Kevin Durant made headlines with a pointed critique of the way the NBA media has covered Kobe Bryant lately. The Lakers legend announced Sunday that he would retire after this season.
Speaking to reporters at shootaround in Atlanta Monday, Durant explained that he "did idolize" Bryant growing up.
"I've been disappointed this year because you [media members] treated him like s---. He's a legend, and all I hear is about how bad he's playing, how bad he's shooting and it's time for him to hang it up," Durant said. "So hopefully now you can start being nice to him now that he decided to retire after this year."
He went on to say that he's "sensitive" about the NBA and how it's players are depicted, especially if he considers coverage to be undermining of the game.
"I understand not playing well and stuff; that's a part of it. But you can't treat Kobe like he's D'Angelo Russell when it comes to his coverage. Be a little more respectful to what he's brought to the game."
Durant also suggested personal grudges could play into negative commentary about Bryant. "These media people take it too personal, and when he doesn't play well, it's their turn to kill him because they might not have liked what he said or did."
His position generated some backlash on social media, but the masses weren't the only ones to see the situation differently.
LeBron James was polite, but firm in disagreeing with Durant. "I don't really get involved in that side of things, but I don't see it that way," James said Tuesday as he prepared to face the Wizards.
"I think [Bryant is] perceived as one of the most fierce competitors, a five-time champion, a two-time Finals MVP, 17 All-Star appearances. I think the media has done a great job of building Kobe as who he is today," James said.
"There's no reason for me to say that the media has made him look a certain way throughout his career," James continued. "He's done unbelievable things and part of the reason why he's big as he is because obviously the work he's put into it, but also the coverage that we all get from you guys."
Durant clarified his original comments to ESPN.com on Tuesday, but didn't back off of his position.
"I understand [the media] have to write about the game. Of course I understand that. Kobe hasn't played well, and his team hasn't played well, but did we expect that from them?," he asked. "It seems like everybody is happy that he's going out like this. Every game he's played on TV is about how terrible he looks, every article the next day is about how he should retire and give it up. Just killing him. I never hear about the Finals MVPs, the accolades."
Durant then contrasted Bryant's treatment with the celebratory send-offs other superstar athletes have and will receive.
"[The media] did it for [New York Yankees great] Derek Jeter, they will do it for Tim Duncan when he leaves, even if he's playing bad. I know you gotta report the games, but you're going too in-depth about how bad [Bryant] is. You're almost kicking him out the league."
The back and forth about Bryant's legacy comes at an interesting time for the Wizards, who are scheduled to play James and the Cavaliers at 7 p.m. Tuesday night in Cleveland. They'll host Bryant and the Lakers Wednesday night at Verizon Center.
While Durant and James discussed the media's role in Bryant's legacy, Wizards guard John Wall said he'd remember Bryant for the experience of playing against him.
"My most memorable moment is when I blocked his shot and he told me get back on defense and he scored on me the next play," Wall said. "He’s one hell of a player. This league will never see nobody else like Kobe Bryant again. People were wondering where the torch was going after Michael Jordan. He’s never going to quit."
MORE WIZARDS: Wall: 'You’ll probably never see another Kobe Bryant'