Jalen Rose: Media and Fans Pressured Kevin Durant to Play, Got Their 'Pound of Flesh'


Jalen Rose does not believe Kevin Durant had any business being out on the court for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, which is a stance markedly easier to take now that Golden State Warriors forward has suffered a potential career-altering injury. You likely agree with him. But perhaps not some of the supporting points he used in discussing why the 30-year-old played in the first place.

Rose, appearing on First Take, laid the blame on several doorsteps. The overall culture of sports. The media. Fans. He said Durant was forced to return in large part because of the “chatter” that would have ensued had he sat out.

As a former player, Rose has solid perspective on how it feels for a player to be questioned by the peanut gallery. But two things really need to be answered here.

First, is blaming everyone but Durant and his willingness to risk it on Monday night a means of infantilizing him? It’s unclear what communication took place between he and the team, but it’s possible he chose to undertake the challenge because as a highly competitive athlete, he desired winning and the challenge.

It’s a complicated situation but Durant is a grown man capable of making his own decisions. To act like he doesn’t have ultimate agency is reductive. Of course it matters how the team handled it, but if he was properly briefed and chose to play to rebuff a media narrative, that’s on him.

Again, Rose knows a hell of a lot more than I do about this stuff. It just seems that world title sits a little bit heavier on the scale than getting some talking head to praise you on a mid-morning sports show.

Secondly, it’s a bit odd to see someone who is in the media himself castigate the media and fans with such strong language. Invoking the “pound of flesh” line to cover those simply interested in watching basketball and one of the best players in the league in Durant seems a bit heavy-handed.

While Rose himself may not have engaged with any chatter or suspect future chatter that caused Durant to take the floor out of some fear, he is certainly adjacent to it on a show like First Take and any other NBA-focused show he appears on. One could make the argument he helps prop up the very toxic ecosystem he’s decrying.

Again, he makes some solid points. It is always interesting, however, to consider the notion that we all exist in this closed-system loop where coverage of players dictates how players act which in turn creates more coverage opportunities.

Maybe not the healthiest thing. But hey, good for business.