On April 30, at 7:04pm Eastern, I became a father.
My boy spent his first night in the special care unit with labored breathing, which I understand — if someone told me I had to start breathing right now to live even though I had never taken a breath in my life, those first couple gasps would probably sound a bit like Venus Williams facing Maria Sharapova. On day two he joined us in the recovery room. That night, I bonded with him in a manner that my father had frequently bonded with me, by watching sports.
On this particular night, we watched Game 5 of the mostly non-essential Rockets-Thunder series, and after explaining to him what basketball was, which came after explaining what a game was, which was after explaining what a ball was, he asked a rather poignant question, “Dad, what happened to Kevin Durant in the 4th quarter?” To which my only response, other than mentally thanking Rosetta Stone for their in-utero box set, was that I didn’t know.
Durant is back in action tonight at home against Memphis for Game 2 of the Western Conference semi-finals. The Grizzlies are mean and succeed with mean D; they seem content to shut down everything around Durant and let him do it alone. He has the talent to meet every big shot with a half-smile and awkward hand shake, if he buttons up and gets his head in it.
As my son drifted off to sleep last week, I realized the former Longhorn could learn a few lessons from my little future Longhorn:
Lesson No. 1 – When you want something, whining doesn’t get the job done
Durant has started to whine. Whine to the refs about the fouls he isn’t getting, whine to his teammates about not getting the ball. It’s rather unbecoming and isn’t doing him much good. When my son wants something, be it food, warmth, or a clean diaper, he gives two little whimpers and then lets loose with a siren’s call that brings me and my wife running. Is it a pleasant sound? No, but it gets our attention. With Russell Westbrook down for the playoffs, Durant needs to start barking a little louder and whining a lot less. He’s the best player on the court; he needs to demand everyone’s attention instead of complaining when he doesn’t get it.
Lesson No. 2 – You have to move
Infants have this incredible rooting instinct. Place my son on a chest when he’s hungry, and he will start bobbing his head up and down and pushing off with his arms, even though he doesn’t yet have control of his limbs. He knows he has to move if he is going to feed. Durant needs to do the same. There is not a spot on the floor he cannot score from, so why does he feel the need to stand five feet beyond the arc waiving his hands around? Cut through the lane, move into the post, and find an opening on the floor that’s a little closer than the jump ball circle. Move, otherwise you’ll always end up wishing you had gotten more milk . . . er . . . points.
Lesson No.3 – Cutting the cord
Going from a secure place where everything is supplied via a tube to a world where you have to do everything on your own is tough. But for my son that line has to be cut in order for him to start achieving on his own. The Westbrook injury is a cord cutting for Durant. No more waiting, no more deferring. Yes, his teammates will help him out, but the success of the Thunder relies on Durant. Be the superstar you claim to be, otherwise prepare for a long off-season with a lot of sleepless nights, something I know plenty about right now. Given Durant’s recent Gatorade campaign, that’s something he and my son may already have in common.