If there’s one thing you learn from watching multiple major sports, it’s this. The people who play in, work in and watch these different leagues love to draw parallels.
And watching the drama unfold with Tottenham Hotspur star striker Harry Kane, it’s hard not to feel the parallels with another generational talent trying to make their move to win trophies, Kevin Durant.
Now, I’m not entirely sure that Kane has a bunch of burner accounts on social media that he uses to drag Jose Mourinho or Daniel Levy - that doesn’t really seem like his style, but there are similarities.
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Kane has stayed loyal to the team where he developed and has won plenty of individual plaudits. He has won three Premier League golden boots and made it into the PFA Team of the Year on five occasions. In the 2016-17 season he won both the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year as well as the FSF Player of the Year.
Yet his trophy cabinet remains empty. Since breaking into the Spurs first team seven years ago Kane is yet to taste the sweet delicacy that is success. He has gotten to three finals (the EFL Cup in 2015 and 2021 and the Champions League in 2019) and he has lost all three. Three times in the glorious period under Mauricio Pochettino Spurs finished in the top three of the Premier League, but they have no league titles. Since he became a first team player Kane has watched four different teams win the Premier League and in the last decade Spurs are laughably behind their rivals when it comes to transfer spending.
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Unlike Kane, who had to battle his way through a lot of loans before getting a chance in the senior set-up, Durant was destined for stardom. He was drafted second overall in 2007 by the Seattle Supersonics, who relocated to become the Oklahoma City Thunder after his rookie season. That rookie season saw Durant win Rookie of the Year, becoming just the third teenager in history to average at least 20 points a season along with Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
Next to Russell Westbrook, and eventually James Harden, Durant turned the Thunder into a major play-off contender, winning the MVP award in 2014. But no trophy arrived and the latter stages of his Thunder career littered with injuries. Sound familiar?
In his mid 20s Durant decided to enter free agency and he chose to join Golden State Warriors, a team who had just set a new NBA record with 73 regular-season wins and had gone on to win the championship.
Kevin Durant introduced by Golden State Warriors + ITW
Image credit: Eurosport
Durant was universally criticised for his decision. Durant was deemed to have taken the easy way route to a championship and there are even some still who will argue that he is not a legitimate champion, a truly bizarre take given his status as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. In many ways it is similar to the vitriol directed at Raheem Sterling in 2015 when he decided to leave Liverpool, a team who had just come second in the Premier League the year prior and join Manchester City, the team who had beaten them to the title.
It’s worth noting that there isn’t as much anger being directed at Kane this summer and there are probably a few good reasons for that. Firstly, Kane is doing this in a summer with both a European Championships and an Olympics, domestic football just isn’t getting that much attention. Secondly, there was probably more of a feeling that Liverpool were close to challenging for the title whereas Spurs finished seventh last season, 24 points behind City. And lastly, of course, there is probably a racial element as well. Kane is seen as a choir boy in the media whereas the media was covering Sterling in a truly horrific, and very racist manner, and in some places still is to this day.
What Durant and Sterling have in common in a vindication with their decision. Durant won two NBA titles whilst Sterling has three Premier League titles. In winning both of his titles Durant was named as the NBA finals MVP, while in one of his Sterling won the FWA Player of the Year award. Both players have clearly elevated their games to new levels and Sterling has become one of the most influential players for the England national team.
Raheem Sterling signs for Manchester City
Image credit: Getty Images
For a neutral it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of a player with Kane’s ability working with a manager like Pep Guardiola. The changes the City boss could make to Kane’s game are plentiful and could lead to him elongating his career well into his 30s rather than burning out after so many injuries and far too many matches.
It’s somewhat ironic that Sterling could move on to pastures new just as Kane arrives in a similar vein, in fact it is not dissimilar to Durant leaving Golden State to join the Brooklyn Nets and start his own super-team, a phenomenon that is nothing new in football (see Florentino Perez and Real Madrid).
Kane is a big NFL fan rather than the NBA the obvious parallel, from the outside at least, is Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots and go down to Tampa Bay for one hell of a last hurrah. But seeing himself on the same level as the GOAT is a little far-fetched. Maybe he could look at himself as a Peyton Manning or Drew Brees type. Neither is a perfect metaphor, Manning had won more than Kane and Brees was earlier into his career when they made their big moves.
Regardless, his England team-mate’s career trajectory should show Kane what is possible. Durant and Sterling were both lambasted for not trying to win it all with the team that put faith in them and developed them. Yet years down the line there are few who would argue that they made the wrong choice, as they’ve both won big and have improved as both players and people. They did what they thought was best for their careers, and Kane is doing the exact same. The only difference is neither Sterling, Durant, Brees, Manning or even Brady had to deal with someone like Daniel Levy. If he can extract himself from the Tottenham chairman’s clutches, that will be the most impressive display of player power we’ve seen in major sports.
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