Immediately following the Golden State Warriors victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers to win their second NBA Championship in three years, Nike released a 60-second spot heralding Durant ascent to the summit of professional basketball.
Titled “Debate This,” the Nike ad features fake sports pundits and social media doubters screaming about Durant’s apparent shortcomings and flaws from throughout his career. At the end, with Durant crowned champion for the first time, the loudmouths and naysayers are finally quieted.
Sure, Durant has increasingly been a lightning rod for criticism during his career, incurring a tidal wave of wrath last summer and throughout this basketball season for his decision to join the Warriors’ golden squad and super team.
But one thing is for sure, Nike’s “Debate This” is about much more than just Durant silencing his doubters. It’s a commentary on the present day state of sports themselves, one filled with obnoxious, hateful and needless arguments that are made simply for the sake of being controversial.
Now one can argue that the Skip Baylesses, Stephen A. Smiths and Colin Cowherds of the world have very good reasons (e.g. the millions of dollars they are paid annually) to constantly debate, demean and disgrace today’s athletes. But that is not the point. The point is our willingness to listen, to give them a voice and platform.
They know that if they talk about LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry or another superstar, we will pay attention. They are even more aware that if they take the opposite side of most ‘arguments,’ even if everyone rolls their eyes at the ridiculousness, their take goes viral and there is little downside for them.
But perhaps we all should take a step back and witness these achievements with respect and appreciation for what is being accomplished as well as the ultra-high level of competitiveness rather than being quick to tune in to the latest hot take. The vicious cycle of it all was evident right away on social media and on several websites following Durant’s victory, questioning whether his NBA ring was as meaningful because of the strength and skill of his teammates.
One thing is for sure: the intensity of the negativity only promises to increase now that Durant has reached the pinnacle of NBA success and looks to defend his title next year. With that, the contrarians and attention-seekers, including those who are compensated for their antagonistic views and those who peddle their thoughts on social media for free, will have their opportunity to be heard by us all.