For an NBA superstar – especially one who has become his own cottage industry – there’s plenty of work to be done, even during that yawning break after the playoffs. That’s the takeaway from “The Offseason: Kevin Durant,” a fly-on-the-wall look at the Oklahoma City forward’s activities over the three months from the team’s playoff exit to training camp, when he experienced a stress fracture that sidelined him to start the season. There’s surely no edge in this authorized product – which counts Durant and his agent among the producers – leaving only a few highlight moments on a box score otherwise padded with fluff.
Wisely, the HBO Sports special begins with Durant’s emotional speech after winning the Most Valuable Player award, thanking his teammates as well as his mother for her heroic struggles in raising him.
From there, though, “The Offseason” never veers off script, with Durant expressing his steadfast determination to win a championship, a familiar goal among the superstar class, regardless of their wealth or perks. “I’m tired of being second,” he says, during the spare direct-to-camera interviews.
The cameras shadow Durant as he travels to L.A. with an entourage of buddies, works out with Laker Steve Nash (who has since been sidelined himself), and shoots a Nike ad, subsequently renewing his mega-bucks endorsement deal. He scrimmages with USA Basketball – seeing Indiana star Paul George go down with a devastating injury – and agonizes over quitting the international team, worrying about how the decision will be perceived.
The 26-year-old player also manages his brand, meeting with corporate entities interested in becoming part of KD Partners and, in the most endearing sequence, joshing with kids at his basketball camp.
All told, it’s clearly a grueling schedule, if hard to muster much in the way of sympathy. And while that’s not the goal, necessarily, about all one can glean from the hour is the realization — if it wasn’t obvious already — that when you’re young, rich and trying to maximize a career with a built-in expiration date, playing basketball is just the tip of the iceberg.
In that sense, this real-life special simply feels like an adjunct to “Survivor’s Remorse,” the Starz comedy produced by LeBron James, which also offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at an NBA star’s life, albeit in fictionalized form.
At 6’10” with virtually unlimited shooting range, Durant is a player with a near-unique set of skills. Yet as much fun as he is to watch on the court, there’s nothing really unique about “The Offseason,” which at a cursory glance could easily be confused with his commercials, except in this context, it’s the viewers who are paying for the time.