There’s no good way to deliver bad news. There are only bad ways and worse ways.
Monday’s Fourth of July announcement that basketball superstar Kevin Durant was peacing out on his old team to join one that barely defeated him in May fell somewhere in between.
From a media relations perspective, several things that could have backfired did during the now-former Thunder forward’s big reveal.
Crashed sites, crushed fans
For starters, the news was released via post on The Players’ Tribune, the athlete-as-author website founded by Derek Jeter in October 2014.
Around 10:40 a.m. central time, a traffic glut crashed The Players’ Tribune moments after Durant’s announcement posted.
While the site eventually revived and reverted to a former, pre-KD-announcement version, media like NonDoc were left unable to include any of the 351 finely-crafted words supposedly explaining Durant’s decision.
Only an hour or so later did TPT republish the post, which lists Durant as “deputy publisher” of the site.
To complicate Durant’s media strategy further, the former NBA MVP chose the morning of a federal holiday to announce his Oklahoma City exit after eight seasons.
While the decision date would seem to affect the metropolitan community of Oakland very little, Thunder fans across Oklahoma effectively started their days off with disappointing news that could have been announced the next morning.
What a swell parting gift.
‘Limp hot dogs’
To top it all off, Kevin Durant’s Bricktown restaurant went full Oblivious Asshole and asked people to buy half a chicken to celebrate American independence less than an hour after its namesake’s announcement:
More like, “Nothing says Happy 4th of July like limp hot dogs at family cookouts.”
KD’s Southern Cuisine shuttered its Twitter account soon after.
Who was in charge?
The KDecision announcement was presumably orchestrated by elements of Durant’s representing agency, ROC Nation, founded by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter in 2008.
Durant stands as ROC Nation’s highest-profile client, with only Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano coming close in celebrity. To say Monday morning’s events were a big moment for ROC Nation is an understatement.
What members of the organization will say during internal reviews of this announcement may never be known, but from afar the process looks pretty well botched.
The medium failed, which meant the message could not be controlled, and the timing of the release implied intent to hide behind a holiday.
In the end, ROC Nation saddled KD with the muddled message, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” which is the sort of thing people only say in jest, resignation or cartoons.
All in all, the day’s events did not make Kevin Durant look strong.
‘Weak’ way to start the week
Stephen A. Smith agreed.
As one of ESPN’s resident blowhards, Smith had the stones to call Durant’s decision “incredibly weak,” which inherently represented the feelings of many Thunder fans.
“The weakest move I’ve ever seen from a superstar, plain and simple,” Smith said on ESPN. “You’re jumping on a bandwagon, as far as I’m concerned. (…) Kevin Durant is one of the top three players in the world, and he ran away from the challenge that he faces in order to jump on the bandwagon of a team that’s a little better.”
Whether Smith is right or whether Durant will achieve his overriding goal of winning an NBA title are now arguments for social media, social scenes and the dinner table.
So set out the place mats, fire up the rhetoric and pass the antacids.
Kevin Durant’s media strategists delivered bad news in a way likely to offer added heartburn.
Pass the BBQ chicken.