Kevin Durant blames the media for the 'toxic' environment around LeBron James

Kevin Durant simultaneously seems to detest the spotlight and covet the attention paid to LeBron James, a paradox that all but assures us they will never join forces as Los Angeles Lakers teammates.

At least, that’s my takeaway from Durant’s conversation with Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, who searched for answers as to why star players — namely impending free agents Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler — no longer appear interested in partnering with James in pursuit of a championship.

“So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people,” Durant told Bucher. “He has so many fanboys in the media. Even the beat writers just fawn over him. I’m like, we’re playing basketball here, and it’s not even about basketball at certain points. So I get why anyone wouldn’t want to be in that environment because it’s toxic. Especially when the attention is bulls— attention, fluff. It’s not LeBron’s fault at all; it’s just the fact you have so many groupies in the media that love to hang on every word. Just get out of the way and let us play basketball.”

There is a lot to unpack there.

What is Kevin Durant even talking about?

It is true that Durant was largely vilified for joining the 73-win Warriors team that his Oklahoma City Thunder had taken to a Game 7 of the Western Conference finals months prior, while the narrative about James taking his talents to South Beach and chasing rings with the Miami Heat softened once he returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers and disposed of that same Warriors team in the 2016 Finals.

James is now widely considered one of the two greatest basketball players in history, and with that comes a certain level of respect from the media, along with some fawning from those attempting to gain access to history as it happens. But let’s not pretend like Durant, who is well on his way to being one of the 10 greatest players ever, if he’s not already there, isn’t afforded a corresponding level of respect. It’s not as if the Bay Area’s many beat writers are trashing Durant at every turn, and nationally he is recognized for transforming the Warriors into arguably the best basketball team ever assembled.

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Golden State Warriors celebrate championship with parade
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Golden State Warriors celebrate championship with parade
Jun 12, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Nick Young (middle) and center JaVale McGee (right) celebrate during the championship parade in downtown Oakland. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 12: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates with the championship trophy during the Golden State Warriors Victory Parade on June 12, 2018 in Oakland, California. The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0 to win the 2018 NBA Finals. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 12: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates with the championship trophy during the Golden State Warriors Victory Parade on June 12, 2018 in Oakland, California. The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0 to win the 2018 NBA Finals. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 12: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates with the championship trophy during the Golden State Warriors Victory Parade on June 12, 2018 in Oakland, California. The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0 to win the 2018 NBA Finals. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Jun 12, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) rides with a cigar in his mouth during the championship parade in downtown Oakland. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and wife Ayesha react during the championship parade in downtown Oakland. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Nick Young (6) high fives fans with a cigar in his mouth during the championship parade in downtown Oakland. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 12, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee (1) takes a selfie with fans during the championship parade in downtown Oakland. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 12: Mayor Libby Schaaf sporting two Championship rings at the Golden State Warriors championship parade on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. (David DeBolt/Bay Area News Group via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 12: Spencer Phillips, a 23-year-old firefighting student from Los Altos, was ready to watch the parade from a colorful hammock he?d strung between a tree and a traffic sign near Franklin Street. ?It?s so comfy,? said Phillips, who was wearing long blue-and-yellow Warriors socks. ?Last year I was in the heat at the finish line. This year I was smarter.? (Casey Tolan/Bay Area News Group via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 12: Willie Jones, 65, of Oakland, found a shady grassy area near the corner of Oak and 13th Street to lay out his Warriors blanket where he and his dog Samantha could watch the very end of the Golden State Warriors championship parade on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. He attended one of the playoff games against the Houston Rockets this year and is just 'enjoying the third championship' in four years. (Joseph Geha/Bay Area News Group via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 12: Fans wait on Broadway during the Golden State Warriors championship parade in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group via Getty Images)
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Let’s also not pretend like James has had it easy. He too was vilified for the way he joined the Heat, overpromising countless rings, and he emerged a hero not by painting the media as the enemy, but by proving them wrong. James is the most scrutinized athlete in the world right now, and some of the toxicity of his teams over the years is most certainly his fault. Subtweeting teammates, undermining coaches, leaving dilapidated franchises in his dust, it’s all part of his story — one written under an incredible amount of pressure from fans, media, coworkers and the expectations he has for himself.

Are we to believe groupies in the media hanging on LeBron’s every word forced his mysterious broken hand, Kyrie Irving’s trade request, J.R. Smith’s soup throwing, Magic Johnson’s undressing of Luke Walton or any of the thousands of dramatic storylines surrounding his teams throughout his career? The media covered those stories extensively, to be sure, and that’s part of the reason why the NBA has never been more popular. The spotlight on James, Durant and their teams might be a lot dimmer if there weren’t consumers who indulge in superstar culture. Their pockets might be a bit thinner, too.

Sometimes, you get the feeling Durant prefers to face James in an empty gym somewhere, like when he tells the media “just get out of the way and let us play basketball.” Other times, you get the sense he wants nothing more than to be the NBA’s headliner, like when he told us this earlier in the season:

This is to say nothing of Durant’s dreams of becoming a financial mogul and marketing phenomenon, much like James. Let us not forget he chose to join the Warriors of his own volition. He also chose to sell cupcake-themed sneakers in an attempt to deride his haters. He’s playing the fluff game, too.

It sure sounds like when Durant speaks of the toxicity surrounding James, he’s in some part referencing the attention paid to him in Golden State. (He should also remember the media didn’t coerce Draymond Green into igniting their recent dramatic shouting match.) Regardless, if Durant despises the toxic culture around James, you can understand why he would never want to join forces on the Lakers, despite vaguely sourced reports to the contrary from the likes of Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless. Can you imagine the spotlight on James and Durant if they shared the same L.A. arena?

All of which is a longwinded way of saying I have no idea what Durant is talking about. I assume he would consider all of what was just written “bulls— attention, fluff,” so let’s talk basketball, shall we?

Durant doesn’t think young players complement LeBron

Durant sure doesn’t seem worried about LeBron’s Lakers posing a threat to the Warriors as currently constituted. Here’s more from him on why superstars have not partnered with James, via Bucher:

“Kevin Love, he had to totally change his game to fit, to be a shooter. Which, I think, he deserves way more credit for switching his game. Bosh, same way. LeBron is a player that needs to play with guys that already know how they play the game — and shooters. Like, young players that are still developing, it’s always going to be hard because he demands the ball so much, he demands control of the offense and he creates for everybody.”

Considering the Lakers are replete with still-developing young players who aren’t exactly dead-eye shooters, Durant is suggesting that they will need more complementary veterans in order to maximize LeBron’s impact over the course of his four-year contract in L.A. (I couldn’t agree more, by the way.)

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LeBron James and Stephen Curry's relationship through the years
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LeBron James and Stephen Curry's relationship through the years
CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers battles for the ball with Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors on November 17, 2009 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Ohio. Cleveland won the game 114-108. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 17: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors go after a jump ball during the game on November 17, 2009 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers won 114-108. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 11: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors puts up a shot against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the game on January 11, 2010 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. The Cavaliers won 117-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 16: LeBron James #6 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars handles the basketball against Stephen Curry #30 of the Western Conference All-Stars during the 2014 NBA All-Star Game as part of the 2014 All-Star Weekend at Smoothie King Center on February 16, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: LeBron James #23 Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry #30 Golden State Warriors speak with the kids during the NBA FIT program at the High School of Graphic Communication & Arts on February 13, 2015 in New York, New York NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors participate in NBA Cares/FIT Day of Service at 439 WEST 49th Street during the 2015 NBA All-Star on February 13, 2015 in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Stephen Curry #30 of the Western Conference handles the ball against LeBron James #23 of the Eastern Conference during the 64th NBA All-Star Game presented by Kia as part of the 2015 All-Star Weekend at Madison Square Garden on February 15, 2015 in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 4: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors shoots against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game One of the 2015 NBA Finals on June 4, 2015 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors vies for the ball with LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime during Game 1 of teh 2015 NBA Finals in Oakland, California on June 4, 2015. The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 108-100. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 9: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on in Game Three of the 2015 NBA Finals on June 9, 2015 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (left) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James scramble for a loose ball during the second quarter of game 1 of the NBA Finals on June 2, 2016 in Oakland, California. / AFP / Beck Diefenbach (Photo credit should read BECK DIEFENBACH/AFP/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 14: during Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shake hands before the start of Game Five of the 2015 NBA Finals on June 14, 2015 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors reacts to a foul call during the fourth quarter as LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on in Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the game in Game Seven of the 2016 NBA Finals on June 19, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (R) shoots the ball ahead of Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson during the third quarter in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. Powered by an amazing effort from LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers completed the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, dethroning defending champion Golden State 93-89 to capture their first NBA title. The Cavaliers won the best-of-seven series 4-3 to claim the first league crown in their 46-season history and deliver the first major sports champion to Cleveland since the 1964 NFL Browns, ending the longest such title drought for any American city. / AFP / Beck Diefenbach (Photo credit should read BECK DIEFENBACH/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors react to a play during the game on December 25, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 12: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers talk after Game Five of the 2017 NBA Finals on June 12, 2017 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 12: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers hugs Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors after Game Five of the 2017 NBA Finals on June 12, 2017 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 18: Stephen Curry #30 and LeBron James #23 speak to the crowd during the NBA All-Star Game as a part of 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend at STAPLES Center on February 18, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - May 31: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors in Game One of the 2018 NBA Finals on May 31, 2018 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - May 31: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors talk during Game One of the 2018 NBA Finals on May 31, 2018 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - MAY 31: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game One of the 2018 NBA Finals on May 31, 2018 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 06: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during Game Three of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 08: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts as Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors looks on in the first half during Game Four of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Durant doesn’t think Kawhi makes sense with LeBron

Kawhi Leonard is not that complementary veteran, according to Durant, via Bucher once again:

“It depends on what kind of player you are. If you’re Kyle Korver, then it makes sense. Because Kyle Korver in Atlanta was the bulk of the offense, and he’s not a No. 1 option at all, not even close. So his talents benefit more from a guy who can pass and penetrate and get him open.

“If you’re a younger player like a Kawhi, trying to pair him with LeBron James doesn’t really make sense. Kawhi enjoys having the ball in his hands, controlling the offense, dictating the tempo with his post-ups; it’s how he plays the game. A lot of young players are developing that skill. They don’t need another guy.”

First of all, take it easy on Korver, man.

Secondly, Kawhi Leonard will be 28 in June, the same age Durant was when he decided to join the Warriors and share the ball with a two-time Most Valuable Player and point guard named Stephen Curry, along with two other All-Stars. Granted, the Warriors are a near-perfectly blended set of complementary stars, but Durant still reached the conclusion that he needs another No. 1 guy.

I feel like LeBron and Kawhi could figure out how to play together. (Leonard reportedly doesn’t want to play second fiddle to James, either, which was the point of Bucher’s piece.) Dwyane Wade certainly found a way. Maybe Durant would rather Leonard didn’t team up with James. Maybe he’s projecting his own line of thinking onto Kawhi. Maybe he knows much more than we do. Maybe I’m just a Blog Boy.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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