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LeBron James and Cavaliers are headed to the NBA Finals for the third straight year and will once again square off with the Warriors.
USA TODAY Sports

OAKLAND – The noise that surrounds Kevin Durant is growing louder by the minute.

But this isn’t the latest hot take about how the Golden State Warriors star is allegedly arrogant. Nor is this the chorus of nationwide boos relating to the lack of competition in the NBA playoffs, with Durant and his decision to leave Oklahoma City last summer being blamed by so many for this supposedly boring basketball.

This is the sweet sound of joyful children, more than 200 of them spanned across the Lincoln Square Park in downtown Oakland where Durant is unveiling four newly refurbished basketball courts on a recent off day. He towers over the youngsters who can’t stop looking at him, all of them giddy as Durant walks his 6-11 frame from hoop to hoop and takes a few casual shots.

The iconic Oakland Tribune tower is in the background. Warriors legend Al Attles, the namesake of these very courts, is here too. A local columnist who grew up on these streets, Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group, received a personal request from Durant to host this event and give it a familiar feel. Durant may have come up in the tough neighborhood of Seat Pleasant, Md. that’s almost 3,000 miles away, but it feels like he’s one of them.

If you didn’t know the backstory, about all the millions of fans and even some media members who were so enraged when he decided to head this way to play hoops, it’d be hard to imagine anyone being mad. And if you think Durant is going to try to control this narrative that has him pegged as a ring-chasing wrecker of all that is good in the NBA, you’re sorely mistaken.

Ask anyone who truly knows Durant, and you hear the same message: The man is in as good a mental place as ever right now. And truth be told, he worries less about what you think with every passing day.

“I’m just at peace with myself; I’m at peace with myself as a basketball player, most importantly,” Durant told USA TODAY Sports recently. “I think this move, and the criticism that comes with this move, has made me zero in on what’s the most important thing, and that’s just playing basketball, working out every day, getting better, enjoying every single day as a basketball player. It made me really appreciate that. It made me go back to that. When you listen to the nonsense, then you start to really let it take control of your thoughts, that’s (not good), you know what I’m saying? So I just got back to the game.”

The game had to save him, though. Just 10 months ago, Durant was paralyzed by the very noise he now ignores.

The next chapter

Durant broke his own news,…