Durant v. Wade: NBA stars spar on social media


MIAMI — Stunning. Simply stunning. That can be the only description of the most striking aspect of Durant v. Wade.

And, no, we’re not (at least not yet) talking about where Kevin Durant believes Dwyane Wade ranks in the NBA’s current hierarchy.

No, what truly is most stunning in this Instagram vs. Twitter beef is the handwriting on Wade’s Instagram message to Durant.

If this whole he-said, he-said is on the up-and-up (and it’s certainly curious considering how the pair collaborated on last season’s Gatorade commercial), then Durant may have become the first player called out via calligraphy. Dwyane Wade, without question, with that formation of letters, has already locked up Most Valuable Pen.

But we digress.

Where it all started, of course, was yet another of those innocuous sets of preseason player rankings, with Sports Illustrated’s “Point Forward” blog placing Wade eighth and Durant’s former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate James Harden 11th.

Amid a promotional tour to hawk deodorant, in one of those sponsor-driven interviews where a public-relations type is in the host’s ear essentially saying, “Get to the product, the product!” and “OK, time’s up,” Durant was asked about which player he believed was most snubbed from the Top 10 list he had been read.

“I think you’re missing James Harden,” he said.

Asked which player he would remove from that Top 10 in favor of Harden, Durant said, “Dwyane Wade.”

Enter Wade, and that flawless penmanship (a confidant said it very much resembled Wade’s handiwork), with an impeccably printed Instagram note of, “Kevin Durant said James Harden should replace me in the Top 10 … Note to self* Make him respect your place in history … again … “

Not to be one-upped, in response, at KDTrey5, Durant posted on Twitter, “Show me don’t tweet me …”

Wade, of course, already did, to both Durant and Harden in the 2012 NBA Finals, which the Heat took 4-1. In the wake of that series, the Thunder avoided a cap-crushing extension by trading Harden to the Rockets, going last season with Kevin Martin in his sixth-man place and this season with Jeremy Lamb.

OK, so much for the social-media silliness.

Because while you can make all the statistical arguments you want between Wade and Harden (and even throw Kobe Bryant in there, who nestled in at No. 9 in the “Point Forward” ratings), this actually has nothing to do with who stands as the NBA’s current alpha-dog at shooting guard.

Wade, instead, has made arguably the most difficult of transitions of an NBA leading man, to beta-dog, accepting a secondary role for the greater good, one Harden seemed to bristle about behind Durant (and even Russell Westbrook) with the Thunder.

After last season, as Erik Spoelstra was preparing for summer league, without prompting, he stopped in the foyer of the Heat’s basketball-operations lobby, while still in the glow of a second consecutive title, and offered an impromptu session of stump-the-reporter.

The question was about the greatest difference in the Heat’s offense during the second consecutive title run. And no, he said, it was not LeBron James’ post game.

Instead, Spoelstra offered a series of statistics of how Wade had matured into one of the NBA’s most efficient players when it came to lane cuts, while playing without the ball, how those cuts had transformed both Wade’s and the Heat’s offense.

And that’s the thing. That’s the part that you can’t see, what Durant, from such a distant view, couldn’t possibly notice. This is not a shooting guard dominating the ball like Bryant and Harden. This is deferring for the greater good, while still playing at near-peak efficiency.

Who’s better? Who cares? What the Heat need from Wade is a beta-dog, whether he ranks eighth or 11th in the view of others.

At this stage, the greatest compliment is how he complements. And, of course, the quality of his written work.