Like many kids, I dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. I grew up envisioning myself scoring the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, the walk-off homer in the World Series or the clinching shot in the NBA finals.
Since I was eight, I’ve had an affection for sports commentary. We didn’t have a television in our house back then, so we listened to big sporting events on the radio. I made up my mind that if I couldn’t make it as an athlete, I would do the next best thing: stay around the game as a journalist.
Basketball was my greatest passion, and I knew early on that I wanted to make a career out of it, but I realized in middle school I was never going to play in the NBA. So two years ago I started an Instagram feed called @Bucketscenter to promote the YouTube channel and SoundCloud podcast I’d started. Over time, I posted my analysis of games, made predictions and shared opinions. I also have my own show on Instagram Live, in which I bring on guests or just talk solo about the game and answer questions with my more than 40,000 followers.
Last week, I was going about my normal daily routine making a post about Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant, who I feel are elite two-way players but don’t elevate a team from a leadership and playmaking aspect quite like LeBron James and Stephen Curry do.
About two hours later, I was in my bedroom scrolling through my comments and I saw a verified checkmark among them. It was a little surprising to find out it belonged to Durant, a two-time NBA champions and one of the best players in the game.
Durant didn’t take kindly to my comment, writing: “bruh go sweep ya dorm room, u don’t know hoops. Stop tagging me in this trash”. I called Durant out on my story, which I tagged him in, and he started messaging me in my DMs calling me a “middle school/knock off Stephen A”, a reference to the ESPN journalist Stephen A Smith.
KD left the burner account at home this time. ?? pic.twitter.com/FuidXOwLoi
July 11, 2018
We exchanged a series of messages in which he continued to take personal shots while I responded stating where I was coming from and calling out his insecurities – it’s not every NBA champion who feels the need to respond to a teenager’s comments on social media. I then went live on Instagram to alert my followers. Durant joined in and commented that I needed to “have some fucking confidence in myself”. At that point I had lost my patience and leaked the messages on my page.
Within a half-hour, outlets including Bleacher Report, USA Today and SB Nation had picked up the story. My page was flooded with comments and new followers. The story was all over YouTube and Twitter, to the point where SportsCenter contacted me to be featured on their Snapchat.
I don’t have any negative feelings towards Durant though. I appreciate that he acknowledged what I had to say, but didn’t like the way he went about taking personal shots at me. I realize that I’m not a professional athlete and don’t pretend I can do half the stuff a player like Durant can. I come at it from the perspective of a younger fan trying to jump-start a career in journalism. It was simply another day of me doing what I love and sharing my opinion with people who seem to really care.
Later in the week Durant reached out to me in my DMs about the situation. The attention I got from the story has helped raise my profile and he said he’s glad I got it. I also apologized for any offense he took from my comments and he did the same towards me. We then had a casual conversation about basketball, and I was able to pick the brain of one of the greatest talents in the sport. I will never forget the experience and I realize all the opportunities this opens for my basketball analysis career moving forward.