Kevin Durant makes basketball look easy. He spreads that 7-5 wingspan out and sometimes appears to have four

arms, gliding past defenders and scoring in ways no one else even attempts.

Durant does not make dealing with the media look easy. He operates as a continuum, his words requiring completist context in a world of clipped headlines. He tells us what he’s thinking, and like most 27-year-olds, that means different things at different times. He speaks his mind, sometimes before he’s made up his mind. Durant’s public identity over his decade has gone from beloved scorer to slightly less beloved scorer, but when you’re the one taking the criticism, that “slightly less” can feel like an avalanche of hate.

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So Durant recently proclaimed that the media don’t like his team — on the basis that the Thunder are not consistently lumped in with the past two NBA champions and the most dominant player of the era’s team at the top. That the media don’t like how he and Russell Westbrook speak to the media — ignoring that he and Westbrook speak to the media in entirely different ways. The quotes were a little bit silly but a lot bit typical of Durant’s approach of the past two years, in the aftermath of winning the NBA MVP and then having the Thunder bow out with injuries for three consecutive seasons.

But Durant then went out of his way to offer some clarity, and in an effort to contextualize an athlete who requires so much context, here is his full quote from Sunday, via ESPN’s Royce Young:

“I also got something to say, if you guys don’t mind. I was talking to [Thunder PR director Matt Tumbleson] earlier, and I’ve seen over the last couple of days — or couple of years, actually — that I hate the media. If I hated someone, I wouldn’t talk to them. I wouldn’t interact with them, I wouldn’t laugh and joke with them, I wouldn’t talk about anything other than what you guys ask me.

“When I disagree, that doesn’t mean I hate you guys. My whole deal is to spark a conversation, and hopefully we can talk about the topic or whatever it is at hand that we can talk about, and we can all grow from there. That’s my whole deal. And I know I’m not necessarily talking about you guys here, but you’ve got these mics here, and these get out really quick and fast. So my whole thing is, when I disagree, it doesn’t mean I hate you. What you guys really want is someone who’s open and honest with you and who’s opinionated. And that’s what I am.

“I haven’t changed. I’m the same person. I just grew as a man. So hopefully you can appreciate and know that I don’t hate you. That’s a harsh word, and my mom never brought me up to be a hater of anyone. I always believe if I’m open and honest and opinionated that I can grow as a person, and you can learn that’s what I’m about. Hopefully we can all get better. The main goal is to help the fans know the game a little bit more than they know today. So that’s my goal, and hopefully that’s your goal instead of getting headlines or clicks. That’s my take on it, that’s the last time I’ll talk about it. But it’s something I had to get off my chest. I appreciate it.”

Those quotes might seem like an athlete saving face, in a different context. But Durant has no reason to save face, and he wouldn’t try to. There was good reason to disagree with his comments on the perception of a three-team race, but he had the right to say it. Athletes have been using “no one believed in us” and “we think we’re the best team” lines forever. Confidence is a defining trait in greatness.

If anything, Durant was re-examining his quotes from nearly a year ago, at the 2015 NBA All-Star Game. "To be honest, man, I'm only here talking to y'all because I have to," Durant said then. "So I really don't care. Y'all not my friends. You're going to write what you want to write. You're going to love us one day and hate us the next. That's a part of it. So I just learn how to deal with y'all." But even that requires context. He was speaking to a massive group of cameras and reporters he’d never met, as is standard operating procedure at All-Star Weekend.

The recent statements came in more intimate settings, in front of mostly local media. Durant knows that he has been treated well by the media. His comments standing up for Kobe Bryant recently show that. His comments about Westbrook often do, as well. When Durant quietly signed a maximum extension in 2010, he was showered with praise in contrast to LeBron James’ bloated “Decision.” When he won MVP, his speech gripped the country, even beyond those who cared about the NBA.

That speech was pure Durant. He was emotional and earnest but not always eloquent. Today’s NBA stars are more coached on speech and interactions with the media than ever. When LeBron James decides he needs more time to process the Tamir Rice grand jury decision, it’s because he has a better understanding of the gravity of his words than past generations’ athletes. Listen to Bryant’s retirement tour press conferences or go into the Heat locker room to speak with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. These are people who know how to use their words to maximum effect.

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Durant more closely resembles Derrick Rose, by comparison. Rose’s earnestness always seems to get him in trouble. He’s always saying things that get under fans’ skin, even as many media members have grown to understand his personality. That Rose has not played particularly well in 3 1/2 years does not help.

That’s not a problem for Durant. He takes so little blame for the Thunder’s recent shortcomings that the local newspaper literally published an apology for a clumsy headline about him. Perhaps knowing his stature, Durant tries to be honest about his emotions. He’s sorting through his thoughts and stances as he goes. When a dozen reporters gather around you after you’ve played a 48-minute NBA game or gone through a practice and fire questions in rapid succession, with lights in your eyes and microphones at your chin, a dizzying effect can kick in.

So Durant continues to sort out his thoughts in a public forum. He really does create the conversation, even when his own position may lack depth of thought. He toggles between hostile and warm, often offering up great thoughts about teammates or opponents while also sometimes rejecting requests for interviews and keeping more difficult subjects at (his long) arm’s length.

The NBA is loaded with stars, each with their own personas. While LeBron James embodies the voice of the modern player, Stephen Curry prefers to stay within himself and Kobe Bryant operates as a regal king watching from a throne above. Durant is still feeling himself out, still learning how to make it all seem so effortless.