The signing of Kevin Durant has put the sports world in an uproar. Some are disappointed that the competitor that is Kevin Durant - that we have become accustomed to for 10 years - would join the team that just defeated him 2 months ago in the Western Conference; the same team he and his former running mate blew a 3-1 series lead to.
KD joining the Warriors was a decision that he felt was best for him. No one can argue that part of the situations. As a fan of the game and a member of the media, I view this decision as a weak one and one that will affect his legacy. Joining the Warriors is admitting that can not beat them, which hurts to say about a player that came across as one of the few who cared about the game and the culture.
Other see no wrong in KD’s jump to the Warriors, bringing up past situations where players go to loaded teams or form super teams; Rodman to the Bulls (traded), KG & Pierce to the Celtics (traded), LeBron and Bosh to the Heat (Free agency). The difference between those situations and this one is none of them lost to the team the previous season.
What hasn’t been discussed is the players that came back to defeat the team that crushed their dreams a year prior. That’s the story that we all wanted to see from Kevin Durant, the story that would make him an all-time great.
I actually blame LeBron for this move by Kevin Durant because he made a similar move in 2010 when he left the Cavs on the final day of free agency to create the Heat Big 3 that went to four consecutive Finals. LeBron returned to the Cavs, promising a title to the city of Cleveland. His first season back ended with a Finals loss to the Warriors, LeBron averaging close to a triple double during the Finals. That summer LBJ, decided to stay in Cleveland. Staying in Cleveland for the second time turned out to be the best decision to change his legacy. Beating the team that won 73-games, becoming the first team to come back from a 1-3 deficit, and being the first player to lead both teams in every statistical category, you couldn’t have wrote a better script.
Michael Jordan loss to the Detroit Pistons three consecutive times in the Eastern Conference Finals between the years of 1987-1990. What if Mike went to join the Pistons and created the greatest trio ever; Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Michael Jordan? After losing three times to one team, the argument could have been made that Mike didn’t have enough to defeat the Pistons, only player averaging more than 20 points. Scottie was only in his third season and the next best player was Horace Grant. Mike’s team wasn’t built to beat the Pistons and Mike didn’t call anyone to come join him; instead he hit the gym. He got better with his team and on his FOURTH attempt, swept the Pistons before defeating the Lakers in the NBA Finals for his first title.
Isiah Thomas is another player who answered the challenge of defeating his friend/rival. In 1987 the Pistons defeated the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history, avenging their loss to the Celtics 1986 Eastern Conference Finals. Pistons season didn’t end on a good note, Lakers sent them home in 7-games, thanks to a controversial foul that helped the Lakers. The Pistons and Isiah returned the next season to sweep the Lakers, trading Adrian Dantley (42 games, 31 minutes, 18 points, 52%FG) for Mark Aguirre (36 games, 29mpg, 15ppg, 48%FG) during the season. According to the numbers, the Pistons downgraded but Aguirre increased the team’s chemistry.
Magic and Bird were the faces of the NBA. The NBA sold the rivalry to the public, putting East against West. Some would even say they had superteams but during that era of basketball, it was enough talent to make other superteams, unlike this era. Point is, both Magic and Bird accepted the challenge of being foes on the basketball court. Both were in-tuned with building that legacy and what it meant for professional basketball. Joining forces was the last thing on their mind. Today, both legends are good friends with one another but on the court there was no love.
Some are arguing that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook relationship had reached it’s peak and had issues off the court. To that I say Kobe & Shaq did not like one another. Kobe & Shaq publicly made it known that they were the not friends. That didn’t stop them from winning 3 NBA titles. KD and Russ did have to deal with injuries during their 9-year tenure together but I don’t think they reached the point to where they couldn’t play together anymore. In an article from Bleacher Report, a close “source” to KD says Durant thinks they “plateaued” in the Western Conference. This was the first time they were able to have a healthy unit since going to the Finals in 2011. The Thunder didn’t plateau, the stars didn’t make the plays to win. One game away from advancing to the Finals, blowing a 3-1 lead is not plateauing, it’s giving up. The problem is not him wanting to depart from OKC, the problem is he left to join the team that just defeated them. Where is the pride?.
I’m sure many don’t like to hear this but, KD took the easy path to a title. The argument of this being a bigger challenge because they “have to win” is weak. It’s no challenge in playing with the 2x MVP, 4 Olympians, 3 All-Stars, a 73-win team, and the team that took your pride away in the Western Conference Finals. Win or lose, it’s no value in that, no honor. And this is not to call him out as a man but I am calling him out as a basketball player and competitor.