got to have a conspiracy theory. And this one might be as crazy as all the others. But it’s hard to ignore. Durant reportedly is on the verge of leaving longtime sponsor Nike and signing a massively lucrative endorsement deal with Under Armour. Well, guess which shoe and apparel heavy hitter sponsors USA Basketball? That’s right, Nike. It’s possible, perhaps even probable for all we know, that some Under Armour executive requested Durant bow out of the competition so that he wouldn’t be plastered in Nike apparel for a month. Sure, it sounds far-fetched. But this is big business, and Durant might soon have 300 million reasons why he would have granted such a request.
It’s just not worth his time. This isn’t the Summer Olympics. This is an event to qualify for the Summer Olympics. This is a tournament that has rebranded itself from the FIBA World Championship to the FIBA World Cup partly in an attempt to drum up more interest. This is a field the Americans are expected to dominate — at least until the championship game — with or without Durant. Organizers and USA Basketball officials want to make it about patriotism. As if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love are any less patriotic for choosing to not play. Durant has given his time and his talents to Team USA, dominating this tournament in 2010 and helping the U.S. take gold in the 2012 Summer Olympics. He’ll likely rejoin the mix for the 2016 Summer Olympics. But forget talk of doing it for the red, white and blue. There are simply better ways Durant could be spending his time.