[Photo: Kevin Durant throws down a monster dunk in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals versus LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers.]
Author: Justin Marc Chiodo, June 5th 2017
An All-time Player Joining a Historically Good Team
At the time Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in the summer of 2016, G-State was coming off a season in which they had just set the NBA record for Best regular season (73-9), and had come within 1 win of winning their 2nd-straight NBA Championship.
KD was joining a team that had won 82% of their games over the previous 2 seasons. G-State posted a combined total record of 171-38 in the 2 seasons prior to the 2016/17 campaign!!! (Regular season + Playoffs.)
For a top-5 player in the NBA to join what already could be argued to be the best team ever assembled doesn’t make much sense, and is very unfair to the large majority of teams in the NBA. From Kevin Durant’s perspective, I didn’t understand why this was an attractive move for him.
My opinion of his decision at the time was that in order for it to be a successful year for Durant and the Warriors they would need to top the 73-9 record from last season, as well as win the Championship. They ‘only’ posted a record of 67-15 this season. In my eyes that could be considered a failure due to the historic greatness of last season, in combination with adding an all-time player.
If the Warriors do go onto win the Championship, how much of that success will be credited to Kevin Durant? Keep in mind he missed a large chunk of the season due to injury and the Warriors weren’t negatively affected.
He is being credited with being the best player in the first 2 games of the series, however I believe without him the Warriors would still be up 2-0. My take is that they would win this Championship series versus the Cavs with or without KD. The cast of Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala have proven that in 2015 and 2016.
I will view this Championship for KD with a major asterisk. It’s legitimately the easiest path a superstar has ever taken to their 1st Championship. Durant winning the Title this season does very little in my eyes to change whatever his legacy was entering the season. It can be summarized by saying he made one of the best teams ever- the already huge favorites to win the Title, that much more lethal.
Crushing the Oklahoma City Fanbase and the Thunder Organization
If Kevin Durant wanted out of Oklahoma City he had earned that right as a free agent. He had done marvelous things for that franchise and owed them nothing…except for one last thing.
All he owed the Oklahoma City Thunder was to NOT JOIN their biggest rivals. At the time, that was a very short list of teams.
Firstly, the Warriors- who were already historically great and had defeated OKC and Durant 4-3 in the 2016 Conference Finals. (Durant and the Thunder actually had a 3-1 lead on Golden State in that fateful series).
Secondly was the San Antonio Spurs- because they were also coming off a historic regular season themselves, and Coach Pop and the Spurs are consistently able to get the most out of what they have, more than any other team in the NBA, so they likely would have become unbeatable with KD.
But that’s the list. There were 27 other teams Durant could go to without putting a stake through the heart of the Thunder. And yet he chose one of the only 2 teams which should have been off-limits if he cared about the OKC fan-base and the organization that he had been drafted by, groomed, and spent the first decade of his career with.
The bottom line in my view is that Kevin Durant seems like a great person, he is an elite basketball player, he is a great teammate who genuinely likes to share the ball, and he should soon be a Champion.
However he does not have the spirit of a true champion.
The true greats would never do what he did. They would never want to ride coattails of an established dynasty to an easy 1st Championship. That’s not how the great ones think, nor what they do. They don’t ruin a 10-year marriage with their long-time organization and fanbase to join the enemy. They carve out their own legacy. The greatest athletes are not the “if you can’t beat ‘em, then join ‘em” type.
Thanks for reading and please share!
Also, look for an upcoming article later this week on why LeBron James’ 7-straight Eastern Conference Titles is one of the most over-respected accomplishments in sports.