One day after publishing a headline that proclaimed Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant as “Mr. Unreliable,” the Oklahoman newspaper reacted to the 25-year-old’s impressive performance in his team’s Thursday night victory over the Memphis Grizzlies with a more supportive cover.
— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) May 2, 2014
The Thunder evened their opening round series at 3-3 on Thursday with a convincing 104-84 victory over the Grizzlies. Durant was particularly impressive in the win, leading all players with 36 points and 10 rebounds. The MVP candidate’s performance came hours after the Oklahoman declared that Durant was “Mr. Unreliable” due to his uneven performance through the series’ first five games.
In a column that accompanied the “Mr. Unreliable” headline, journalist Berry Tramel declared that Grizzlies defensive specialist Tony Allen, who covered Durant all series, was “inside [his] head.” Before Game 6, Durant had converted just 40 percent of his field goal attempts.
“Durant is dazed and confused. Hesitant and docile. [Allen] has turned Durant into [a] mere mortal this Western Conference playoff series. The Thunder is on the brink of elimination, and if Durant doesn’t return to something approaching the Slim Reaper in Game 6 Thursday night, Grim Sleeper is going to be more like it,” the column said.
“Durant has made just 40 percent of his shots against the Grizzlies. Allen’s been in Durant’s sneakers. Meets him at the bus and tucks him in at night. Then haunts Durant’s dreams.”
The column, along with the “Mr. Unreliable,” drew a harsh reaction on social media, as fans questioned the newspaper’s decision to criticize Durant after a season in which he led all NBA players in scoring. Durant’s mother, Wanda Pratt, was one of many who took to Twitter to voice their disapproval.
Typical Oklahoman on Kevin. UNBELIEVABLE!! KEVIN is RELIABLE!!!
— Wanda Pratt (@MamaDurant) May 1, 2014
In the wake of the public outcry, Mike Sherman, sports editor of the Oklahoman, admitted that the “Mr. Unreliable” Durant headline had “missed the mark.”
“The words were overstated and unduly harsh. The headline and presentation left the impression that we were commenting on Durant’s season, career or even character. We were not. We were referring only to the Memphis series,” Sherman said. “The fact the headline and presentation left that impression with so many readers is proof that we failed.”