Kevin Durant
The Oklahoman sports editor Mike Sherman acknowledged that the newspaper's decision to nickname Kevin Durant "Mr. Unreliable" due to his postseason struggles was "unduly harsh." Reuters

A newspaper in Oklahoma has apologized after publishing a headline that referred to Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant as “Mr. Unreliable.”

On Thursday, The Oklahoman published the headline on the cover of its sports section ahead of the Game 6 of the Thunder’s opening round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, during which Durant has made just 40 percent of his field goal attempts and struggled to establish his rhythm offensively. The Grizzlies currently lead the series, 3-2. The resulting social media backlash against the headline prompted the newspaper to issue an apology.

“We take great pride in our headlines about big sporting events and news in Oklahoma. Thursday’s headline in The Oklahoman on Kevin Durant’s performance in the Memphis series missed the mark,” Mike Sherman, The Oklahoman’s sports editor, said in a statement. “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.”

“The fact the headline and presentation left that impression with so many readers is proof that we failed.”

The Oklahoman’s “Mr. Unreliable” headline was accompanied by a column, in which journalist Berry Tramel criticized Durant’s postseason struggles, stating his belief that Grizzlies defensive specialist Tony Allen is “inside Durant’s head.”

“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 headline and column drew harsh reactions from Thunder fans on social media, who believed that The Oklahoman was being unfair to Durant, a front-runner for the 2013-14 NBA Most Valuable Player award. The 25-year-old led the NBA in scoring this season, averaging 32.0 points per game.

Game 6 of the Thunder-Grizzlies series will air on Thursday, May 1, at 8 p.m. EDT. Reactions to the “Mr. Unreliable” headline can be viewed below.