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“I Just Burst Out Crying”

Kevin Durant is close to a return to the court, but a misdiagnosis initially made him think he wouldn’t be able to step back on it until summer. The All-Star sorts through the moment he thought his injury was season-ending.

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

Kevin Durant may return from his knee injury before the end of the regular season, but in the moments after his hospital visit in February he thought it could be much worse. Durant joined The Bill Simmons Podcast to sort through the initial misdiagnosis and what it was like thinking he would miss out on a playoff run with his new team.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

How Durant Hurt His Knee

Bill Simmons: Go through what happened … Zaza [Pachulia] falls into you, what are you thinking?

Kevin Durant: Well, I heard a crack. It was something I had never felt before, never heard before. So I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what was going on.

Simmons: So a crack like—

Durant: Like a crunch. So I tried to run it off like I do everything. I knew I was out of it when I lost all focus on anything, I was just worried about my leg. I ran down, I left my man open for a 3. My mind wasn’t nowhere near a basketball game. So I knew I had to come out of the game then. Two minutes into the game, I’m at home, I had 70 people at the game. How much money had I spent on tickets?

Close to $10,000 in tickets. More than that. So I had spent a lot of money on tickets and I’m going back home for the first time in months. [I] get hurt two minutes in and [didn’t] even see my family because I went straight to the hospital afterward.

The Misdiagnosis

Simmons: So the buzz immediately was he’s really hurt, this could be it, he’s out for the year. That starts on social media. What did you think was going on?

Kevin Durant on the Moment When He Thought His Season Was Over

Kevin Durant sorts through the moment he thought his injury was season-ending:

Posted by The Ringer on Friday, March 31, 2017

Durant: Well, the first diagnosis that we got was that I broke my leg, fractured my tibia. That’s a four- or five-month recovery. … I just burst out crying. I’m like, "Man, not again."

First of all, this is my first year with the team, we were playing very well at the time. I was playing well, individually. It was definitely a good time for our team. And we were on an East Coast road trip, [and I was] back home, playing in front of my family. And then on top of that, I knew that this was what everyone wanted to see, first of all.

Simmons: Everybody?

Durant: Not everybody, but a lot of people.

Simmons: The haters, the haters. Let me defend all the fans out there for a second. I think if people are rooting against somebody, they don’t actually want to see an injury. I think it’s that they have fun rooting against the Warriors or you—

Durant: I wouldn’t say they like a season[-ending] injury or a career-ending injury …

Simmons: Maybe in Oklahoma City some fans might have been secretly excited.

Durant: I’m sure, I’m sure. But all that stuff ran through my head. Because it was like, "Man, I’m in a dark place right now." Taking basketball away from me, something I love. I might not be able to play for the rest of the year. Then, when we got in the car, I wrapped my mind around this long recovery and what it was going to take for me to get back.

The Real Injury — a Sprained MCL

Durant: Then we got a call like, "We checked the scans again." We had to get a CT scan to see what condition the bone was in — that gives you a more in-depth picture of the bone — and they told me that it was just a bruise there and I sprained my MCL. [My] reaction in the car was second to none. If you’d have seen, that emotional roller coaster, that hour, it was something out of a movie. We were all in a car, it was me, Rich [Kleiman], Johnny West, and Tom, my security guy. We all just fist pumped and hugged. We were so excited because it was not as bad as we thought.

Simmons: You dodged a bullet. That sucks that you thought you were done for five [hours], I don’t know—

Durant: For an hour. No, not an hour, probably 30 minutes. I just knew that, "Alright now, I’m not going to be able to play until July or August."

Thoughts on the Warriors Without Him

Simmons: So now, Andre Iguodala took your job, I don’t know … they might not even play you when you get back!

Durant: I know. I know.

Simmons: You could play like 10 minutes a game maybe.

Durant: I know, man. That sucks.

Simmons: Come in and maybe stretch the floor in the corner?

Durant: I would. Whatever they need at this point, as long as I’m out there.

Simmons: Have you learned anything from watching on the bench?

Durant: Yeah, definitely.

Simmons: Because it’s not like you were sitting there watching your team, because you were out there 38 minutes a game.

Durant: Nah, more like 33, 32.

Simmons: So what’d you learn?

Durant: Just seeing different sets, from different angles. The game, the way we play is so fast, sometimes you don’t realize what’s going on. And I see different spots where I can hit on the floor to free myself up and my teammates up.

Simmons: They’re playing well lately.

Durant: They’re playing very well.

Simmons: It’s funny, everybody tried to write them off a couple of times this season. And then after you got injured, "Oh, they’re going to lose the 1-seed." Then all of a sudden Curry and Klay, Curry and Klay are averaging like 20 3s this month combined. Just firing them up.

Durant: You’ve got to. That’s how we play. There’s no optimism when it comes to fans or anybody outside of the players or organization. We were good.