© Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports
In today’s cybersphere, social media platforms are yielded at the click of a button, allowing just about anyone to be seen and heard. You don’t need to work for ESPN or Fox Sports to disseminate your opinions.
For 18-year-old Kalyb Champion, that accessibility has launched a growing Instagram account, named @bucketscenter, which has 45,000 followers — and recently prodded one the NBA’s global stars.
Tuesday morning, Champion posted a photo of Kevin Durant beside Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. Champion wrote that the three players are “elite two-way players but don’t elevate a team quite like LeBron (James) and Steph (Curry) due to their playmaking/leadership deficiencies.”
Champion tagged Durant in the photo, just like he does in any post, but did not expect a response from the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP. After all, Champion just recently graduated from the Bay Area’s Marin Catholic High School and had never debated with a professional athlete — until Tuesday.
Durant, who famously responded to Twitter hate with a burner account last year, took notice. The star forward replied, “Bruh go sweep ya dorm room, u don’t know hoops. Stop tagging me in this trash.”
Champion joined KNBR’s Murph & Mac Wednesday morning to reflect on his interaction with Durant.
“It really caught me off guard because obviously I haven’t had much contact with NBA players,” Champion said. “I thought it was super cool that he reached out to me, just the way he went about it. He was more so taking personal shots rather than talking with me on the basketball side of things.”
Durant’s initial comment snowballed into more back-and-forth bluster, as seen below.
KD out here beefing a high schooler in the DMs. 😶
[Via Instagram/bucketscenter] pic.twitter.com/vnTdCJLlzu
— theScore (@theScore) July 11, 2018
Then came another plot twist: Champion then went on Instagram live to broadcast the exchange to his followers. Durant tuned in and made another comment, according to Champion.
“(It was) basically regarding me making sure I am confident in my statements,” Champion said. “I am not someone to back down to anybody. I know a lot of people on my post, on my page are asking me, why don’t you just suck up to him? He is a superstar. That was my opinion. I stated my opinion. I couldn’t care less how Kevin Durant interpreted it. I think he really agreed, honestly. He said he disagreed, but I think he agreed with some of the underlines I was saying were pretty accurate, which is why I feel like he came so harshly.”
Again, this is an 18-year-old high school grad going at it with one of the most universally identifiable athletes. Champion did not waver, though, saying Durant’s isolation style and tendencies to let his teammates take leadership roles do not put him in the same conversation as Curry and James, Champion’s favorite player.
Champion has hosted a podcast since his high school freshman year while building his Instagram account into a high-trafficking page. He plans to attend Sonoma State to study communications with the ultimate goal of covering the NBA as an analyst and commentator.
Tuesday’s exchange gave him a head start.