McALESTER — Every young superstar athlete gets a grace period. A grace period isn’t the number of years a player will remain at his physical peak, but rather the number of years in which he can fail to win a championship and still be considered by the public and the sports media world to be among the elite players in his league.
The grace period’s length varies from player to player. When it ends, the questions start coming as to whether this athlete can “win the big game.”
For Miami’s LeBron James, the grace period ended when the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. James was 26 when the Heat lost to conclude his 10th season in the NBA.
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant turned 25 in September. And after his 7th season ended Saturday with the Thunder’s Game 6 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, Durant’s grace period may soon be drawing to a close.
The differences between James and Durant could mean a slightly longer free pass for Durant. While Durant was expected to star in the NBA when he was drafted by Seattle in 2007, he was never expected to be Michael Jordan’s heir apparent, as some pundits said James could be.
Durant is still with the same organization that drafted him. James jumped ship from hometown Cleveland to Miami, forcing NBA fans to sit through “The Decision,” James’ 2010 obnoxious hour-long interview that ended him saying he was “taking my talents to South Beach.”
Whatever Durant does when he’s not playing for the Thunder, his private life has never made its way to the tabloids. He’s never been busted for drunk driving, accused if sexual assault or brought a gun into the locker room, all of which have happened to other NBA players.