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Whitlock: Basketball star Kevin Durant is this Olympics’ Charles Barkley

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The hunt for Kevin Durant’s basketball legacy and identity is over. We know exactly who Durant is and what he means to the game. The Tokyo Olympic Games clearly defined Durant.

In an era of fraudulently packaged, corporate-handcuffed professional athletes, Kevin Durant is the realest one playing. He’s skinny Charles Barkley with championship rings.

When he was on the court, you couldn’t take your eyes off Barkley. Built like a Hall of Fame offensive tackle, Barkley exploded up and down the court like a triple jumper. Off the court, you couldn’t avoid Barkley either. His mouth and deeds courted controversy.

The same is true of Durant. His rail-thin, 7-foot body belies his playing style. And his authenticity and transparency keep him in the news cycle.

Thirty years ago, the force of Barkley’s personality and playing style overshadowed Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird at the Barcelona Olympics. Barkley was the leading scorer on the Dream Team and the biggest attraction.

In perhaps the weirdest and most disappointing Olympics in history, Kevin Durant was the lone star and biggest attraction. He came across as the only star athlete who actually wanted to be in Japan. Gymnast Simone Biles, the face of the Games, sure didn’t want to be in Tokyo. Naomi Osaka? U.S. track and field sprinters?

Leading this Olympic basketball team to the gold medal was important to Durant. He accomplished his goal Friday night, scoring 29 points in an 87-82 victory over France. It’s Durant’s third Olympic gold medal. He draped himself in the American flag and celebrated like representing his country meant something to him and his teammates.

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