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McFeely: NBA star, like rest of us, just looking for the best job

FARGO -- Funny thing about Americans. We want people to succeed, to move up the ladder, to make the most of their opportunities, to make more money, to win. Then when they do, we hate 'em.

FARGO -- Funny thing about Americans. We want people to succeed, to move up the ladder, to make the most of their opportunities, to make more money, to win. Then when they do, we hate ‘em.

It’s been that way for a long time, especially, with those involved in sports. Remember when Craig Bohl left North Dakota State to take a coaching at Wyoming a couple of years ago? A significant number of Bison fans were upset Bohl left Fargo. This despite the fact Bohl won three national championships with NDSU, is making much more money in his new job and is working at a higher division.

Bohl went from hero to zero in 6.3 seconds. Why? He simply saw a better job opportunity.

The backlash against Bohl was not the first such case, nor will it be the last.

It happened this week at a much higher level with Kevin Durant, a basketball player of some note. Durant, a free agent in the National Basketball Association, announced on Independence Day he was going to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and sign with the Golden State Warriors. His new contract will be for two years and $54 million.  He’s joining a team already loaded with stars, so it’s assumed Durant will have a better shot at winning a championship with his new team.

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Essentially, Durant found what he thought was the best deal with the best chance of winning a title and went for it. Good for him.

But wait, there’s more.

“The primary mandate I had for myself in making this decision was to have it based on the potential for my growth as a player -- as that has always steered me in the right direction,” Durant wrote in explaining his decision. “But I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth.”

Durant is living the American Dream. He is incredibly good at what he does and is maximizing his opportunity in terms of both financial reward and personal fulfillment. This is what most of America strives to do, right? Get a raise, have the freedom to choose what job you want, grow as a person. The pursuit of happiness, and all that jazz.

And even if Durant is full of it and simply is going to the best team for a pile of money, so what? It’s America. We’re allowed to do that.

Except a goodly portion of sports fans in the U.S. are mad at Durant. Columnists, talk-show hosts and some guy sitting at the end of a bar someplace in Iowa are trashing Durant for leaving Oklahoma City.

“Where’s the loyalty?!” they scream.

“Typical greedy pro athlete!” they bark.

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“Taking the easy way out!” they yelp.

A columnist in Indianapolis, for example, called Durant’s decision “spineless” and accused him of finding the “easiest possible path to an NBA title” by choosing Golden State. Durant’s decision is being compared to LeBron James’ move years ago from Cleveland to Miami, where a handful of superstars awaited to help James win a championship. LeBron was trashed for that move and fans in Cleveland burned his jersey in protest.

As if taking the best available job with the best available company is somehow a bad thing.

But what if those folks in Cleveland or the ones now in Oklahoma City who are mad at Durant had a chance 1) to be recruited by a number of companies, all of them promising the world, 2) choose which company they wanted to work for, 3) choose the money they wanted to make, 4) choose the city in which they wanted to work, 5) put themselves in the best position to make the most money for the next 10 or 20 years?

How many of those people calling Durant a traitor or a sell-out or worse would turn down the opportunity to choose their own path in life? Zero, that’s how many. Unless they were extremely stupid.

Most Americans work with the hope of making more money, or getting a promotion, or getting better benefits. Corporate recruiting, stealing, raiding … whatever you want to call it … happens all the time. One company sees a talented worker it likes and is sick of competing against, so it makes an offer. More money, less travel, bigger office, part-ownership. It’s not uncommon.

But for some reason when a pro athlete or college coach uses their success to improve their lot in life, this is seen as being disloyal.

It’s not disloyal. It’s the American Way. Work hard, be successful and be rewarded for it. Kevin Durant should be a hero, not a villain, to those people ripping him. In his shoes, most of them would do the same thing.

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